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I kind of think it feels very narcissistic, to tweet.
November 20, 2012 8:22 AM   Subscribe

I will tell you it cost $42 million just to print Newsweek. Before you’ve even engaged one writer, or one copy editor, or one picture editor. Forty-two million dollars.

Long, wide-ranging interview of Tina Brown by Michael Kinsley.
posted by Chrysostom (48 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
SO CHUCK IT ALREADY!
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:30 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good call on the print link, no way I'd ever click through a 7-page article.
posted by pd0658a at 8:31 AM on November 20, 2012


I don’t know whether you’ve been reading it—probably not—but it’s very good.

I beg to differ.
posted by modernserf at 8:33 AM on November 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


So, Tina, who did you vote for?

You know who I voted for.


Who says the media is liberal?
posted by three blind mice at 8:50 AM on November 20, 2012


Who says the media is liberal?

Generally speaking, (a) idiots or (b) people who just woke up from a 25 year coma.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:53 AM on November 20, 2012 [17 favorites]


Who says the media is liberal?

Who says Tina Brown is the media?
posted by gauche at 8:56 AM on November 20, 2012 [14 favorites]


I don't see how you can generalize one person's decision to cast a ballot for lizard people to the media as a whole. Many of us voted for Kodos.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:58 AM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, Tina, who did you vote for?

You know who I voted for.


Who says the media is liberal?
posted by three blind mice


I didn't read the article yet, but she always shares right-wing-ish articles when she's interviewed in her regular NPR gig.
posted by montag2k at 9:04 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know who i voted for.

> Who says the media is liberal?

Wait, there was a liberal running?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:06 AM on November 20, 2012 [22 favorites]


In the next graf she says: "Not powered by wild enthusiasm so much as wild running away from the other man. Harry’s been in a rage with Romney for the last six months."
posted by blucevalo at 9:07 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I’m afraid Americans would include Rupert Murdoch, although he, of course, is Australian

Meanwhile, here, Obama’s reelection is being taken as a firm rejection of austerity.

Who the fuck is writing this piece?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:10 AM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


"disgusting, sexually incontinent gargoyle" is my new favorite insult. Thanks Tina!
posted by papercake at 9:19 AM on November 20, 2012


there’s something about the way a magazine looks and feels when it doesn’t have advertising that is unbelievably disappointing, both as an editor and as a writer. Pages are not meant to be adjacent to one another. They need the advertising to give it body and fullness.
As a reader, I've never minded fewer ads.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:22 AM on November 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


the man of twists and turns: " As a reader, I've never minded fewer ads."

Yeah, the recent Newsweeks have been thin, but that's not why Newsweek has been a terrible and disappointing magazine.
posted by graventy at 9:24 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it too glib to call Newsweek a shitty magazine rather than mourning the death of journalism or print media? As far as I know, non-shitty current-events magazines like The Economist and The New Yorker are not in serious trouble.

Too glib?
posted by eugenen at 9:36 AM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I will tell you it cost $42 million just to print Newsweek.

WORST. BARGAIN. EVER.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:37 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


there’s something about the way a magazine looks and feels when it doesn’t have advertising that is unbelievably disappointing, both as an editor and as a writer. Pages are not meant to be adjacent to one another. They need the advertising to give it body and fullness.

What a pitiful thing to say.
posted by Anything at 9:38 AM on November 20, 2012 [22 favorites]


I'm surprised at the cost, frankly, as in it's last days nearly every-other page was an ad. That's got to draw serious revenue, "before you’ve even engaged one writer, or one copy editor, or one picture editor."
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:39 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are magazines that can successfully navigate the transition to digital media, and there are magazines that cannot. The better the magazine, the longer it can hold out, but I think they will all have to focus on the web side rather than the dead-tree side.

