The Death of Print is Greatly Exaggerated

Newsweek magazine, a global magazine brand in print for eight decades, announced Thursday, October 18th that its last print issue will be December 31, 2012.  It is reducing its staff in anticipation of being solely digital as of 2013.  Does this worry any stalwart print media folks?  It shouldn’t.  The Big D these days isn’t just Dallas.  It’s Digital.  We’re all migrating online.  Of course this is also a costs saving move by a print publication that has lost its edge, but editor-in-chief Tina Brown manages to put the positive spin on this development when she made the announcement at strictly online The Daily Beast.

Currently, 39 percent of Americans say they get their news from an online source, according to a Pew Research Center study released last month. In our judgment, we have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format. This was not the case just two years ago. It will increasingly be the case in the years ahead.

It is important that we underscore what this digital transition means and, as importantly, what it does not. We are transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it. We remain committed to Newsweek and to the journalism that it represents. This decision is not about the quality of the brand or the journalism—that is as powerful as ever. It is about the challenging economics of print publishing and distribution.

Writer Andrew Sullivan, whose blog is linked to Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast, won’t miss the print medium.

Here is the first cover of Newsweek from February 1933.  Note the emphasis on global events as well as the cost per issue.

Will you miss the print version of Newsweek or is this just media business as usual in the 21st century?

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About socalnancysnow

I'm Professor of Communications at California State University, Fullerton, what we sometimes refer to as "Disney U" given its proximity to the famous mouse kingdom. I specialize in political and persuasive communication (e.g., media and politics, rhetoric, propaganda studies, image management), which explains my social media handles: Twitter (drpersuasion) and Skype (drpropaganda). My best known books are "Propaganda, Inc." and "Information War," though I have also edited several books on the post-9/11 era, including the "Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy" and "War, Media and Propaganda." I have published nine books altogether. My latest are "Truth is the Best Propaganda" and "Propaganda and American Democracy."

15 responses to “The Death of Print is Greatly Exaggerated”

  1. Mia McCormick says :

    I really appreciate your coverage of this issue. As a print journalism major myself, I am constantly being told that I am going into a “dying profession.” Not only is it devastatingly discouraging, but it is utterly false. More people should do their research and become informed about the transitions that are occurring in print media. It might be of value to them, since this is how they will be getting most, if not all, of their news in the years to come.

    • socalnancysnow says :

      Excellent point, Mia. Media is morphing and journalism matters as much now, maybe even more, than ever. Take a look at the Lara Logan video I posted where she speaks at a luncheon sponsored by the Better Government Association. She is chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News and if she can’t get one fired up about speaking truth to power, then I don’t know if anyone can.

  2. Ken Heller says :

    Not to be overly cynical, I find it interesting that 39 percent is a tipping point when 61 percent get their news from something other than an online source (although I’ll guess that television fills much of that void). These days I think decisions such as this are made much more from an economic perspective, and the need to cut as much overhead as they can to continue to make a profit. I look forward to the resurgence in growth of the trees as a result.

    Being a journalism major should not be a hindrance either. Whether or not your work is published in ink and paper, or electrons, the craft and process of writing is what is important.

    • socalnancysnow says :

      You are making exactly the same points that Tina Brown made today on “CBS This Morning.” It is mostly an economic decision and will result not only in staff cuts but also subscriptions from a younger demographic. I don’t know too many younger Internet users who like to pay for their news, however.

      • Ken Heller says :

        I would agree Nancy. There are far too many outlets that provide news at no cost. To take on such a model would be dangerous, unless the level of insight provided would make the offering exceptional. As a feature news magazine, I always thought of Newsweek as an outlet that often got the story “right” due to the amount of time that could be dedicated to do so.

