《新闻周刊》的最新决定是逃离新闻汇编式的杂志生意,重新将自己定位为一本出售深度评论
及报道的高端杂志。它遵循的类似于此前《时代》杂志突然更改 的轨迹。这加速了一个过程,
这本已有 76 年历史的周刊将会致力于削减自己的发行量,从 270 万份降...
析——它所认为值得知道的东西——以及精悍的形式,这将成为数字时代里最后一种真正非凡
的贡献。直到两年之前,它才开始在网站上提供免费及付费内容的复杂组合。而它是如此的准
备不足,以至于它甚至连 theeconomist.com 作为自身网 络域名...
a hard time interesting anybody. And it sells more than 75,000 copies a week on U.S. newsstands for
$6.99 (!) at a time wh...
Economist remains primarily a print product, and it is valued accordingly. In other words, readers
continue to believe its...
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《新闻周刊》的最新决定是逃离新闻汇编式的杂志生意,重新将自己定位为一本出售...

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《新闻周刊》的最新决定是逃离新闻汇编式的杂志生意,重新将自己定位为一本出售...

  1. 1. 《新闻周刊》的最新决定是逃离新闻汇编式的杂志生意,重新将自己定位为一本出售深度评论 及报道的高端杂志。它遵循的类似于此前《时代》杂志突然更改 的轨迹。这加速了一个过程, 这本已有 76 年历史的周刊将会致力于削减自己的发行量,从 270 万份降到这一数字一半的多一 丁点(1988 年,《新闻周刊》的 发行量接近 350 万份)。类似的,今天《时代》杂志的发行量 是 340 万份,而 20 多年前则是接近 500 万份。两家新闻周刊都希望能够逃脱《美国新闻与世界 报道》的命运。后者经历了数年的挣扎之后,彻底放弃了作为周刊发行的理念。 在一个不断变迁的媒介环境中,《新闻周刊》和《时代》的这些战略性的撤退一种勇敢的相关 的举动。但它们都已经晚了十年。 在一个信息超载的数字世纪,现代的新闻周刊处在一个尤其令人心酸的位置之上。接近一个多 世纪之前的设计,目的是向所有人提供所有的新闻。面对着这样 一个电脑时代,它的尝试就像 一个滑稽的卓别林。它的存在所要服务的观众是——普通人,有好奇心,但是又不能太好奇。 忙碌,但是只在某一点上如此——现在已 经不再存在了。过去新闻周刊们总是被当做是报纸们 的对手,当时我们沉浸于新闻纸和针对庞大的死气沉沉的客观性新闻进行的摘要编辑。现在, 为了应对加速了的 新闻节奏,报纸自身有效的变成了新闻周刊的报道风格,付诸于大量的“新 闻分析”。现在,就在我们早晨打开家门口之前,实时新闻媒体就在以多种平台来到我们 的面 前。考虑到即便是这些“每日周刊”们都是蹒跚不前,那么一本和《新闻周刊》类似的新闻杂志 ——《经济学人》——为什么不仅仅活了下来,还获得兴旺昌盛? 在所有的那些杂志中,事实 上去年《经济学人》正见证了自己的广告收入增长两位数——引人注目的 25%,根据发行人信 息局。而《新闻周刊》和《时代》的同一 数字则是各自降低了 27%和 14%(今年第一季度, 《经济学人》的收入也下降了,不过基本上所有的杂志都是如此)。确实,《经济学人》已经 一贯如一并且有 力的增长了数年,基本上正跟它的美国对手们形成了接近镜像般的对比。尽管 被认为是一种比较高端的杂志,但它的美国发行量正在基金 80 万份。而它还将不可避 免的很 快赶超《新闻周刊》。 跟它的对手们不同,《经济学人》并没有受到爆炸般增长的数字媒体的影响。假如说有影响的 话,那么这种数字革命也只不过是巩固了它的地位。在一个权威 已经普遍得不到人们尊重的时 代里面,《经济学人》变成了右翼思维观点的仲裁人(右翼的市场观点,再加上一定程度的所 以社会改良主义)。处在一个“通识兴 趣”或者其他类似的东西已经不再令人感到有趣的时代里 面,它是一本面向日益增多的自诩为全球精英读者们的“通识兴趣”杂志。而且,虽然这个时代 我们一直被 告知信息希望变得免费报刊亭们正在不断消亡,但它却在美国的报刊亭里面以每期 6.99 美元的价格卖出 7 万五千份。所有的这一切都预示着,虽然数字媒介毫无疑问起到替代作 用,但它却并不一定能够摧毁传统媒介。而《经济学人》的成功,给予它那些正在消亡的同辈 们在如何掌握这种替代作用时带来了很多的经验。显而易见的教训可能是质量为王。《经济学 人》的确是一种引人注目的发明——正如它所自称的那样,一份每周发行的报纸,它能够确保 自己就全球性问题提 出的建议没有其他人能够及的上。事实上,它真的能够跟得上非洲事态进 展的脚步么?但是即便是《经济学人》在费力才能读懂的对于读者来说并不好读的每一页 中, 它都放射发射出了庄严的信号。它从来都没有变的如此聪明,它更多的为读者们考虑将会获得 我们其他人的信赖(但与此同时,我们必须补充的是,它也并不像 它的诋毁者所告诉你的那样 如此浅薄)。《经济学人》对于自己能够聪明的以适度的方式将全球信息进行压缩呈现感到自 豪。 在最坏的情景之下,它的写作是低劣、没有研究支持的自满的臆测。“领袖”版,或者称为主要 文章,趋向于“敦促”政客们解决那些复杂的问题。就好像重 新构建全球银行系统的问题,只不 过是一种简单的站在远处的沉思行动就能够解决的一样。来自 1 月份的一篇典型的“领袖”版文 章,讨论的是正在进行的加沙暴力 冲突。它以博学、深入历史的写作方式呈现了阿以之间的暴 力。在结尾的时候,它得出了一个所有人在之前很久就拥有的观点:以色列必须以土地换和 平。科学及技 术版倾向于来自英国大学的普及性学术文章。一篇 2 月份的文章报道了一个新的 有关群众行为的科学分析,但是文章内容前后却是矛盾的。事实上,《经济学人》本质上的确 从来没用获得过独家新闻,而且它所提供的信息也是到处都有——假如你精心的花 20 个小时进 行个 Google 搜索的 话。但是,现在信息已经是无限的可取代而且无所不在了,原始的报道将 再也不会获得它曾经所拥有的地位。《经济学人》的真正价值有赖于它对于一切事物聪明的 分
  2. 2. 析——它所认为值得知道的东西——以及精悍的形式,这将成为数字时代里最后一种真正非凡 的贡献。直到两年之前,它才开始在网站上提供免费及付费内容的复杂组合。而它是如此的准 备不足,以至于它甚至连 theeconomist.com 作为自身网 络域名都无法做到。今天,除了一些深 度的档案性材料之外,读者可以免费浏览这个网站。但是,就在编辑们零星的尝试着给这个网 站提供社交性功能的时候,这本 杂志的读者看起来根本都不知道这个网站的存在。这样的结果 是一场幸运的事故。《经济学人》依然主要是一份印刷产品,而它的价值也始终如一。换句话 说,读者 们继续相信它所提供的文章有一定的价值。 《经济学人》成功的秘密不是它的才华、或者傲慢、或者它的字体。《时代》和《新闻周刊》 或许也跟《经济学人》的写作一样聪明。但是,这两本杂志却从 来不不是那种唯一一本你需要 去读的杂志。你或许会喜欢新的《时代》和《新闻周刊》。但是你必须——或者至少,聪明的 市场总是深信你必须——订阅《经济学 人》。 或许《时代》和《新闻周刊》根本就不能模仿的跟《经济学人》一样好。迅速改变的市场份额 强迫新闻周刊们紧缩开支或许会影响到它们跟英国对手全球报道的竞争实力。 但是,即便是新 闻周刊们有数以百万计的美元投入到全球性报道中,它们的努力或许也将是不够的。跟之前的 时代相比,在今天重组自己是一件难得多的事 情,尤其是当你注定将被视作是一种盲目模仿的 产品的时候。在数字时代,清晰的特点是成功的关键。知道你是什么你是谁,而且把这个观念 传递给你的读者,是唯 一的一种凸显自身的机会。 