I hadn't known about the whole Talk Magazine thing.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:40 AM on November 20, 2012


There is one more factor about the copious ads in Newsweek, in addition to their disgusting volume was the types of ads featured. The ads were clearly created with another magazine's readers in mind (namely super-market checkout rack fare, eg Good Housekeeping or Redbook) or they were drug ads for products like Cialis. I owe this feature to the fact that a large portion of their "circulation" were thumbing through the free copies laid out in the waiting rooms of various doctors' offices and HMOs across the nation.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:51 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I owe this feature to the fact that a large portion of their "circulation" were thumbing through the free copies laid out in the waiting rooms of various doctors' offices and HMOs across the nation.

And now they're losing even this audience because people like me bring tablets or Kindles to the doctor's office and ignore the ancient Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and Martha Stewart Living lying forlornly on the table. (Just one of the many reasons I love my iPad!)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:56 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, Tina, who did you vote for?

You know who I voted for.

Who says the media is liberal?


I'm trying to grasp the logic of this statement. Is your assumption here that Michael Kinsley has never heard of Tina Brown before this interview and that Tina Brown knows he knows nothing about her other than the fact that she is a bit wheel in "the media" and that it is therefore somehow telling that she knows that he knows how she would have voted based on nothing else than this general sense of her job description?

Because, you know, you'd have to be kind of spectacularly uninformed about the media world in general to think, well, any of those things.

If Michael Kinsley had been interviewing Roger Ailes, Roger would very probably have told him "You know who I voted for." I don't think we would be in any position to draw inferences about the political position of "the media" from that exchange.
posted by yoink at 9:58 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The one time I used buy the print Newsweek was when they published their once-every-four-years issue pulling together the whole story of a just-completed Presidential campaign.

They would embed reporters with each of the major party's contenders, concentrate these resources on the nominees alone once these emerged, and use their subs back in the office to collate all the reporting into a single narrative as events progressed. The reporters were all placed with the politicians concerned on the understanding that nothing they saw (short of a truly earth-shattering scandal) would be reported until the campaign was over, and this meant they were allowed in to observe what would otherwise have been private strategy meetings.

The end result was a fascinating soup-to-nuts account of the whole campaign, told from both sides, which ran to about the length of a slim paperback book. The issue of Newsweek published a few days after the result carried this copy in full.

Unlike the day-to-day press coverage we'd all been following anyway, the Newsweek round-up could focus on the threads it knew would actually lead somewhere instead of the million-and-one passing distractions, and made it possible to grasp the campaign as a whole.

I've saved a full set of these things going all the way back to Reagan, but did Newsweek even do one in 2012? And where can I find the internet equivalent?
posted by Paul Slade at 10:02 AM on November 20, 2012 [23 favorites]


Also: Wikipedia puts Newsweek's worldwide circulation at 1.5 million in 2010. If it really "costs $42 million to print Newsweek," that's... $28 an issue? The hell?
posted by eugenen at 10:12 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pages are not meant to be adjacent to one another. They need the advertising to give it body and fullness.

*Swats Tina on nose with rolled-up Harper's*
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:14 AM on November 20, 2012 [13 favorites]


Okay, I don't know why I assumed it was $42 million per week. Assuming it's a yearly figure, that's more like 56 cents an issue. Makes more sense.
posted by eugenen at 10:14 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


British newspapers get a terrible rap

Actually, I think that right there might be the sole reason behind the "British journalism invasion."

British newspapers are filled with talent and financially-solvent, but have a terrible reputation at home*, because of the tactics that their editors use to sell more copies. It's not surprising that British journalists want to escape from that.

Over here, we hold the British media in a (much) higher regard than we really should, and the entire print media is basically moribund (in both popular perception and reality). It's not surprising that American journalism bosses want to hire foreign talent who come from financially-successful papers, and are held in high esteem by most Americans.

Let's just hope that the American media doesn't decide that emulating The Daily Mail should be the future of American journalism.

