Seven weeks after Newsweek Editor Tina Brown announced that the publication will fold its print edition at the end of the year, expected staff reductions have begun at the 80-year-old news magazine.
Brown, along with Baba Shetty, CEO of the Newsweek Daily Beast Company, sent a memo to staffers on Thursday saying that employees whose jobs are being cut will be contacted later in the day by company management. Laid-off staffers will not be asked to leave before Dec. 31, and some will be able to stay until mid-January.
The internal memo was obtained by the New York Observer. “The sad moment has arrived when we must go forth with the editorial staff reductions that we discussed in person with all of you several weeks ago,” the memo said. “Employees in the affected positions will be notified today. Much of this has already happened on the business side, and today we will be letting staff on the editorial side know where we will be eliminating positions. This is a very difficult day, and one that we approach with enormous regret.”
The memo went out shortly after Brown announced three promotions at the company. Justine Rosenthal, Newsweek’s executive editor, will become the editorial director of the Newsweek Daily Beast. Tunku Varadarajan, currently the executive editor of Newsweek International, is being bumped up to editor of Newsweek Global. And Deidre Depke, executive editor of the Daily Beast, will become the editor of newsweek.com.
Exactly what the future holds for the storied Newsweek brand is unclear. The magazine, as Brown announced in October, will go all digital at the beginning of next year as a subscription-based publication available on tablets, e-readers and the Web. Select content will be made available on the Daily Beast website. Citing a Pew Research study showing that 39 percent of readers get their news online, Brown wrote, “We have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format.”
Nevertheless, a viable business model for subscription-based digital publishing has proven persistently elusive, as evidenced by News Corp.’s (Nasdaq: NWSA) announcement on Monday that it is pulling the plug on The Daily, its short-lived iPad-only newspaper. Nomad Editions, Mark Edmiston’s all-digital publishing company, made a similar decision earlier this year. Both companies said their subscriber base simply wasn’t large enough to sustain the costs associated with producing the digital publications.
Newsweek, to its advantage, has a recognizable name with a rich history, but whether or not that will be enough to entice subscribers remains to be seen. Even Barry Diller, CEO of Newsweek Daily Beast’s parent company IAC/InterActiveCorp (Nasdaq: IACI), has admitted that taking the magazine on was a mistake.
In a kind of eulogy to the magazine posted on the Daily Beast website, Brown wrote, “Exiting print is an extremely difficult moment for all of us who love the romance of print and the unique weekly camaraderie of those hectic hours before the close on Friday night.”
Newsweek’s final print issue will hit newsstands on Dec. 31.