Long-running publication goes digital

The Prairie.

The Prairie.

Newsweek announced in a statement Oct. 18 that it would be transitioning to a digital-only product, in early 2013. The publication has been in print for 80 years and is planning its last print edition to fall on Dec. 31.

The new digital publication will be called Newsweek Global for its consolidation into a single worldwide edition. It will be supported by paid subscription, commonly known as a paywall in the news industry.

Newsweek should be commended for adopting the subscription format from the start. One of the biggest mistakes the news industry made years ago was allowing online content to be free. Now, news organizations are laying off workers and trying to find ways to produce content and still make money.

Not only that, but the switch to digital makes sense. Increasingly, more publications are reducing or abandoning the print format in favor of tablets and e-readers because of market trends. According to a report by the Pew Research Center’s Project of Excellence in Journalism, 64 percent of tablet owners and 62 percent of smartphone owners use their devices for news weekly.

Smartphones are becoming ubiquitous in the mobile market. However, how many people own tablets? The same PEJ study reported 22 percent of adults own a tablet. 64 percent of those users consume news on their devices. 23 percent of the group who did not have a tablet would like to purchase one soon.

Well, that’s good for tablet owners, but what about those who can’t afford a tablet? Does that exclude them from getting news? The digital divide that still exists around the world and in the U.S. must be acknowledged as well. Although the increased tablet purchases are causing news organizations to jump at the opportunity – and they rightfully should – they must be prepared for slow adoption.

Also, the idea of having a single worldwide edition may come with problems. Usually, large magazines have a variety of editions for each country they publish in, such as Vogue Korea for example. Consolidating into one edition can potentially water down content for readers in other countries. Asian and Latin American subscribers of Newsweek may be getting the publication in their language, but will they be getting the content that is specific to their country and culture?

It remains to be seen how this will pan out. News organizations will be keeping a close eye on Newsweek to see how the transition will work because frankly, the whole industry has been in flux for a while and no one has it figured out yet.

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