After 80 years, Newsweek closes the book on print

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The Independent Online

It has been a fixture on America's coffee tables since the days when Herbert Hoover was attempting to lead the nation out of the Great Depression. But after almost 80 years, and more than 4,000 print editions, Newsweek magazine is to be scrapped.

Tina Brown, high-profile editor of the current-affairs weekly, announced yesterday that her title was going "digital only", after a long struggle with falling circulation and mounting debts. The final physical copy will hit newsagents' shelves on New Year's Eve.

Next year, Newsweek will begin a new existence as a virtual magazine. Its content will be available either to subscribers willing to use iPads and other e-reader devices, or to the world at large via websites controlled by The Daily Beast, the sister company it merged with just over two years ago.

"We are transitioning Newsweek, not saying goodbye to it," said Ms Brown yesterday. In a statement, she blamed the move on "the challenging economics of print publishing and distribution" in an era when an ever-growing demographic sources its news from the internet.

"Exiting print is an extremely difficult moment for all of us who love the romance of print and the unique weekly camaraderie of those hectic hours before the close on Friday night. But as we head for the 80th anniversary of Newsweek next year we must sustain the journalism that gives the magazine its purpose – and embrace the all-digital future."

The scrapping of the magazine follows years of decline in Newsweek's paid circulation, which was 3.1 million in 2007 but had fallen to 1.5 million by June this year. The move to digital will allow Newsweek to reduce its editorial staff of roughly 400 and the magazine's parent company will see printing and distribution costs vanish.

In 2009, at the height of the downturn, Newsweek lost $28m. By 2010, when the title was sold to its current owner Sidney Harman for $1, it was believed to be losing $20m a year. Its current financial figures are unknown.