A short note on why Newsweek going digital-only was expected, yet still bad for our media landscape in general.
The badness has nothing to do with financial viability. It’s clear that the Web has made receiving summaries of the news that was a week later an absurd luxury and Newsweek’s subscription and circulation numbers have reflected that — no matter how many stupid cover stunts Tina Brown came up with.
But the decision is bad for the overall media marketplace because all this talk of going digital presumes that we are all wired to the web in the same way. Yes, access to the mobile web is expanding through the availability of lower-cost smartphones, pre-paid data plans, etc. — but there’s still a digital divide to observe if one is lower middle-class or poor. If journalistic work is going to be hidden behind a monthly pay wall instead of available at the news stand for a few bucks, who gets access to journalism and who becomes the target market for said journalism?
What I’m trying to imply here is that the rushing of traditional print publications into reduced print schedules or the abandoning of print schedules is likely to result in journalism swinging harder to appeal to the people who can afford to access it — meaning fewer articles asking about poverty, the safety net for those who really need it, less on labor and its declining worth, more geared toward the owners of businesses or those aspiring to own or manage. This is what we fear with newspapers potentially reducing their schedules (or actually doing so, in the case of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.)
In short: this is journalism heading for a path where it reassures the comfortable and either ignores or “others” the afflicted.