Newsweek’s editor in chief Jim Impoco has a simple formula for turning around the moribund newsweekly: Focus on “deep reporting” and investigative stories.
“You create your own weather if you must,” he said in an interview Friday.
And for its first print edition after a 14-month hiatus, Newsweek created a veritable storm. Its story about bitcoin’s purported founder sparked a media uproar that, given questions about the story’s accuracy, may yet rebound on Newsweek. The magazine says it stands by the article.
The good news for Newsweek’s new owners, digital media firm IBT Media, is that the print run of 70,000 is expected to sell out, according to IBT Chief Executive Etienne Uzac. The question now is whether Newsweek can maintain that pace.
If so, IBT may succeed in giving the storied magazine a new lease on life, long after it was given up almost for dead by others in the media industry.
Mr. Impoco said the magazine needs to sell “well under” 50,000 copies a week to be profitable. The magazine is currently losing money but expects to be profitable by early to mid-spring, Mr. Uzac said.
That’s a contrast to heavy losses Newsweek had sustained in recent years under a succession of owners, most recently Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, which sold it to IBT last August. Newsweek’s circulation fell by about half to 1.5 million between 2005 and the end of 2012, when it ceased print publication. During that same period, its advertising pages plunged more than 80%. In late 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported the magazine’s annual losses had recently reached $40 million.
IBT is owned by Mr. Uzac and Jonathan Davis, who co-founded the New York-based company in 2006, according to IBT’s website. Today, the company owns 21 websites, including its flagship International Business Times, across seven different languages. Much of its traffic comes from overseas although in the U.S., IBT is the ninth largest financial news site by desktop subscribers, according to comScore, behind Business Insider. Others include Latin Times and Medical Daily.
How much IBT paid for Newsweek hasn’t been disclosed, although IAC has said it recorded a $6.3 million gain on the sale last August, which it described as a “combination of purchase price and liabilities” that were assumed.
Today, the magazine generates revenue from international licensing deals, online and print advertising as well as subscription fees, a spokesman says. At $149 for an annual subscription, Newsweek is priced around five times higher than Time Magazine, a historic rival which today has a circulation of around 3.25 million copies.
Newsweek today has around 30 staff writers and editors, in addition to freelance and contract employees. Ad sales and operations are handled by IBT, which employs a total of 240 people. In 2010, when Newsweek was sold by its longtime owner Washington Post Co. GHC +0.27% , it employed a total staff of 300.
However much Newsweek sells in print, the big question, according to Outsell LLC analyst Ken Doctor, is how it performs in digital, where it competes with lots of outlets. “They have to continue to pique people’s attention. But can they do it every week and during the week?”
— Suzanne Vranica and Christopher S. Stewart contributed to this article.