Permalink to The Death of Newsweek and the Next Conservative Magazine

The Death of Newsweek and the Next Conservative Magazine

 

The decline and fall of Newsweek motivated Bethany Shondark Mandel to ask yesterday about magazine preferences, curious about who subscribes to what. We subscribe to Commentary, The Economist, Garden & Gun, and Cook’s Illustrated, and used to subscribe to The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Wired, and First Things, but there is a point where you can only read so much. New York magazine has improved dramatically and it would be the next subscription I get.

But the death of Newsweek – in print, at least – reminds me of how much I wish we had a mainstream journal which lives up to Henry Luce’s original mission with Time. Today’s iteration is almost a slightly less pompous Newsweek, with just as much trollishness to its ridiculous covers. The original Time was a magazine which aimed to cover and distill the news of politics, economics, world affairs and culture for the nation’s rising middle class. Luce’s magazine leaned to the center-right, with a small-c conservatism that was seasoned with a populist respect for the middle class reader and an abiding love for America.

Luce’s 1920s prospectus for the magazine included this “list of prejudices”:

  1. A belief that the world is round and an admiration of the statesman’s view of all the world.

  2. A general distrust of the present tendency toward increasing interference by government.
  3. A prejudice against the rising cost of government.
  4. Faith in the things which money cannot buy.
  5. A respect for the old, particularly in manners.
  6. An interest in the new, particularly in ideas.

There are certainly a host of quality magazines out there today. But all too many of today’s publications, right and left, are too heavily devoted to horserace politics, with politician profiles and short-term rough and tumble fights; or if they are interested in culture, they are essentially collections of reviews, often so dry and academic as to be very limited in reach.

There’s a space for this, certainly, and there’s plenty of smart writing done in that area. But I think there’s also space for a publication which steps back from this fray and devotes itself to the long game, emphasizing culture as much as politics, targeted at the mass market aspirational consumer as opposed to the politically obsessed. I do that a little in The Transom, but this is a publication that would have a much broader reach.

One additional note: magazines are actually doing quite well, moreso than any other form of media. Ad revenue has been up each year since the recession; paid magazine subscriptions continue to rise by about a 1-2 percent mark each year; this year, 181 magazines started while 61 closed. It’s an industry which is more specifically targeted to niches but has stabilized generally even as the bottom has fallen out of the newspaper industry.

Until someone sets a basket of money on Ross Douthat’s desk to start the center-right Atlantic, I don’t think this idea is very likely to come to fruition. But you never know.

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Members have made 38 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of Good Berean Member

    The only time I look at a magazine is in the dentist office. I would not pay for a subscription to a print magazine and avoid the “behind the pay wall” online stuff, preferring what you and others like you, Ben, offer on Ricochet and elsewhere. Thanks for what you do, and what you do you do well.

    • #1
    • October 20, 2012 at 10:04 am
  2. Profile photo of KC Mulville Member

    I entirely agree, Ben.

    If you ask Americans “who are we?” the answer isn’t narrowed to partisan politics. Therefore, the magazines in which we presume to carry out a national conversation have to be broader than partisan politics. The fact that they’re so narrow, and overwhelmingly to one side, dooms them to failure – first a failure in their mission and function, followed by failure in readership.

    • #2
    • October 20, 2012 at 10:10 am
  3. Profile photo of Nick Stuart Thatcher

    One of the things we need to get to work on starting 11/7 is driving the nails in the coffins of the mainstream media outlets as quickly as possible. NYT, WaPo, ChiTrib, LATimes, and all the locals that dot the landscape like so many pernicious toadstools. ABC, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, NBC and the rest.

    We need to stop saying “ain’t it awful” and push back as hard and as long as it takes to get them to change direction or go out of business.

    “Print” dead tree journalism is over. I go “behind the paywall” for podcasts and sites like Ricochet, which I believe are the wave of the future.

    • #3
    • October 20, 2012 at 10:42 am
  4. Profile photo of grotiushug Inactive
    Ben Domenech:.

    There’s a space for this, certainly, and there’s plenty of smart writing done in that area. But I think there’s also space for a publication which steps back from this fray and devotes itself to the long game, emphasizing culture as much as politics, targeted at the mass market aspirational consumer as opposed to the politically obsessed. I do that a little in The Transom, but this is a publication that would have a much broader reach.

    I wish I could agree. For such a venture to have a market it would require nothing less than the return of what Dwight MacDonald called “middlebrow.” I think that audience is gone for good. 

    • #4
    • October 20, 2012 at 10:43 am
  5. Profile photo of Whiskey Sam Inactive

    The Economist has a sister publication called Intelligent Life. It’s center-left and UK-centric, but otherwise exactly what you describe. Their photo-essays alone are worth the subscription.

