Of course, there is a counter view that says if anyone’s heard of you in digital publishing, you’re losing money. If you’ve created a brand, you’ve spent too much. Digital dough is made in the under-the-table business of monetizing traffic for more than it cost you to buy it. You don’t want to brag about making money off of the traffic you’ve acquired for fear of being charged more for it. Anyway, the new Newsweek owners seem to have convinced Jim that what they want is, actually, a news magazine. Of course, no such thing can exist anymore, nor perhaps should it.
The closest anyone has come to trying to recreate that sort of model is probably Tina Brown, whose Daily Beast swallowed Newsweek before uncomfortably disgorging it (and then her). The Daily Beast reportedly spent more than $50m trying to produce a digital iteration of traditional magazine journalism – and in six years of trying never achieved more than a few million dollars in revenue.
Now, Jim knows a lot of writers and carries the kind of good will that might allow him to beg and borrow and put on an enthusiastic show for a while. That’s what Arianna Huffington did to launch the Huffington Post, but, then again, she’s a preternatural promoter and not replicable. It’s possible that Jim could have a year of fun. There is a niche play too. Henry Blodgett at Business Insider, and Nick Denton who founded the collection of Gawker sites – both promoter personalities in their own rights – have pioneered enviable vertical missions. Newsweek, one of history’s great general interest publishing ventures, might be refocused on … what? Not clear.