Newsweek To Cease Print Publication, Go All-Digital Early Next Year

October 18, 2012 4:30 a.m.

Updated: 9:47 a.m. ET

Citing a “tipping point” in growing digital news consumption and the continuing struggles of print advertising, Newsweek editor Tina Brown announced on Thursday the magazine will stop publishing a print edition early next year. Layoffs are expected. The Dec. 31 issue will be Newsweek’s last in print.

The end of Newsweek’s 79-year run as a print publication — once unthinkable but for months inevitable — leaves Time as the only remaining weekly news magazine in the United States. Time was the first U.S. newsweekly when it launched in the 1920s, a decade before Newsweek, and is now the last man standing in a publishing sector that once gushed profits and prestige.

“Currently, 39 percent of Americans say they get their news from an online source, according to a Pew Research Center study released last month,” Brown said in an announcement online at The Daily Beast, Newsweek’s online partner. “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.”

Brown — who launched The Daily Beast four years ago and later merged it with Newsweek — said the company will increase its presence on tablets, online and in events. A weekly digital newsmagazine, to be called Newsweek Global, will be available for paid subscription.

“It is important that we underscore what this digital transition means and, as importantly, what it does not,” Brown added in her post. “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.”

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Barry Diller — head of The Daily Beast and Newsweek’s parent company, Interactive Corp — hinted over the summer that the magazine was moving in an all-digital direction. He told analysts in July, “We’re examining all our options.”

At the time, Brown attempted to calm the rumors of an imminent online-only magazine. In a memo to staff titled “Scaremongering,” Brown called Diller’s comments “uncontroversial” and said the Newsweek brand is “far stronger than it has been in years.”

When Brown took over the magazine in 2010, she lauded the magazine’s ability to take deep dives and provide insight in long-form print articles. “Today, we look at print from the refreshed point of view of an expatriate who sees the old country with new eyes,” she wrote then. “That will create a great new creative energy–just as on the business side, it offers a superb dual marketing platform.”

Announcing the news Thursday, Brown admitted the transition will likely mean layoffs at company in the United States and internationally.

Stereo magnate Sidney Harman bought Newsweek for $1 and assumed debt in 2010 and merged it with The Daily Beast that year. When he died, his family stopped investing in the venture, and IAC took control of the company, according to Reuters. The magazine is lately best known for its splashy covers, featuring Michele Bachmann, an illustration of Princess Diana at 50 and a sexually suggestive photo of a woman eating asparagus, among others.

“Exiting print is an extremely difficult moment for all of us who love the romance of print and the unique weekly camaraderie of those hectic hours before the close on Friday night,” Brown concluded in her announcement. “But as we head for the 80th anniversary of Newsweek next year we must sustain the journalism that gives the magazine its purpose — and embrace the all-digital future.”

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