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Tina Brown Meets Joseph Schumpeter

Tina Brown created The Daily Beast out of nothing. Then she bought Newsweek for next to nothing.

Brown is a controversial but successful journalist and executive.  She has made The Daily Beast, an online publication, into one of the more profitable digital enterprises, which few thought possible.

She just announced that she is ending the print edition of Newsweek at the end of this year. She will recast that storied and nearly 80-year-old title as Newsweek Global and make it entirely digital.

I want you to remember that you read it here – Newsweek Global will be a smashing success.

There is a terrible wailing among journalists about the death of Newsweek.  Journalists are really good at a lot of things, but they are not very good at others. Look at how the BBC is handling its handling of a sex scandal involving a late celebrity among its staff. Not well. But more on that issue another time.

Lincoln Steffens was one of the best-known journalists in the first half of the last century. After visiting the Soviet Union, Steffens wrote: “I have seen the future and it works.”

Journalists, it turns out, are not always very good at predictions either. And the same is true about their predictions on the decline of news and the death of print.

Right now, journalists are talking about the “Death of Newsweek” as further evidence of the decline of news. They are exactly wrong. Journalists should be celebrating because what this announcement connotes is that media owners are realizing that they cannot make a dead business model work.

I grew up reading Newsweek. In fact, it is because of Newsweek that I became a journalist. To help a friend, my father bought a subscription at the start of 1961 and the first issue I read featured a cover photo of JFK in a top hat for his inauguration. I read that magazine cover to cover, and I was hooked.

But when was the last time you read Newsweek? I can’t tell you when I last read it. And that’s the point. Newsweek was built on what has become a failed business model. Tina Brown knew that a long time ago, in fact when she bought the title. She just had to wait to prove her point.

Here is what is going to happen.

Newsweek Global, which will be accessible via pay wall, will feature more of the long-form stories to which the magazine has migrated and will add more deep analysis and commentary.

And it will also add even more of the captivating photos for which newsweeklies once were known – and now on a daily, hourly and breaking news basis. We all love photos – look at the popularity of Pinterest and Flickr – and we will stop to look at web sites such as this with phenomenal photography.

Here is what this means for you.

First, because Tina Brown and Newsweek Global will succeed, other media companies will begin to emulate her successful business model of more analysis and commentary, more big-shot photography and even more video on their digital editions.

These digital media will have need of more knowledgeable experts and executives for their analysis and commentary, and will embrace more captivating photography and video from other expert sources that will include public relations professionals at corporations and agencies.

Second, because Tina Brown and Newsweek Global will succeed, other media owners will move their titles to digital. I commented in a speech more than two years ago that general-interest print media are dead and that general-interest digital media are beginning to thrive. That prediction is coming true.

For example, because of Tina Brown and Newsweek Global, we will see more local newspapers end their print issues and move to solely digital editions. They will report more local news every hour of every day. They will be interested in stories they would not have covered before – but which consumers always have wanted – and that means opportunity for you to tell your stories through local media.

Journalists are fond of saying they can’t tell you what news is, they just know it when they see it.

Tina Brown is one journalist and executive who knows creative destruction – a phrase coined long ago by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, basically meaning, in with the new and out with the old – when she sees it, and is demonstrating how it works to everybody else in the news media.

I call this “Tina Brown Meets Joseph Schumpeter.”  But I think she met him a long time ago.

Other media companies are about to make his acquaintance now, too.

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