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Time, Newsweek, and US News: Year of Living Dangerously

Advertising revenue figures for magazines in Q-3 have been released by the Magazine Publishers of America, and it was a bloodbath. Industry-wide, ad revenue dropped 8.8 percent from the same period last year, from over $6.5 billion to under $6 billion. Particularly hard-hit again once were the leading titles once known as "newsweeklies," e.g., Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report.

Ad income fell by 10.1 percent and ad pages by 15 percent at Time. The figures were Newsweek were 12.4 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively. But the worst carnage was at US News, which lost a shocking 34.3 percent in ad revenue on 24.1 percent fewer pages.

A key reason behind the losses at weekly news magazines in general is that the news cycle had sped up to the point that a once-a-week publishing schedule simply no longer can compete with the 24-7 cable networks or Internet news sites. Advertising follows the eyeballs, of course, so these three magazines, in particular need to discover a new business model.

One option often discussed is to work on improving the writing and story-telling quality of their content. Another is to adopt more long-form articles and investigative reporting to differentiate from online news. But Q-3 ad revenue for the New Yorker dropped 18.9 percent, and for New York magazine the drop reached 20.5 percent, so those types of content options may not be faring any better than the newsweeklies' current offerings.

Given the general economic downturn, a grim sort of death watch has started in industry circles as to which of the big-name books will be the first to fold, at least in its print form. Meanwhile, as gruesome as the Q-3 figures may seem, nobody even wants to think about what Q-4's will look like.

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