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Ed Driscoll

Their Appeal Is Becoming More Selective

December 10th, 2008 - 7:57 pm

Back in early 2005, Howard Fineman of Newsweek wrote:

A political party is dying before our eyes — and I don’t mean the Democrats. I’m talking about the “mainstream media,” which is being destroyed by the opposition (or worse, the casual disdain) of George Bush’s Republican Party; by competition from other news outlets (led by the internet and Fox’s canny Roger Ailes); and by its own fraying journalistic standards.

Looks like Howard’s employer didn’t take his advice:

Facing increased costs of postage and maintaining its circulation, Newsweek has been quietly considering a drop its circulation guarantee by a million copies or more, FOLIO: has learned.

Executives at Newsweek began discussing a rate base rollback as early as this summer, according to a pair of sources familiar with these discussions.

Both sources say that the magazine is considering slashing up to 1.6 million copies from Newsweek’s current rate base of 2.6 million, which would put the magazine’s rate base at 1 million.

Newsweek declined to comment.

“A million [rate base] was the extreme,” said the source. But, as the year wore on, and the economic crisis worsened, “[they] didn’t see a recovery.”

‘Thought Leader’

Aside from the cost of maintaining such a high circulation, Newsweek would like to transition from newsmagazine to “thought leader,” something more akin to the Economist. “[Editor Jon] Meacham and [Time editorial director Richard] Stengel are both infatuated with the Economist,” the source said. “To get that ‘thought leader’ position, a million is the sweet spot.” The Economist’s rate base in North America is 714,000.

In addition to Fineman’s warning from 2005, these recent moments will stand as key mile markers on Newsweek’s decent into Thought Leaderdom.

Update: More news of fresh disaster: “Hit by Recession, NPR to Lay Off Seven Percent of Staff.”

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