The Washington Post Company put Newsweek Magazine up for sale last week, as the Mainstream Media Death Spiral continues. Liberal, biased commentary drives readers away every time, whether it’s magazines, newspapers, or cable news.
From John Podhoretz in Commentary Magazine:
“We don’t see a sustained path to profitability,” said the company’s chairman, Donald Graham, which is kind of an odd thing to say when you’re trying to sell something. More telling is the celerity with which the magazine lost money following the redesign a year ago: “Newsweek had operating losses of $28.1 million in 2009, 82.5 percent higher than the previous year’s loss of $15.4 million. Its revenue declined 27.2 percent, to $165.5 million in 2009, from $227.4 million in 2008, hurt by diminished advertising and subscription revenue.” One can only presume the numbers so far in 2010 are worse, otherwise the sale wouldn’t be happening.So why didn’t it work? The line being proffered everywhere is that newsmagazines have lost their viability, nobody wants them, blah blah blah. This is almost comical nonsense. The most successful weekly magazine in the United States right now, by some measures, is the Economist, which is…a newsmagazine. The other line is that Newsweek’s website is retrogressive, and that helps to explain its decline. Again, this is ludicrous; nobody talks about the Economist’s website either. The problem isn’t the website, or the newsmagazine genre in absolute terms. The problem is that Newsweek has been misrepresenting itself to its readership for years, and lost the confidence of its readers; and continued to pretend through the redesign that it was something it is not.
For years, Newsweek was a liberal journal of opinion masquerading as a news publication that attempted to sell itself to a mass readership with a lot of health-care, entertainment, and lifestyle fluff. As a vehicle for news analysis, it was entirely conventional; as a purveyor of sociological fluff, it was kind of fun, though often enragingly so; as a journal of opinion, it was to actual journals of opinion as tofutti is to gelato, flavorless and bland and mock. Last year, Meacham and Co. ditched much of the news analysis and sociological fluff in favor of more and more opinion.
It will not surprise you to know that much of the opinion dealt with the ways in which Barack Obama was right and noble and good and strong and tough and resourceful and a good symbol and an agent of change and so is his wife, by the way — and when it was not about that, it was primarily about how the right is at war with itself and torn and in conflict and dominated by anger and full of rage and presumptively racist and anti-gay and anti-women and anti-media. That was to be expected. But there was really almost nothing else in there, and what was there as a matter of ideological coloration wasn’t especially tough or good or interesting or novel.