*And, there are a ton of insane right-wing papers over there that are hugely successful, which is tarnishing the entire industry. In the US, we have Fox and a few small papers on the fringe. The UK has a huge and popular ecosystem of crazy right-wing news, and Rupert Murdoch owns a terrifying percentage of the country's media outlets. I'm always surprised by just how brazen their Yellow Journalism is (especially in light of the UK's strong libel laws) — they don't even operate under the false pretense of "Fair and Balanced."
posted by schmod at 10:16 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


By the end, befitting it's contents, Newsweek was being printed on leaves of pure gold, so the price tag makes sense.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:17 AM on November 20, 2012


On Arianna Huffington: I think she understood how to create a community very quickly. She also figured out how to get everyone to do it for nothing, which was probably the cleverest thing of all.

On "the talents [she's] assembled": You should talk to a David Frum, an Andrew Sullivan, or anyone who works with me. Ask them what my editing comments are. They’re not about spin out this buzz-worthy phrase. They’re about structure and content and ideas.

Tina, I admit there is a fair amount to admire about you, but the company you keep is not sterling.
posted by psoas at 10:18 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Over here, we hold the British media in a (much) higher regard than we really should

I don't think it's entirely undeserved - there seems to a be a greater willingness on the part of the UK political press to ask difficult questions of political leaders during interviews:

Jeremy Paxman, host of the BBC's 10:30 p.m. "Newsnight" program, built his reputation on aggressive, bulldog-type interviewing. He once won a journalism award for asking Michael Howard, then the home secretary, the same question 14 times. (The guy never did answer the question.)

I would love to see something like that be SOP for U.S. reporters. I'm so tired of the polite interview and reporters playing games and attending cookouts with their pol buddies.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:33 AM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


If it really "costs $42 million to print Newsweek," that's... $28 an issue? The hell?

$42 million per year was what I got out of the context (which was something like, Newsweek was losing $40 million--which, again, I would assume means losing $40 million per yer not $40 million per issue).

So you can print 52 weekly issues for $28, which puts it somewhere just north of $.50 per magazine printed, which sounds about right.
posted by flug at 10:44 AM on November 20, 2012


they don't even operate under the false pretense of "Fair and Balanced."

Balanced reporting ideals for newspapers is a very American thing; not sure if it's found much as the normal ideal anywhere else
posted by Bwithh at 10:47 AM on November 20, 2012


I'm so tired of the polite interview and reporters playing games and attending cookouts with their pol buddies.

That's been going on since there's been such a thing as journalism, and we learned it from the British! Hell, in the beginning days of the US the politicians were men that owned, wrote, and printed their own papers! They planned the Boston Tea Party in the press room of the Boston Gazette!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:48 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are magazines that can successfully navigate the transition to digital media, and there are magazines that cannot. The better the magazine, the longer it can hold out, but I think they will all have to focus on the web side rather than the dead-tree side.


there is no digital magazine business. there could have been one on the iPad but Apple killed it with it's 30% margin. so, as it stands, magazines on the ipad amount to a sort of vanity press for their print publishers: the nytimes can't possibly make money on it's tablet app.

so, it's back to websites, and Salon is maybe the most successful example of a web-magazine... leaving content-mills like gawker* or huffington*

i got into the internet to get actual news on the 2003 invasion of iraq. the whole thing seems increasingly stale in a C.R.E.A.M. kind of way.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:52 AM on November 20, 2012


That's got to draw serious revenue, "before you’ve even engaged one writer, or one copy editor, or one picture editor."

I assume that $42 million is mostly the ad department and the owner's profits. Content is gravy, don't you know?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:19 AM on November 20, 2012


What really did them in was incompetent technology leadership from the top down during their transitionary period and afterwards, to the point where the whole thing was irredeemable. Newsweek had a chance, when they took over their site from MSNBC/MSN, to really do something with it. They had support, resources, and people, but no ideas. The amount of money and opportunity they wasted is spectacular and sad. This was truly a failure of leadership.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:23 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


$42 million per year was what I got out of the context

No, no, no... It's not $42 million per year or issue. It's $42 million per copy. Each individual copy is written completely from scratch, derived from oral history by lifelong embedded reporters and transcribed by calligraphers, edited by a worldwide consortium of academic publishers over a period of several years and scores of drafts and revisions, typeset with carved ebony wooden blocks which are used once and then destroyed, and painstakingly painted by hand by a team of thousands of highly specialized master artisans on the finest handcrafted glossy newsprint. It's only because of the advertising that it's so cheap. But savvy buyers know each individual copy is a breathtaking work of art.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:24 AM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


