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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Digital News Weekly Magazine

From portfolio..

There's been a lot of talk lately about the decline and fall of newsweeklies, some of it fueled by the shift of U.S. News & World Report to biweekly, and then monthly, publication. But U.S. News hasn't given up on the idea of the weekly news digest. In fact, later today, in a soft launch, it will rolling out a new product: a "digital newsweekly" that reproduces, in pixels, what the magazine once did in ink and paper.

"We're creating a tailored product for readers that does what the old newsweeklies did, which was to stop time for people and say 'What the heck happened over the last week?' and make sense of it," says editor Brian Kelly. U.S. News Weekly, as the new publication is called ("It sounds ironic," acknowledges Kelly) will be produced and delivered as a downloadable PDF file, laid out in the form of a magazine, complete with a cover and table of contents. For years, publishers have been offering such digital editions of their magazines with the help of vendors such as Zinio, but U.S. News Weekly is a whole new, albeit related, publication, edited for a somewhat different audience than U.S. News & World Report.

Whereas the parent title has gravitated toward advertiser-friendly topics like health and education, the digital weekly will be "very Washington-centric," says Kelly, with a tighter focus on politics and policy. Since there's less ad support for that type of content, U.S. News Weekly will be a premium product: A one-year subscription will cost $19.95 (although subscribers to U.S. News & World Report will be able to download it for free). "This is what every editor's trying to figure out right now -- how can I pay my reporters to do reporting?" says Kelly. "You've got to figure out a way where, on some level, the consumer is going to pay for some type of content."

(Of The New York Times's much-maligned premium-content program, Times Select, Kelly says, "I always thought that was an experiment they never should have abandoned. If you can get 200,000 people to pay for a product, you're doing very well.") The upside for the readers, he notes, is that they're only paying for content -- and not for the expense of shipping and printing.

And because there's no need to budget time for those processes, U.S. News Weekly will have near-instantaneous turnaround: The magazine will close on Thursday night and be made available at noon on Friday. "I don't think the newsweekly concept's outdated," says Kelly. "I think it's the delivery method that's outdated. To produce a great report, close the magazine on Thursday night and then readers don't get it until Monday -- that's insane."

1 comment:

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