Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of both Newsweek and The Daily Beast, told New York Magazine that looking back, the decision to take over Newsweek “just seems completely insane, actually.”
Brown spoke at length with Michael Kinsley about her vision for the magazine and what went wrong:
I think it was a romantic gamble that there was still life to be had for Newsweek. We felt that for The Daily Beast—such a frisky digital brand—to have a print platform as well would be great. And, actually, that proved to be true. But every piece of the Zeitgeist was against Newsweek, combined with an unfixable infrastructure and a set of challenges that really would have required five years in an up economy to solve.
It also didn’t hurt that Newsweek was owned by billionaire Sid Harman, who rescued the magazine, and was willing to invest millions to ensure its future when he teamed up with The Daily Beast in 2010.
As for the Zeitgeist being against Newsweek, that was really common business sense from those who couldn’t figure out how The Daily Beast could possibly benefit from an association with a money-losing print magazine. Or to put it another way—she was insane.
Brown’s experience at Newsweek has convinced her that print magazines won’t be long for this world:
I think a lot of magazines are going to have to go online. There will be magazines, but a lot of magazines are going to decide that with basic, inherent costs, the fact that advertisers want to now be in digital, combined with the reading habits of all of us—they’ll decide that print doesn’t make any sense.
The pace of magazines going completely digital will continue to accelerate, as Brown points out, as advertisers move in that direction and subscribers clamor for information on their smartphones and tablets, which are changing the way that people read and receive their news.
But that doesn’t mean that Brown will have an easy time in making Newsweek a digital success. It’s far more likely that it will be a very different beast online than it was in print.