    • #5
    • October 20, 2012 at 10:48 am
  6. Profile photo of Kervinlee Member

    Hmm… having a bit of a hard time renewing my subscriptions to “George” and “The American Mercury.” Maybe I’ll try again later…

    • #6
    • October 20, 2012 at 10:53 am
  7. Profile photo of Mickerbob Member

    I have been a subscriber to The Week since its inception. While I believe the Editors’ beliefs may shift to the left, (at least according the two short paragraphs written by its Editor in Chief, William Falk), it is my favorite magazine. The magazine is a “readers’ digest” of sorts with contributions from nearly every form of media, including websites, foreign newspapers and personal favorites, National Review and The American Spectator. Over the years I have probably sold more than a dozen subscriptions. I think this may be the closest to the wish of Mr. Domenech.

    • #7
    • October 20, 2012 at 11:06 am
  8. Profile photo of Severely Ltd. Member

    Proclaiming an enterprise of any sort non-partisan is the clarion call to the left to co-opt it. I’m happy with truth in advertising. How long after Luce died did Time begin its slide to the left? I don’t know, but I’ll bet they hadn’t finished lowering the casket.

    • #8
    • October 20, 2012 at 11:07 am
  9. Profile photo of Ben Domenech Inactive
    Ben Domenech Post author
    Mickerbob: I have been a subscriber to The Week since its inception. While I believe the Editors’ beliefs may shift to the left, (at least according the two short paragraphs written by its Editor in Chief, William Falk), it is my favorite magazine. The magazine is a “readers’ digest” of sorts with contributions from nearly every form of media, including websites, foreign newspapers and personal favorites, National Review and The American Spectator. Over the years I have probably sold more than a dozen subscriptions. I think this may be the closest to the wish of Mr. Domenech. · 10 minutes ago

    I would agree with this for the most part, but the leftward tilt of The Week and their lack of original content hampers their ability to fulfill this mission. What’s more, it’s one of the few places which has dramatically increased circulation in the past few years, which shows there’s an appetite for this type of aggregation.

    • #9
    • October 20, 2012 at 11:20 am
  10. Profile photo of Indaba Member

    The Week is good but with online, most if the content is stale by the time it gets to print.

    • #10
    • October 20, 2012 at 11:36 am
  11. Profile photo of Crow's Nest Member

    Luce’s prospectus sounds like a magazine worth reading–something that the magazine which he founded has not been in quite some time.

    I wonder if people would even comprehend Point #1 anymore. What is a statesman’s view of the world, they’d ask, and blink.

    I’ll second the call for Douthat to start the right of center Atlantic.

    • #11
    • October 20, 2012 at 11:50 am
  12. Profile photo of Free Radical Inactive

    I liked the Economist for their reporting on the far reaches of the Commonwealth but the recent (last few years) Keynesian solutions to the US and EU growth woes is flawed and tiresome.I’d like to read publications that detail the nature of the interlinked world economy and foreign affairs without obvious left leaning editorializing.

    • #12
    • October 20, 2012 at 11:53 am
  13. Profile photo of Crow's Nest Member
    Ben Domenech: But all too many of today’s publications, right and left, are too heavily devoted to horserace politics, with politician profiles and short-term rough and tumble fights; or if they are interested in culture, they are essentially collections of reviews, often so dry and academic as to be very limited in reach.

    I think City Journal does a reasonably good job of covering some of these issues and is one of the best political “magazines” (is available in print, but I subscribe online) period. 

    The Claremont Review also covers some of them, as does The New Criterion.

    I don’t find them dry or academic, but others may.

    • #13
    • October 21, 2012 at 1:25 am
  14. Profile photo of jeffp Member
    Sisyphus: Ifthe Weekly Standard supported electronic subscriptions, they would probably make the list. (Hint, hint) 

    They do — 48 digital issues @$39.95, or 100 @$75.00.

    • #14
    • October 21, 2012 at 2:13 am
  15. Profile photo of Rawls Inactive
    [We] used to subscribe toThe Atlantic,The New Yorker,Wired, andFirst Things, but there is a point where you can only read so much.

    Imho, Wired is the Time of a society that spends an increasing amount of time online. Although obviously in the tech niche, it does an excellent job of blending science (something Newsweek and Time used to do a lot more of, along with literature) and technology with an air of ambassadorship–contextualizing developments in both fields for a mainstream audience. Let’s also not forget about Popular Science, or The Paris Review—both of which have always operated outside of the “horse race” that at least a part of the political milieu will always operate within (and rightfully so). With anchors set firmly in classical studies like science and literature, it’s far easier to take the horse race with a grain of salt.

