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Less Is More - Can Newsweek Do It?

by Doug Davidoff | May 20, 2009 7:13:40 AM

I'm fascinated by what is taking place at Newsweek.  Newsweek, whose circulation once stood at 3.1 million, is looking to decrease - that's right DECREASE - it to 1.5 million.  They're raising their prices, completely redesigning (or should I say completely redesigned) the magazine and the website.  Gone will be the superfluous restatements of information that is available everywhere and instead they will focus on "in-depth reporting and argument."  They explain their new website this way:


Can they do it?  Will it work?

My opinion is that if they can do it (which is a big if) - it will work.  In an era where more and more people are throwing more and more crap out there, people are looking for a semblance of order.  I applaud Jon Meacham (the editor) for moving in this direction, and I hope he will be able to stick with it.  I'm sure they're going to make some mistakes and it my hope that his board will allow him the time to find the right pace.  Here are some points Meacham (and every body else) should pay attention to:

    1. Be really, really clear on who your audience is.  This strategy can only work with a maniacal focus on who your customer is - and who it isn't.  I call this the first rule for creating demand:  Know and understand your customers better than they know and understand themselves.

    1. Respect the audience.  Make sure that the advertising you present to them is every bit as worthy of my attention as the journalism you are promising.  Remember that your customer is your reader - not your advertiser.  Too many media companies say this very thing, but then act in a completely different fashion.  Don't bombard me with data that doesn't mean anything to me - if you do, I'll stop paying attention and you'll lose the very asset you are looking to monetize.

    1. Don't take shortcuts (this is a subset of point 2).  Allow the time it takes to create a new relationship with your readers - both old and new.

    1. Content is king.  You are making a big promise - now keep it.  Give me great journalism - and be a maniacal filter for me.  Do those two things, and you will become must read.

I applaud Newsweek's decision to focus on its core and to be great.  I'm even thinking about getting a subscription.

What do you think?  How can you apply Newsweek's strategy to your business?