Newsweek Ad Pages Up in 2012, But Not Enough to Save Print Magazine

Digital revenue contributes just 6.6 percent to magazines' bottom lines

Unlike most major magazines, Newsweek saw its ad pages increase in 2012.

But the boost in sales didn't come fast enough to save Newsweek's print publication from extinction.

Thanks to a snazzy new redesign emphasizing more celebrity stories, the publication's ad pages jumped 5.5 percent to 788.37 last year. Those were the best numbers for the weekly since 2006, according to Pew Research Center’s annual State of the News Media report.

In October, though, editor Tina Brown, who launched the failed effort to revitalize the moldering title, announced that the 80-year-old magazine would cease print publication at the end of last year and transition to a digital-only magazine called Newsweek Global. She estimated at the time that the move would save $43 million in printing and circulation costs and said that Newsweek could no longer withstand the precipitous slide in print advertising.

Evidence of that decline — which has upended the old way of covering and consuming the news — was fully on display in the Pew report, which charted declines in five other print magazines.

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Of the non-Newsweek titles surveyed, only the New Yorker was able to keep its drop in the single digits. That venerable culture and news magazine saw its ad pages fall 6.4 percent to 1,091.47. Though hardly sterling, that was good news compared to titles like the Week (-24.5 percent) and the Atlantic (-13 percent).

Time magazine, once Newsweek's chief competitor, saw its ad pages drop 12.2 percent, the same decrease as the Economist.

The good news is that each of these titles are growing their web audience dramatically, though the money that comes with all of these eyeballs pales in comparison to what magazine's still earn from print ads and subscriptions. Among many of these major titles, the New Yorker's monthly web traffic grew 80 percent, while the Week's improved by 71 percent and the marriage of Newsweek and the Daily Beast contributed to a 50 percent hike in web traffic.

Spending on magazine's digital platforms increased 22 percent, to $1.3 billion in 2012, according to investment firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson. Yet digital spending only accounts for 6.6 percent of magazines' total revenue.