The Era of the New Newsweek is Upon Us Again

In February, the New York Times reported that Newsweek would soon be unveiling a design specifically intended to "appeal to its best-educated, most avid consumers of news." That new design is being unveiled today.

In a message in the new edition of the magazine, assistant managing editor Kathleen Deveny explained the thinking behind the redesign.

There is a type of NEWSWEEK story that I used to love. In the 12 years that I have been an editor here, we have done hundreds of them. When the stock market plunged on a Friday (back when that was rare) or a gunman opened fire on Capitol Hill or a celebrity contracted a fatal disease, we "scrambled the jets," sending reporters out into the field with orders to file dispatches to writers waiting in New York or Washington. We killed ourselves to dig up one or two exclusive news nuggets and find a few fresh photos. We stayed up all night, writing, editing and producing stories, pushing up against our deadlines. It was fun-thrilling, really. We told ourselves it was NEWSWEEK at its best. And for a long time, it was.

And now it's not. In a world of endless Yahoo headlines, Wall Street Journal e-mail alerts and 24/7 cable coverage, scrambling the jets isn't enough. News has become a commodity. You can find the kinds of stories that we used to do as covers-scientific breakthroughs or trends like white-collar layoffs-on the front page of The New York Times. Web sites like The Huffington Post and Politico.com are siphoning off readers. And even as the daily buzz of information rises around us, our advertisers have turned away, or fallen on hard times themselves. Revenue and ad pages have declined. We reduced our workforce by 160 people to around 400, mostly through a voluntary retirement program. Last year, the magazine's 75th, NEWSWEEK slipped into the red.

Deveny goes on to explain that the magazine's redesign strategy relies heavily on a similar approach taken by their overseas edition of Newsweek, an experiment of sorts that resulted in an increase in both ad pages and profits. Their aim is place Newsweek directly into competition for a readership base more historically aligned with magazines like the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly, a strategy that they seem to be convinced is their only hope for survival.

It's Newsweek's second revamping in three years, having undergone another facelift in 2007. At the time editor Jon Meacham told the Post's Keith Kelly, "what we are trying to do here is clear out the clutter and speak in a print vernacular."

The new issue's cover features a Meacham Q&A with President Obama aboard Air Force One, a piece that contains this insightful exchange:

And as you divide up your time, when do you steal the time to do that?
I'm a night owl. My usual day [is]: I work out in the morning; I get to the office around 9, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; work till about 6:30 p.m.; have dinner with the family, hang out with the kids and put them to bed about 8:30 p.m. And then I'll probably read briefing papers or do paperwork or write stuff until about 11:30 p.m., and then I usually have about a half hour to read before I go to bed … about midnight, 12:30 a.m.-sometimes a little later.

Wait, Obama doesn't get into the office until 9 a.m.? There's something simultaneously reassuring and troubling in learning that.

Reinventing Newsweek [Newsweek]
A Highly Logical Approach [Newsweek]