18 October 2012
The proprietors assure us that the once-great weekly newsmagazine will live on digitally as a subscription-based website, but out of sight -- the newstand, that is, -- out of mind is what I say. In its death throes Newsweek suffered the indignity of serving as a print subsidiary of the Daily Beast website. I subscribed on the cheap a couple of years ago but gave up despite the bargain-basement price because it had become a very flimsy affair compared to its great rival, Time. There were times in the past when Newsweek was arguably Time's superior, but the point is moot now. After the last print edition appears at the end of the year you'll still be able to do a search for Newsweek or download it onto your tablet, I suppose, but plenty of people will be out of work and we'll be further on our way to losing the art of enticing the casual shopper with an attention-grabbing cover and a promise of meaningful content inside. Getting a digital-only Newsweek will be more like having your alarm clock set to a specific radio station, automatic and easy to take for granted. The Beast may be happy to cut costs, but I can speak from some experience when I warn them that a "digital first" marketing strategy is not the revenue torrent many have hoped for. Meanwhile, forgive me if I sound like a fuddy-duddy or Luddite when I say that the magazine on the newstand clamoring for your attention was, however obviously commercial, part of a public sphere that continues to dwindle as digitalization encourages an accelerated privatization of existence -- or when I wonder whether digitalization will prevail to such a degree that someday a generation of popular culture will leave no trace in history like Newsweek did for eighty years.