Accuracy in Media

Facing an increasing tough advertising climate U.S. News and World Report announced this week that it will cease publishing a print magazine and switch to an all digital format.

From Yahoo! News

Mort Zuckerman considers himself a “print junkie.” But the billionaire real estate and media mogul told The Upshot that Friday’s decision to make U.S. News & World Report a digital magazine with special print issues was the only way to ensure the magazine’s “long-term viability.”

The magazine’s staff were notified of the change in a memo Friday afternoon.

“We’re finally ready to complete our transition to a predominantly digital publishing model with selected, single-topic print issues,” the memo read. “This will allow us to make the most of the proven products, useful journalism, and great audience growth we’ve been sustaining.”

The magazine’s December issue will be its last monthly print offering. U.S. News & World Report used to be a weekly magazine, like Time and Newsweek, but scaled back to a monthly two years ago under financial pressure.

U.S. News & World Report will continue to print its guides, including the popular college rankings. The memo also says that the company will “publish four other newsstand special editions, focusing on history, religion and some of the other subjects that have been a success for us in the past.” (Romenesko has the full memo here.)

Zuckerman, who purchased U.S. News & World Report in 1984, acknowledged that “these are not easy times for print-based activities, especially for those with large circulations.”

“I’ve been publishing this for over 25 years,” Zuckerman said. “I’m a complete junkie for it. If we’re going to sustain it, and provide the news services we’ve been able to provide, this is the only option.”

Zuckerman said he considered whether it was possible to merge U.S. News & World Report and Newsweek, when the magazine was recently up for sale. However, he didn’t see it as good option.

The Washington Post Co. eventually sold Newsweek for $1 to audio magnate Sidney Harman, with the billionaire assuming the magazine’s debts.

The magazine which has long trailed newsweekly leaders Time and Newsweek announced just two years ago that it was going to reduce the publishing frequency to a bi-weekly schedule in 2009 but then switched to a monthly schedule only underscoring the tough climate for news magazines in the depths of one of the worst advertising recessions on record.

Zuckerman has been know for both his business savvy and his outsized ego and has used his purchases of both U.S News and the New York Daily News to fashion himself into a media mogul.

With the decision to move solely to the internet Zuckerman is finally admitting that he can’t compete with Time and Newsweek and that the era of weekly news magazines is essentially over.

With the print magazine already having been a distant third for as along as I can remember it is hard to see how a digital version will be any better except that it should lower the overhead and still give Zuckerman a chance to opine even if no one is reading.

The move by U.S. News though might prove ultimately to be smarter than Sid Harman’s purchase of Newsweek in a last ditch attempt to save the venerable magazine.  But as Harman will soon learn if he hasn’t already is that what he really bought was a dinosaur that is nothing more than a money pit and will ding his fortune and his reputation at the same time.

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