They Don’t Want News; They Want Nonsense

Another article deflating Bill Keller’s “more elevated” argument from USA Today: “For the first six months of the year, celebrity and gossip magazines such as Us Weekly posted double-digit newsstand gains while newsweeklies such as Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report saw single-copy sales dip 3.4% to 16.6%.”

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  1. Except, as someone gifted with a subscription to Newsweek, I can say that it is pretty much nonsense too. It is more a weak lifestyle magazine than a news vehicle, with many many pages devoted to health, movies, and vacuous coverage of social trends (“Mom’s who quit their jobs!” etc.). Its especially sad as, as the post-election issue devoted to news coverage showed, they have some decent reporters on staff.

    I’d say that these types of magazines, while courting readers who want “news about me!”, have managed to lose subscribers who like me want some FREAKING NEWS about what’s going on in the world. And that that is as much to blame for their falling ad sales as the rise in celebrity mags. If they pursued the news with half of the rabidity of a paparazzi on the tale of Jolie-Pitt, they’d be in a better place today.

  2. That’s certainly a good point, Carrie, one that surely Keller and Company would never acknowledge. But he’s talking about single-copy sales drops, not subscriptions (and I failed to mention this in the post). Check out the stats at the end of the article. It alarms me that people are more inclined to reach out for the latest issue of In Touch than, say, the news of our time. Also note that this is over a six-month period.

  3. Interesting, though I’d still contend that the same trend may be at work. Not to take away from the point that America is mass-consuming celebrity news, only to say that if you charted it, it’s probably more complicated. And I just reactively hate it when news organizations let themselves off, with a “it’s not us! it’s our readers!” To which I say, well maybe if you’d stop using your publication to court people who will – no matter how many peachy graphics and funny pie charts you brighten your pages with – still prefer to get their news from television, you’d get some real readers back.

    Before I got gifted with my current subscription, the only time I’d pick up Newsweek was in Europe – it’s been a while but my memory is that the foreign edition of the magazine was everything I wished the American issue was, very smart, indepth articles on politics and events around the world, but not so indepth that, you know, it was like toting around a copy of Foreign Policy review or soemthing. You just felt like a moderately well informed human being at the end of reading.

    I assume you saw this way back but I put it here as I thought it was brilliant, and Hank Steuver should be made Editor in Chief of the World:

    OK, going to go look at those stats you mention.

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