Facebook Co-Founder Buys The New Republic, Stresses Tablets

Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder and contributor to President Obama’s 2008 campaign, looks to breathe life into The New Republic

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes will turn to tablets to save The New Republic, the ailing but venerable political magazine he bought this week.

Hughes announced his purchase in a note on TNR’s website Friday morning.

"As we’ve seen with the rise of tablets and mobile reading devices, it is an ever-shifting landscape — one that I believe now offers opportunities to reinvigorate the forms of journalism that examine the challenges of our time in all their complexity,“ Hughes wrote.

The New Republic, founded in 1914, is one of America's oldest and most storied political weeklies, which has leaned leftward for most of its life.

It has changed owners three times in the past decade due to financial struggles, and is now published biweekly.

Among The New Republic's famous editors have been the legendary Walter Lippmann, Martin Peretz, Henrik Hertzberg, Michael Kinsley and Andrew Sullivan. The current editor is Richard Just.

Tablets bridges the divide between Hughes' new media background — he was one of the first in the door at Facebook — and TNR's old media history. 

In Hughes' note, he compared the state of journalism now to when TNR was founded as people “are once again skeptical that quality journalism can flourish.”

"Technology’s disruption of traditional forms of media has led many to believe that independent, thoughtful media institutions are on the decline and that there are not enough readers to support serious reporting and analysis,” Hughes wrote.

Tablet sales have taken off ever since the their introduction. It began with the iPad, and Apple unveiled its newest tablet on Wednesday. In that presentation, CEO Tim Cook continued to harp on the “post-PC world,” one in which consumers use their mobile phones and tablets in place of a laptop or desktop.

According to its last earnings report, Apple sold more than 15 million iPads in its most recent fiscal quarter. Projections for 2012 sit well above 40 million in sales.

Also Read: Apple's New iPad: Voice Recognition, HD Video (But No 'iPad 3')

And now that the Kindle Fire has caught on with consumers, there is both more competition and more opportunity in the market.

Most major magazines have developed some kind of tablet facsimile, app or both. And it now appears more people are willing to pay for their digital content, which is why newspapers have been erecting paywalls left and right.

That is why Hughes will stress the tablet, which is seen as ideal for reading longer pieces. The New Yorker has already declared success on the new platform, with editor David Remnick extolling its virtues back in January.

In an interview with NPR, Hughes said the introduction of the tablet "has really provided a new opportunity for this king of long-form, serious journalism." He added that while they would not be a panacea, tablets "make it easier for people to pause, linger, read and really process very important information.”

Hughes, who also spearheaded President Obama's online organizing in 2008,  has said less about the website, which could also be a focus. As of now, TNR has a metered paywall, permitting readers to access some articles but making others available to susbcribers only.

The Atlantic Monthly, another venerable magazine, has turned itself into a profitable enterprise wiht its successful "Atlantic Wire" — but that is often an aggregator. Hughes has focused on original, long-form reporting.

The liberal magazine, initially founded by political journalist Walter Lippmann, has been home to everyone from George Orwell to Phillip Roth to Virginia Woolf.

Last time we checked, none of those authors had a problem with long-form.