  3. ashleighcorrea says :

    Newsweek magazine is a weekly feature magazine. It’s credible and resourceful. I feel the print of magazines is not dying out. Everyone wants a copy to cut out or wants a bathroom read. Printed newspapers may be an issue more so than magazines, but I can’t see print journalism being completely extinct. And print journalists shouldn’t worry. We still need print journalists, but a new word for them is “web journalists.” They’re already here and growing rapidly. It still needs to contain the quality of work through words. Newsweek needs to follow the times with how rapidly technology and our economy is growing. Use this advantage, to be creative and instead of fighting about what’s to come, embrace it and use it to their advantage by continuing their print and digital distribution. They shouldn’t cut the print subscription out completely but apply it to both print and digital. I understand money becomes an issue, but news is vital and durable. It’s worth more than Snooki having her second child….wink. But really I’m serious. Ha.

  4. ashleighcorrea says :

    It makes me sad that print journalism thinks it’s over. It’s over when you say you say it’s over, when you feel there is no turning around, atop of, or below a story. That means you have given up and have not embraced this new digital culture. I see this as an enlightenment age for all of us to use our brains, be creative and use our integrity to work hard and make positive changes. It’s a sad feeling to lose the bond of whatever is left of credible sources in print media history through Newsweek magazine. In reality, it shouldn’t be the end of print subscription, but the start up of a new and interesting issue. And as journalists we should embrace the digital world and build a durable empire of media. Not give up and give in.

  5. Zach Leonardo says :

    I don’t think I will miss the print version of Newsweek because the only time I had the opportunity to read it was at the dentist or the doctor’s office. For me, Newsweek is associated with pain and nervousness. I can somewhat sympathize with how some could be bummed about the switch over from print to digital because most people fear and hate change, especially if they don’t see the need for it. This is just the evolution of the media business, which has learned a lesson of what not to do from the music industry and doesn’t really want to be playing catch-up to something faster.

  6. Keith Goldstein says :

    The print version of Newsweek will be missed, but I feel only a select group will be missing it. There is a level of nostalgia that comes with the print medium that I understand will be missed by a small few of the American people, but overall, I will not be one of them. I do believe the wish of the print medium being gone by 2013 is wishful thinking. I think it needs to be slowly reduced from society so that the impact will be much less upon readers.

  7. Gavin Couvrey-Jacobs says :

    I always get a sort of nostalgic feeling when I read a magazine such as Time or National Geographic. It seems to be a way for me to relax by sitting down on the sofa at my grandparents’ house and read the stories of current events going on around the world. Magazines are very useful when it comes to trade magazines, but as of today I still do receive my news from magazines as well. As people continue to use the bathroom, go to the doctor’s office, or ride public transportation, magazines will be around.

  8. alyssacgibbs says :

    Maybe I’m missing something critical in this post, but how is the loss of Newsweek demonstrating that the loss of print is being exaggerated? I got excited for a minute because I hope to one day be a writer of some sort.

    • socalnancysnow says :

      We hear it all the time that newspapers are dead. That implies that journalism is dead. The point here is that while Newsweek’s “print death” is a reality, it doesn’t mean that we should conclude that journalism will meet the same fate. We all have enormous opportunities to write online. We may not have full-time positions in such endeavors, but we have more outlets now for expression.

  9. OddlyWitty says :

    It seems like print journalism isn’t so much as dying as evolving. Like a lot of other industries, it’s just having to change with the technology in order to keep up with its consumers. When people went from carrying Walkmans to carrying iPods, the music industry changed. Same thing with journalism. Just because people are reading iPads instead of newspapers doesn’t mean print journalism is over.

    • Helena Reed says :

      I like the angle that you’ve chosen to look at this in. I think people just get in a panic when these things happen. But what you’re saying is something to think about. Great job at getting me to think, hehe.

  10. Helena Reed says :

    I think that the print medium is something that we will always call “home,” so to speak. But if Newsweek honestly feels that by doing this they are reaching a broader audience and are being more efficient through going solely digital, its kind of hard to argue with that. Especially in a day and age where more and more people by the loads are resorting to digital forms of obtaining information. Personally I can’t say I completely like this idea because I think the print form is media history. I understand things change but it’s nice to still be able to look every once in a while at where we came from. It’s also nice to have an option. I don’t want the day to come where we don’t have this option at all anymore. There is something about this form of media that you just can’t replace.

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