Washington, Oct 21 : If Newsweek is going, can Time be far behind? Or for that matter Bugles, Posts, Heralds, and a sundry other print publications, for how long can they survive in this digital age?
That is the question being asked since the iconic newsweekly, that for 80 years with its rival Time magazine had become a must read for news and analyses for people around the world, announced last week that it would end print publication at year's end.
The magazine will live on digitally though as Newsweek Global, as an adjunct to the online magazine the Daily Beast, with which it merged last year.
Founded in 1933, after the creation of Time, it had grown to emerge as the second-largest news weekly magazine in the US with a circulation of more than 3.1 million at its height.
But by 2010 its circulation had fallen to below 1.8 million and its revenue dropped 38 percent from 2007 to 2009 prompting its sale by The Washington Post Company to 92-year-old audio pioneer Sidney Harman-for $1 plus an assumption of Newsweek's $47 million debt.
However, some media analysts suggested Newsweek's decision to go all digital may have been more a reflection of its own problems rather than the health of the print media as such.
"I don't think anything could have saved it," Evan Thomas, a writer and editor for Newsweek from 1986 to 2010, was quoted as saying by the Washington Post.
"The economic model was just broken, and there wasn't enough advertising to sustain the enormous staff that Newsweek had to have to be a comprehensive global news organization."
As a new research report pointed out if the circulation for the magazine industry as a whole dropped one percent in 2011 with Newsweek seeing the greatest declines (3.4 percent), The Economist and The Week both grew about 2 percent.
But as the 2012 State of the News Media report by Pew Research Centre's Project for Excellence in Journalism, also noted ad dollars followed the audiences to the web, and a stable business model helped cable television.
But much of the legacy media suffered revenue declines. Of all media sectors, newspapers suffered the most in 2011 losing roughly $10 in print ad revenue for every new $1 gained online.
Over the last five years, an average of 15 papers, or just about 1 percent of the industry, has vanished each year in the US.
As a matter of survival, perhaps as many as 100 more newspapers are expected to move to digital subscriptions in 2012 following about 150 publications that have already done so, the report predicted.
With Americans now fully into the digital era, the Pew report suggested that in five years many newspapers will offer a print home-delivered newspaper only on Sunday, and perhaps one or two other days a week that account most print ad revenue.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)