Thursday, October 18, 2012

For Newsweek, The Digital Switch Turns Quickly

In a changing media landscape, transitioning becomes part timing, part luck, part skill, and part intuition.  No change is deemed right or wrong until after the fact when we look back and see who has survived and who has fallen.  Across industries, the past is littered with brands and companies that couldn't adapt to change  and are no longer in business.  For print, the media landscape is changing rapidly from physical to digital as consumers embrace tablet and mobile technology.

Gannett has  taken one path to the digital transition, embracing a subscription paywall as a means to increase its digital subscriber base and improve revenues.  At the same time, they continue to print and sell print subscriptions.  For Newsweek, now under the control of Barry Diller and IAC, is to pull the bandage off quickly.  "The last print edition in the U.S. will be the Dec. 31 issue, Tina Brown, editor-in-chief and founder of The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, said today on the company’s website. The all-digital publication, to be called Newsweek Global, will require subscriptions and will be available on tablet computers and on the Web, Brown said."  Cost to print and mail drop effectively to zero although revenues are also expected to drop.  Most significantly felt will be the loss of single issue sales off newsstands.

Can a leaner, meaner Newsweek survive as a digital only weekly magazine?  Is such a quick transition the best course of action or does Gannett have a better strategy?  Such are the questions and challenges facing these two companies as well as others in the print media space.  Perhaps the answer lies in how well marketing can attract subscribers and how valuable the content is measured by the consumer.  Wherever one is led to get access, the hope of these companies follow the famous line from "Field of Dreams", "If you build it, they will come."

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