Newsweek’s recent decision to get out of the news-digesting business and reposition itself as a high- end magazine selling in-depth commentary and reportage follows Time magazine’s emergency retrenchment along similar lines. It accelerates a process by which the 76-year-old weekly will purposely reduce its circulation from 2.7 million to a bit more than half of that. (Its circulation was nearly 3.5 million in 1988.) Likewise, Time’s circulation, which 20 years ago was close to 5 million, is now at 3.4 million. Both newsweeklies are seeking to avoid the fate of U.S. News & World Report, which after years (decades?) of semi-relevance gave up on the idea of weekly publication entirely. These tactical retreats by Newsweek and Time are brave stabs at relevance in a changing media environment. They’re also a decade late. In the digital age, with its overabundance of information, the modern newsweekly is in a particularly poignant position. Designed nearly a century ago to be all things to all people, it Chaplin-esquely tries to straddle thousands of rapidly fragmenting micro-niches, a mainframe in an iTouch world. The audience it was created to serve—middlebrow; curious, but not too curious; engaged, but only to a point—no longer exists. Newsweeklies were intended to be counterprogramming to newspapers, back when we were drowning in newsprint and needed a digest to redact that vast inflow of dead-tree objectivity. Now, in response to accelerating news cycles, the newspapers have effectively become newsweekly-style digests themselves, resorting to muddy “news analysis” now that the actual news has hit us on multiple platforms before we even open our front door in the morning. Given that even these daily digests are faltering, how is it that a notionally similar weekly news digest —The Economist—is not only surviving, but thriving? Virtually alone among magazines, The Economist saw its advertising revenues increase last year by double digits—a remarkable 25 percent, according to the Publisher’s Information Bureau. Newsweek’s and Time’s dropped 27 percent and 14 percent, respectively. (The Economist’s revenues declined in the first quarter of this year, but so did almost every magazine’s.) Indeed, The Economist has been growing consistently and powerfully for years, tracking in near mirror-image reverse the decline of its U.S. rivals. Despite being positioned as a niche product, its U.S. circulation is nearing 800,000, and it will inevitably overtake Newsweek on that front soon enough. Unlike its rivals, The Economist has been unaffected by the explosion of digital media; if anything, the digital revolution has cemented its relevance. The Economist has become an arbiter of right-thinking opinion (free-market right-center, if you want to be technical about it; with a dose of left-center social progressivism) at a time when arbiters in general are in ill favor. It is a general-interest magazine for an ever-increasing audience, the self-styled global elite, at a time when general-interest anything is having
  3. 3. a hard time interesting anybody. And it sells more than 75,000 copies a week on U.S. newsstands for $6.99 (!) at a time when we’re told information wants to be free and newsstands are disappearing. All of this suggests that although digital media is clearly supplanting everything analog, digital will not necessarily destroy analog. A better word might be displace. And The Economist’s success holds a number of lessons for dead-tree revanchists on how to manage this displacement. The easy lesson might be that quality wins out. The Economist is truly a remarkable invention—a weekly newspaper, as it calls itself, that canvasses the globe with an assurance that no one else can match. Where else, really, can you actually keep up with Africa? But even as The Economist signals its gravitas with every strenuously reader-unfriendly page, it has never been quite as brilliant as its more devoted fans would have the rest of us believe. (Though, one must add, nor is it as shallow as its detractors would tell you it is.) At its worst, the writing can be shoddy, thin research