Newsweek Will ‘Eventually’ Go Digital-Only

By Steve Cohn

Yesterday (July 25), IAC/InterActive Corp. CEO Barry Diller told analysts in a conference call that the "transition" of Newsweek "to online from print will take place. We’re examining all our options." Diller’s statement came two days after it became known that IAC had gained a controlling interest in Newsweek Daily Beast Co. after the family of the late Sidney Harman announced that they were freezing their investment.

Audio-stereo magnate Sidney Harman had purchased Newsweek from The Washington Post Co. for a nominal $1 plus about $50 million in liabilities in August 2010, and three months later, he and Diller agreed to the merger of print (Newsweekand Web (The Daily Beast). Harman had an emotional attachment to Newsweek and the financial wherewithal to absorb the losses (The Daily Beast is a money-loser, too), but his death in April 2011 at 92 years old took away the first part of the equation.

Newsweek‘s 2012 ad pages are +4.07% through July 23, but that is misleading because its advertising base had atrophied in 2009/2010/2011.Rival Time, though -20.47% through the same issue date, had carried nearly 213 more ad pages (604.45 versus 391.47).

Although no complete decision is expected before September, a possible scenario would be reducing the Newsweek print schedule to specials before fully going digital.That would match the strategy of the Mort Zuckerman-owned U.S. News & World Report in 2009, but the difference is that the digital side of Newsweek is The Daily Beast. (USN&WR is a standalone.)

Would Tina Brown, who is editor-in-chief of both, abandon The Daily Beast for the better-known Newsweek brand?  Or will there be two separate sites with distinct identities? These are two of many questions that will be answered.