The Wall Street Journal this morning reported that Newsweek is about to undergo some serious changes: They’ll be dropping their rate base significantly, slimming down the magazine, putting more pictures and opinion stories in print, and putting much more original content straight on the Web. There will be an emphasis on controversial reporting and a decrease in straight news. This has already been mocked roundly as the first step into turning the magazine into a blog. Which is true, in a way, but not necessarily ridiculous. By focusing on pictures, opinion, and controversy, they’re honing in on the kinds of Web stories that get links. Links equal traffic, as we all know, and traffic equals ad revenue. Instead of just trying to shift in order to accommodate the Internet by putting breaking news online, they are putting the Internet philosophy first.
As Jeff Bercovici over at Portfolio pointed out this morning, it’s kind of embarrassing for Newsweek to take this tack after making fun of Time for doing a lighter version of the same thing earlier this year. But facing grim reality doesn’t come without awkwardness. Newsweek has to change in order to accommodate the economic and cultural climate. For a publication like the Christian Science Monitor, which trades on its investigative and international reporting, going fully online in order to maintain its news staff was the logical choice. For a newsmagazine, the options are different.
The more publications distill themselves into purer versions of what they can best offer, the more the ones whose strength is straight news reporting will have the chance to shine. Or so the optimistic logic goes. The pessimistic logic says that we stand to lose a strong competitor in the newsweekly market and the magazine will flounder without its supermarket readers. Either way, having strong brands like the Monitor or Newsweek test these waters first — by jumping in, not tiptoeing — makes us feel as though we might finally be starting to figure all of this out.