supporting smug hypotheses. The “leaders,” or main articles, tend to “urge” politicians to solve complex problems, as if the key to, say, reconstituting the global banking system were but a simple act of cogitation away. A typical leader, from January, on the ongoing Gaza violence was an erudite, deeply historical write-around on Arab-Israeli violence that ended up arriving at the same conclusion everyone else arrived at long ago: Israel must give up land for peace. The science-and-technology pages tend toward Gladwell-lite popularizations of academic papers from British universities. A February report on new scientific analyses of crowd behavior seemed to promise a fresh look at how police might deal with potentially rowdy mobs, but it quickly degenerated into an unsatisfying gloss on a British professor’s explanation of why some crowds become violent and some do not, with some syntax-obliterating hemming and hawing for good measure. (“And it is that which may help violence to be controlled.”) Pieces like these tend to support the Economist-haters, who believe the magazine is simply conventional-wisdom-spewing crack for Anglophiles. But then you come across a brilliant exploration of the current drug-fueled violence in Mexico, offered in support of The Economist’s long-held position in favor of legalization, and you suddenly feel like you have a handle on the world that you didn’t have before. The Economist prides itself on cleverly distilling the world into a reasonably compact survey. Another word for this is blogging, or at least what blogging might be after it matures—meaning, after it transcends its current status as a free-fire zone and settles into a more comprehensive system of gathering and presenting information. As a result, although its self-marketing subtly sells a kind of sleek, mid-last-century Concorde-flying sangfroid, The Economist has reached its current level of influence and importance because it is, in every sense of the word, a true global digest for an age when the amount of undigested, undigestible information online continues to metastasize. And that’s a very good place to be in 2009. True, The Economist virtually never gets scoops, and the information it does provide is available elsewhere … if you care to spend 20 hours Googling. But now that information is infinitely replicable and pervasive, original reporting will never again receive its due. The real value of The Economist lies in its smart analysis of everything it deems worth knowing—and smart packaging, which may be the last truly unique attribute in the digital age. For a magazine that effectively blogged avant la lettre, The Economist has never had much digital savvy. It offered a complex mix of free and paid content (rarely a winning strategy) until two years ago and was so unprepared for the Internet that it couldn’t even secure theeconomist.com as its Web domain. (It later tried, unsuccessfully, to claim the URL.) Today, access to the site is free of charge, excepting deep archival material, but while editors have made some desultory efforts at adding social- networking features, most of the magazine’s readers seem to have no idea the site exists. While other publications whore themselves to Google, The Huffington Post, and the Drudge Report, almost no one links to The Economist. It sits primly apart from the orgy of link love elsewhere on the Web. This turns out to have been a lucky accident. Unlike practically all other media “brands,” The
