Newsweek going online-only, Guardian not

First published in October 2012

The Guardian

NEWS-BITE | Media | Newspapers: While the future is definitely digital, the media is still waiting for a big traditional player to make the leap to becoming an online-only enterprise. Some smaller magazines have successfully made it as online-only media, but no major news publication in the UK or US has so far attempted such a thing, even though print circulations are slumping across the board and the future is clearly online (though, for most publishers, slumping print titles are still making more money than booming websites).

But now a major news title has announced that the day of digital-only is almost upon us, albeit a magazine rather than a newspaper. US news title Newsweek will go digital-only in the new year, bringing to an end the publication’s 80 year history in print. In its place will come the digital-only Newsweek Global, a “single worldwide edition targeted for a highly mobile, opinion-leading audience who want to learn about world events in a sophisticated context”.

Core content will only be available to paying subscribers, though some articles will also be available for free via sister website The Daily Beast. The move, Editor In Chief (and Daily Beast founder) Tina Brown has confirmed, will result in job losses and a scaling down of the magazine’s non-US operations. She added: “We are transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it. We remain committed to Newsweek and to the journalism that it represents. This decision is not about the quality of the brand or the journalism, that is as powerful as ever. It is about the challenging economics of print publishing and distribution”.

The Newsweek news came as The Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger denied reports in the Telegraph that his paper was to become the first British news title to shut its print edition and become online-only. The Guardian has long been mooted as the first UK paper that may go that route, given it has always had a relatively small print readership compared to its rivals, but has grown its audience significantly online.

The Telegraph said that Rusbridger initially wants to expand his paper’s online-only US operation as a pilot for phasing out print in the UK long term, but that trustees of the not-for-profit body that owns the broadsheet, the Scott Trust, fear that will take too long, and that a full-on focus on digital is needed sooner to assure the newspaper’s survival.

But the paper’s editor said via Twitter: “Telegraph story about the Guardian simply untrue. Largely copied from [an article on the More About Advertising website, that is] also untrue”. He added: “Numbers for going digital only and junking print just don’t add up. So Telegraph has written the opposite of the truth”.