    • #15
    • October 21, 2012 at 2:26 am
  16. Profile photo of grotiushug Inactive
    jeffp
    Sisyphus: Ifthe Weekly Standard supported electronic subscriptions, they would probably make the list. (Hint, hint) 

    They do — 48 digital issues @$39.95, or 100 @$75.00. · 6 minutes ago

    The Weekly Standard is excellent among political magazines in terms of choosing the books it reviews, but it is frustrating in that it doesn’t give the reviewer sufficient space to discuss the book reviewed–a page or two at most. In this respect the New Republic is a superior magazine. I can’t stand TNR’s politics (especially now that Martin Peretz is no longer in charge) but I retain my subscription because it’s far and away the best literary magazine among journals whose primary purpose is to be organs of political opinion. 

    • #16
    • October 21, 2012 at 2:27 am
  17. Profile photo of Ben Domenech Inactive
    Ben Domenech Post author

    I appreciate the thoughts in this thread and several of the suggestions. But you simply can’t compare what I’m talking about with magazines like Touchstone, City Journal, Claremont Review, etc. as high quality as they are (despite the fact that I’ve written for some of them). I am expressing a desire for something that is larger than just the niche publications and intellectual journals. Newsweek and The New Yorker have circulation and readership above a million people each issue. The Atlantic and The Week are roughly a half million. Time has 3.3 million. Touchstone has 14,000.

    • #17
    • October 21, 2012 at 2:43 am
  18. Profile photo of grotiushug Inactive
    Ben Domenech

     I am expressing a desire for something that is larger than just the niche publications and intellectual journals.

    But that’s the question: is there a market for such a periodical? I don’t think there is. Genferei says that the format is obsolete, and I think that’s true–not only because technology has improved but because I don’t believe there would be an audience even if the internet was never invented. The mass reading public is simply not educated or interested enough. Two generations ago, people aspired to culture: Leonard Bernstein on prime time network television, the Harvard Classics on the living room shelf, etc. etc. That desire still exists, but it’s degenerated into wine drinking and watching celebrity chefs on television. For the average middle class American, sophistication and wordliness no longer means being well-read and conversant with the fine arts. It means knowing what arugula is and what wine to pair with the mushroom risotto. 

    • #18
    • October 21, 2012 at 3:05 am
  19. Profile photo of Cutlass Inactive

    On a related topic, there are reports that Murdoch is looking to buy the Chicago Tribune and/or the LA Times. Although the left will do whatever they can to prevent something like this from ever happening.

    • #19
    • October 21, 2012 at 3:39 am
  20. Profile photo of flownover Inactive

    Thank God for Transom, that’s how I like it. In the morning, before I read any blogs, about three click thrus. And cheap. Thanks for that.

    Am going to let my NR lapse, after so many years, the Corner works.

    City Journal has to stay because it feels so good in the hand. Reason is on experimental status doesn’t look good. They are all fading fast.

    TIME , hoist on it’s own tick tock petard.

    Imprimis is free. Hard to work while sneaking looks at Lucianne,HotAir, or Rico. Funny to think that we sit there in front of a tv with an ipad on our laps, a smartphone on the table. To be able to enjoy an article and zap it to a friend is awesome.

     I have subscribed to most magazines literary to political to whatever. I was doomed at 14 when I was in school and realized I had 17 magazine subscriptions and rarely read what was assigned. Between Surfing and the LA Free Press, it was pretty wild in the 60s.

    I miss Mike Kelley. But then I miss Bill Buckley, Andrew Breitbart, Bill Safire , Christopher Hitchens , and Orianna Fallaci.

    • #20
    • October 21, 2012 at 3:44 am
  21. Profile photo of Cutlass Inactive
    Severely Ltd.: Proclaiming an enterprise of any sort non-partisan is the clarion call to the left to co-opt it. I’m happy with truth in advertising. How long after Luce died did Time begin its slide to the left? I don’t know, but I’ll bet they hadn’t finished lowering the casket. · 4 hours ago

    I agree. the aspiration towards “non-partisanship” is a dangerous myth.

    The very notion gives an advantage to those with a totalitarian mindset, who have no problem lying about their own intentions and marginalizing anyone who won’t fall in line. Conservatives, who generally believe in transparency, will lose.

    Even today, if you were to say to the average person that Time has a leftwing agenda they would look at you as a conspiracy theorist. Time is still riding a reputation decades out of date. Now, if Rupert Murdoch were to purchase the LA Times, it would be instantly marginalized as rightwing by the cultural machine – slanted headlines, Krugman columns, internet memes within hours; reinforced over time by late night jokes, sitcom gags, etc. 