  4. 4. Economist remains primarily a print product, and it is valued accordingly. In other words, readers continue to believe its stories have some value. As a result, The Economist has become a living test case of the path not taken by Time and Newsweek, whose Web strategies have succeeded in grabbing eyeballs (Time has 4.7 million unique users a month, and Newsweek has 2 million, compared with The Economist’s 700,000, according to one measure) while dooming their print products to near irrelevance. It’s no surprise, then, that the redesigned Time seems to bear an ever-greater resemblance to The Economist (its editor is on record as being a fan; and every other editor of a vaguely upscale magazine nurses a hard case of Economist envy). The revamped Newsweek, not yet unsheathed at press time, no doubt will as well. As it happens, the new-look Time is quite a good read—my earlier prejudice against it, I’m sure, being a learned response similar to that of millions of others who came to see it as doctor’s-waiting-room fodder. Perusing a recent issue, I found a sharp essay on the changing ethical landscape of “Great Recession” America, and a terrific piece of reportage about how Detroiters are responding to the accelerating collapse of their city and, more generally, how cities should respond when significant chunks of their metropolitan area become unsalvageable. But it takes time and millions of dollars, and possibly risible branding campaigns, to turn quintessentially middlebrow secondary reads into upper-middlebrow must-reads. And even as Time and Newsweek attempt to copy The Economist’s success, they seem to be misunderstanding what it is, exactly, that they should be copying. By repositioning themselves as repositories of commentary and long-form reporting—much like this magazine, it’s worth noting, which has never delivered impressive profit margins—the American newsweeklies are going away from precisely the thing that has propelled The Economist’s rise: its status as a humble digest, with a consistent authorial voice, that covers absolutely everything that you need to be informed about. (Tellingly, the very lo-fi digest The Week, which has copped The Economist’s attitude without any real reporting or analysis at all, is thriving as well.) The secret to The Economist’s success is not its brilliance, or its hauteur, or its typeface. The writing in Time and NewsweekThe Economist. But neither one feels like the only magazine you need to read. You may like the new Time and Newsweek. But you must—or at least, brilliant marketing has convinced you that you must—subscribe to The Economist. may be every bit as smart, as assured, as the writing in Perhaps Time and Newsweek simply can’t mimic The Economist in function as well as form. The rapid marketplace shifts that are forcing the newsweeklies to retrench may have bled them of the resources necessary to imitate their British rival’s globe-saturating coverage—say, the reports on trade policy in Botswana; the 30-page specials on fusion energy in Indonesia; the correspondents who scamper (or give the impression that they’re scampering) across backwaters and remote deserts, spraying assured advice along the way like so much confetti. But even if the newsweeklies had millions of dollars to throw at covering the world, their efforts probably wouldn’t be enough. Repositioning your brand today is so much harder than it was in the old days, especially when you’re destined to be seen as a copycat product. In the digital age, razor-sharp clarity and definition are the keys to success. Knowing what and who you are, and conveying that idea to an audience, is the only way to break through to readers ADD’ed out on an infinitude of choices. General-interest is out; niche is in. The irony, as restaurateurs and club-owners and sneaker companies and Facebook and Martha Stewart know—and as The Economist demonstrates, week in and week out —is that niche is sometimes the smartest way to take over the world.

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