How could it possibly cost $42 million before salaries? That seems like a lot for heat, desk lights and the one dozen or so coffee makers. Were the stirrers made out of solid gold?
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 11:25 AM on November 20, 2012


It's also for dead-tree pulp, ink and labor to print and bind it.
posted by Longtime Listener at 11:34 AM on November 20, 2012


Their offices were in Columbus Circle, they had like 5 floors of the building across from CNN's offices there. That is not cheap real estate. (They also wasted a bunch of money moving out, then they got bumped by Kaplan, who was profitable, so they got the nicer space.)
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:34 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would love to see something like that be SOP for U.S. reporters. I'm so tired of the polite interview and reporters playing games and attending cookouts with their pol buddies.

The thing is the BBC is largely independent (as is the Guardian). In the U.S. reporters are paid, either directly or indirectly one step removed, by the very same people who fund the politicians campaigns and that's not even mentioning the revolving door between the media and political campaigners.
posted by srboisvert at 11:42 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meacham ruined Newsweek, IMO, not Brown. The Post higher ups should have kept a closer watch. On the other hand Newsweek was never very indispensable. I do remember enjoying the quotations and cartoons page up front while growing up.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:18 PM on November 20, 2012


Paper, printing, and postage are an enormous cost; I assume that's the $42 million, right there. It's really a shame the industry hasn't yet figured out a way to get digital magazines to work, business-wise. (Eventually we'll fire all the writers and editors, and instead of paid content we'll just read whatever anyone wants to put on the web, fact-checks and compelling content be damned!)
posted by chowflap at 1:00 PM on November 20, 2012


there is no digital magazine business. there could have been one on the iPad but Apple killed it with it's 30% margin. so, as it stands, magazines on the ipad amount to a sort of vanity press for their print publishers: the nytimes can't possibly make money on it's tablet app.

I don't think it's Apple's 30% as much as it's the general unwillingness of consumers to pay much more than $1.00 for anything in an app store, beyond actual productivity apps.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:34 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


God to live in a the era when a gentleman could get the board to spring for an executive dining room. Forget flying cars what happened to my valet.
posted by humanfont at 7:34 PM on November 20, 2012


Skimmed over about the first half of the interview, have already had enough. Brown, no big surprise, seems to be unwilling or unable to acknowledge how much of a hand she had in ruining Newsweek's reputation with things like the asparagus cover and the promotion of pseudointellectual wingnuts such as Niall Ferguson, Megan McArdle, and especially Andrew Sullivan. The crowning irony was the final page with one celebrity or another describing their greatest mistake; Brown didn't need to contribute to that, as every other page in any given issue probably did so. I used to enjoy the magazine as a less-pompous, but still reliable, alternative to Time. I won't miss it, nor will I patronize the Daily Beast, which has much of the same usual suspects.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:57 PM on November 20, 2012


No, no, no... It's not $42 million per year or issue. It's $42 million per copy.

Oh shit you guys, this is probably all my fault. Since I started getting my (free) subscription, I've gotten two issues a week. My bad!
posted by graventy at 9:10 PM on November 20, 2012


What's killing the business in digital isn't the low cover price: it's facebook. To make any money, facebook has to sell a shitload of advertising. that drives the price right down. My employer right now reckons that for every £100 we can charge for print advertising, we can charge £10 on the web site. Since advertising, not cover price, is what pays for newspapers, this is not good news. More, less good, news is that "digital" increasingly means mobile; and the going rate for ads on mobile -- including tablets -- works out at £1 for every £10 on the web site or every £100 on a print page.

$42m is chickenshit if you can get the ads to cover it. But they are gone, and they are never coming back.
posted by alloneword at 1:09 PM on November 21, 2012


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