U.S. News & World Report All but Quits Print

Dropping Subscriptions in Favor of Newsstand Sales and Digital Business

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- U.S. News & World Report will drop its subscription business after December, eliminating about 94% of its print presence, and revert to a business built on newsstand sales and digital media.

A sample page from U.S. News & World Report's digital edition.
A sample page from U.S. News & World Report's digital edition.
"We're obviously moving very aggressively into digital," Editor Brian Kelly told Ad Age Friday afternoon.

No layoffs are anticipated in connection with the move, Mr. Kelly said. "Staff is always changing but we've been moving in this direction for a long time."

U.S. News & World Report sells a weekly digital edition, but it hasn't been a print newsweekly for a long time. It currently publishes 12 print issues a year, many of them focused on lists such as its annual college rankings. Those franchises will comprise its newsstand presence going forward, along with four special editions on subjects such as history or religion.

The magazine's presence in print had also been shrinking rapidly. It averaged paid and verified circulation of 1.1 million in the first half of the year, down 21% from 1.3 million in the first half of last year, according to its reports with the Audit Bureau of Circulations. And subscriptions represented the overwhelming bulk of that print presence: It averaged just over 1 million paid subscriptions in the first half.

USNews.com drew 1.5 million unique visitors in September, compared with 6.2 million for Newsweek.com and 10.2 million for Time.com, according to ComScore.

When a million subscribers aren't enough
More than 1 million subscriptions may sound like a business worth keeping, but magazine subscriptions aren't always very profitable and are often money-losers. Most publishers sell them at low prices to ensure big audiences that will, in theory, attract enough advertising to subsidize the whole operation. That calculus has become less dependable, however, with the sour economy and rise of digital media.

Time and Newsweek have also struggled to varying degrees with changes to the media and news businesses, reducing their paid circulation guarantees over the past five years as competition for readers and advertisers proliferated. The Washington Post Company sold Newsweek earlier this year amid losses in the tens of millions of dollars.

U.S. News employees learned of the change in a staff memo today. "The December issue will be our last print monthly sent to subscribers, whose remaining print and digital replica subscriptions will be filled by other publishers," the memo said. "Going forward, our non-subscription print offerings will be for newsstand sale and targeted distribution. They'll include the college and grad guides, as well as hospital and personal finance guides. In addition, we'll publish four other newsstand special editions, focusing on history, religion and some of the other subjects that have been a success for us in the past. And of course we'll continue to expand our audience and products on the various usnews.com channels and grow the digital U.S. News Weekly."

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