Washington Post Company to sell Newsweek to…someone
Looks like the Washington Post has decided to send Newsweek to one of President Obama’s death panels. The company, which makes a fair share of its money from the Kaplan test prep service, has decided it is no longer interested in losing money on Newsweek. It hired Allen & Company “to explore the possible sale” of the newsweekly:
“The losses at NEWSWEEK in 2007-2009 are a matter of record. Despite heroic efforts on the part of NEWSWEEK’s management and staff, we expect it to still lose money in 2010. We are exploring all options to fix that problem,” said Donald E. Graham, chairman of The Washington Post Co. “NEWSWEEK is a lively, important magazine and website, and in the current climate, it might be a better fit elsewhere.”
That’s a pretty harsh quote. For all intents and purposes, Graham is stating that the magazine is defunct, and the only thing that’s worthwhile about it is the brand. So, who wants to buy the corpse called Newsweek and re-animate it into whatever they imagine?
And when you think about it, Newsweek doesn’t really have any other assets to sell, does it? Much has been made recently about the whiplash faced by staffers as they keep being forced to move offices repeatedly. So the sale of Newsweek will really just be to whomever wants to control the name, the URL, and the archives – not to some private equity firm that wants to make a mint by flipping their expensive headquarters.
We’ve seen this happen recently to other titles. Consider Conde Nast’s sale of Portfolio to bizjournals and the corporate parent of the National Enquirer, AMI, acquiring RadarOnline.com. The properties that followed them had the same name, and in some cases a comparable design, but did not in any way resemble what we had come to expect from Portfolio and Radar. Maybe the wingnuts at Newsmax.com could even pool their money together and buy Newsweek and transform it into a publication that routinely calls for a coup against President Obama. Imagine seeing that on the table in the waiting room of your urologist.
As for Newsweek’s staffers, sorry guys – I hope the Post company does its best to make sure the best of your writers find homes at Slate, Foreign Policy, the Root, the Big Money, WaPo, and the other outlets where you’ll fit right in and not really take much from the bottom line. After all, it tends to be the case that the people who create the most value for media outlets – the writers – don’t really cost nearly as much to keep around as the top-level executives and the actual printing and distribution of the product. (There are notable exceptions to this rule). But regrets especially to support staff, sales-people, and all the mid-level editors who make the magazine go and might have a hard time transiting to their next gig.
Update: Or maybe the workers will seize the means of production and Jon Meacham will succeed in putting a bid together and preserving a slimmed-down Newsweek ‘as is?’ That’s what Choire Sicha at The Awl reports.