    • #21
    • October 21, 2012 at 4:10 am
  22. Profile photo of Ben Domenech Inactive
    Ben Domenech Post author
    flownover: Thank God for Transom, that’s how I like it. In the morning, before I read any blogs, about three click thrus. And cheap. Thanks for that. · 54 minutes ago

    Edited 42 minutes ago

    Thank you! I will continue to do my best with my little staff of one.

    • #22
    • October 21, 2012 at 4:40 am
  23. Profile photo of Southern Pessimist Member
    Ed Driscoll

    Timebegan to shift leftwards even before Luce died, as charted in Alan Brinkley’s very enjoyable biography, The Publisher. Despite being personally friendly with Eisenhower, Luce became quite enamored with JFK’s candidacy (and later presidency), seeing him as the same sort of transcendent unicorn figure that most of the left would see a generation later in Obama.

    But the magazine didn’t fully go over the cliff until Luce retired from the publication. Reread the “list of prejudices” that Ben quoted above, and then compare it with their “Gorillas in the Mist” tone when the magazine chose “The Middle Americans” as their collective “Man of the Year” for 1969, and you’ll get a sense of how quickly the rot set into the magazine in mid to late 1960s. · 5 hours ago

    Edited 5 hours ago

    Ed, until I compared that picture that you selected as your avatar with the picture you post at pjmedia, I wasn’t sure that you were the REAL Ed Driscoll. You have been awfully quiet for a member since 2010. Welcome.

    • #23
    • October 21, 2012 at 5:19 am
  24. Profile photo of Duane Oyen Member

    Yes, that is how I get it- a downloadable pdf every week, large portions of which I print, but n0t always. Perfect solution.

    jeffp
    Sisyphus: Ifthe Weekly Standard supported electronic subscriptions, they would probably make the list. (Hint, hint) 

    They do — 48 digital issues @$39.95, or 100 @$75.00. · 3 hours ago

    • #24
    • October 21, 2012 at 5:40 am
  25. Profile photo of flownover Inactive
    Ben Domenech
    flownover: Thank God for Transom, that’s how I like it. In the morning, before I read any blogs, about three click thrus. And cheap. Thanks for that. · 54 minutes ago

    Edited 42 minutes ago

    Thank you! I will continue to do my best with my little staff of one. · 3 hours ago

    You’re doing great Ben, every time I bitch about stuff you fix it, I just hope that you continue organic growth. if you need help, reach out.

    Two ledbury shirts for each hour consulting.

    Your mixology aint half bad.

    • #25
    • October 21, 2012 at 8:42 am
  26. Profile photo of Bob Schwalbaum Inactive

    I subscribe to NEW YORK.. not the New Yorker.. God forbid

    It’s another left-wing rag but it keeps me up-to-date on goings-on in my old home town.

    • #26
    • October 21, 2012 at 9:44 am
  27. Profile photo of Bob Schwalbaum Inactive

    Ah! Those halcyon days of yore.. when pubs like TIME LIFE and FORTUNE were considered conservative.

    • #27
    • October 21, 2012 at 9:47 am
  28. Profile photo of Lake Mattamuskeet Member

    I still get the Atlantic and Wired because, once or twice every issue, they have great feature writing that blows me away. I generally avoid the Atlantic’s political opinion and skip to their features and cultural writing. Those do make up the majority of the content. 

    I find the non-political articles in the New Republic and New Yorker very good as well but their content is far to heavy in left political thought / conservative bashing for me.

    • #28
    • October 21, 2012 at 9:50 am
  29. Profile photo of Barbara Duran Member

    Hey, no one has mentioned — unless I overlooked it — The New Criterion, the best magazine extant. It is so well written and edited that I savor every word, cover to cover, even when the topic is something in which I have little or no interest (or so I think, before beginning). I long ago stopped my subscriptions to The New Yorker, Atlantic, Vanity Fair (ewwww. How could I?) and the slew of food and wine mags that I couldn’t throw out and which threatened a hoarder’s demise if they ever fell over and crushed me. 

    The New Criterion, though, will be pried from my cold dead hands.

    • #29
    • October 21, 2012 at 10:39 am
  30. Profile photo of Duane Oyen Member

    A cross between The Economist and Atlantic, published by Roger Ailes, and edited by the late Michael Kelly. I’ll sign up now. 

    The only subscriptions I have now are to Weekly Standard (for everything except Bill Kristol’s weekly screed about how the GoP should be campaigning exclusively on promising another Afghan surge), and Popular Mechanics, because it has a lot of interesting techie stuff, and I like gadgets.

    • #30
    • October 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm
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