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Newsweek's got a problem (aside from the fact that it's currently a publication in search of a buyer.) The company has a smart, adept digital arm. But the product that is getting the most positive attention right now doesn't support any advertising. And it's not directly attached to the company's business model. It's called Newsweek.Tumblr.com.
Newsweek is one of the few old media brands that has taken to Tumblr quickly and adamantly. The company has developed a friendly but snarky persona with Mark Coatney at the helm that is increasingly winning fans.
But Tumblr has no ad placements, and that voice is often lacking at the magazine's monetizable products. With the magazine up for sale, the brand is currently taking a beating online. There seems to be a new satirical purchase offer popping up every day. Henry Blodget recently offered $1 to buy the mag. But as The New York Times' David Carr wrote this weekend:
"Unless someone is looking for a machine that makes money disappear very quickly, why would they buy Newsweek?"
That's hard for any brand to take. And yet, Newsweel's tumblr had a pretty great rebuttal. Today in a post titled, Every Day is, Like, Sunday, the tumblr expounded:
"June already! Where does the time go? Nothing like an uncertain future to telescope the hours. Remember, buyers: Bids are due Wednesday!"
This is not the tone that's become expected from a stalwart weekly news magazine. Even Carr acknowledged it on Twitter:
Even as Newsweek struggles to find a buyer, the company is making leaps and bounds in digital. A newly unveiled website is both sleek and direct. Meanwhile, the company's Twitter feed often strikes a similarly fun and irreverent tone. Take for instance, this recent tweet:
And yet, it's hard to ignore that most of the interesting links in the company's Twitter feed send readers not to the magazine, but to Tumblr posts.
And even that always chipper Tumblr persona doesn't have the best of scenarios for the company's future revenue options:
"We can think of a lot of ways! For instance, there’s the Time Inc. model, in which costs are spread around a lot of publications. There is, as Carr points out, the rich guy option. We’re thinking of starting a Kickstarter account. Also, as our numbers do show, our losses have narrowed considerably over last year, and we expect that situation to continue to improve."
Despite an impressive — and quickly improving — digital product, Newsweek still has to figure out how to sell more magazines to survive. The revenue for digital ad sales is simply not strong enough to support a newsweekly sized staff. Unfortunately, the prospect of "narrowed losses" isn't enough to win over most buyers. At this point, the best Newsweek may be able to hope for is a buyer so impressed by the strides the company has made in digital that s/he thinks the staff can extend that makeover to the print side.
But at the very least, Newsweek's Tumblr will go down fighting. Another Tumblr rebuttal to Carr's Sunday column:
Carr: In the current digital news ecosystem, having “week” in your title is anachronistic in the extreme, what an investor would call negative equity.
Newsweek.Tumblr: This is a small irritant, but what the hell: So what? In the “digital news ecosystem,” “Newsweek” is a better name than “Time” or “People”; ever try Googling “Time”?