If the owners of Newsweek were hoping that 2011 was going to be a turnaround year for the struggling magazine, the latest figures from the Publisher’s Information Bureau on magazine advertising for last year show exactly the opposite.
For the full year, ad pages at Newsweek were down 16.8% versus a 3.1% decline for the magazine industry as a whole. Newsweek had total ad pages of 745 in 2011 compared to 1,370 at its main competitor, Time, which was off by just 2.5%, widening the gap between the two publications.
But even though Time’s ad pages were down they still managed to increase their ad revenue from 2010 by 1.5% to $419 million, while Newsweek’s ad revenues declined 11.7% to $140 million.
The results, after nearly a year with high profile editor Tina Brown in charge, only underscore the tremendous challenge she and the new owners of Newsweek faced in trying to turn around a magazine that had been bleeding red ink for years but whose previous owner, The Washington Post Co., couldn’t bear to pull the plug on the liberal newsmagazine.
But that’s what they should have done and that’s what Barry Diller and company should do before Newsweek drags the rest of the company with it into a financial abyss.
I received this email from Newsweek/Daily Beast spokesman Andrew Kirk.
Your piece fails to report that far from struggling, Newsweek has seen a 20% increase in newsstand sales since the March 2011 redesign under EIC Tina Brown hit the marketplace (which in the interest of perspective I might remind you was a little over 10 months ago). Subscription renewals, which had been in a consistent state of decline since 2006, increased for the first time in 5 years by 3% in 2011, and ad pages, which appear to be your main point of concern in this piece, were up 15% YOY for the month of December.
You also fail to note that in the year since IAC and the Harman family took over Newsweek and merged it with the very successful Daily Beast Web site the overall trend of ad pages in the magazine has been incredibly positive. At the time of the merger mid-Q1 2011, ad pages were down 30.8%, in Q2 this decline lessened to 24.5%, in Q3, the decline was 10% and in Q4, the decline was just 3% – this hardly seems like the trend of an organisation set to drag the rest of the company into “financial abyss”.
Well I guess that’s progress, sort of. The ad numbers aren’t as negative as they used to be.
It seems like Kirk was busy shooting down blogs that dared to describe Newsweek as struggling as he also went after Dylan Byers of Politico for make a similar assertion.
Byers points out that Brown said in 2010 that the Daily Beast was on track to be profitable by early 2012 which is doubtful, and according to Adweek’s Lucia Moses getting the combined NewsBeast profitable by 2013 will be a daunting task.
The bottom line is that Newsweek is still losing a substantial amount of money and that threatens the long term viability of the combined entity.