Newsweak: Shrinking Mag to Include a 'Bluffer's Guide'

NewsweekMagPick0209.jpgNewsweek Magazine, referred to frequently by yours truly as "Newsweak," is deliberately shrinking its circulation base by half, in effect giving up on its formerly mass audience, and going through a top-to-bottom redesign.

As is the case with its fellow declining competitor Time, it never occurs to these people that their legacy of bias, double standards, and inexplicable sloppiness have chased away so many readers that whatever business model they adopt won't work without an accompanying fundamental philosophical shift towards fairness, balance, and due diligence that is nowhere on the horizon. In Newsweak's case, all you need to remember is the "Quran flush" debacle of 2005 and Drudge's trumping Michael Isikoff on Monica Lewinsky in 1998 (with plenty of other examples in between and ever since, as you can see by typing "newsweek" at the Media Research Center's search page).

Here are excerpts from a New York Times puff piece on the magazine's plans (the picture at the top right is from that story), including a bizarre new "feature" straight from the "Can't Make This Stuff Up" Department (in bold at the end):

Newsweek Plans Makeover to Fit a Smaller Audience

Newsweek is about to begin a major change in its identity, with a new design, a much smaller and, it hopes, more affluent readership, and some shifts in content. The venerable newsweekly’s ingrained role of obligatory coverage of the week’s big events will be abandoned once and for all, executives say.

“There’s a phrase in the culture, ‘we need to take note of,’ ‘we need to weigh in on,’ ” said Newsweek’s editor, Jon Meacham. “That’s going away. If we don’t have something original to say, we won’t. The drill of chasing the week’s news to add a couple of hard-fought new details is not sustainable.”

Newsweek loses money, and the consensus within its parent, the Washington Post Company, and among industry analysts, is that it has to try something big. The magazine is betting that the answer lies in changing both itself and its audience, and getting the audience to pay more.

..... Thirteen months ago, Newsweek lowered its rate base, the circulation promised to advertisers, to 2.6 million from 3.1 million, and Mr. Ascheim said that would drop to 1.9 million in July, and to 1.5 million next January.

..... Editorially, Newsweek’s plan calls for moving in the direction it was already headed — toward not just analysis and commentary, but an opinionated, prescriptive or offbeat take on events.

The current cover article argues that America’s involvement in Afghanistan parallels the Vietnam War, and a companion piece offers a plan for handling that country. Newsweek also plans to lean even more heavily on the appeal of big-name writers like Christopher Hitchens, Fareed Zakaria and George Will.

Starting in May, articles will be reorganized under four broad, new sections — one each for short takes, columnists and commentary, long reporting pieces like the cover articles, and culture — each with less compulsion to touch on the week’s biggest events. A new graphic feature on the last page, “The Bluffer’s Guide,” will tell readers how to sound as if they are knowledgeable on a current topic, whether they are or not.

Newsweak's alleged journalists should have no trouble putting out "The Bluffer's Guide." They've had years of practice. I would suggest that those who want to build a knowledge base beyond bluffing consider looking elsewhere.

Cross-posted at

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.