Newsweek's Print Editions Abroad Hopeful on New Global-Minded Owner

Pakistan Editor Says He's 'Delighted' with New Owners' Attitude

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A recent print issue of Newsweek Pakistan
A recent print issue of Newsweek Pakistan

Newsweek's print edition in the United States may have met its end last year, but staff at the magazine's ongoing print editions abroad hope that the brand's new, global-minded owner will mean better times ahead for them.

IBT Media, the digital publisher that agreed earlier this month to buy Newsweek, publishes websites in seven languages in pursuit of readers around the world. It now calls Newsweek's international presence key to growing the new acquisition. "We plan on deepening the current relationships and potentially adding more global partners," IBT Media founder and CEO Etienne Uzak said in an email.

"I'm delighted that it is responsive to working closely with licensees," said Fasih Ahmed, editor of Newsweek Pakistan, in an email interview. "That is very reassuring, and hopefully we can forge a path that works for all of us."

The North American version of Newsweek published its final print issue last December, reverting to an online-only publication whose website was revamped in May and put up for sale with a greatly reduced staff. But Mr. Ahmed's office in Lahore still produces English-language editions not only for Pakistan but, since a deal with another publisher early this year, one for Latin America and another for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. When Newsweek U.S. went all-digital, Mr. Ahmed told the press in Pakistan that he planned to actually add headcount to the local edition. Some countries also have local-language editions of Newsweek still publishing in print.

Foreign licensing agreements are common among magazines, whose various international editions are often published by a local publisher paying a fee. The scenario can create a steady -- if usually marginal -- revenue stream for a magazine. Sometimes the added cash flow brings added headaches, as when a foreign edition scandalizes the media with a racy cover (see this Playboy Mexico cover for just one example) and prompts calls from advertisers erroneously blaming the mothership.

'Zombie Diana' in the U.S. ...
'Zombie Diana' in the U.S. ...
... not pictured in Pakistan.
... not pictured in Pakistan.
'Muslim Rage' in the U.S. ...
'Muslim Rage' in the U.S. ...
... only a cover line in Pakistan.
... only a cover line in Pakistan.

That doesn't seem to have happened in the case of Newsweek Pakistan -- but Mr. Ahmed has certainly changed Newsweek U.S. covers to better suit his audience. Pakistan didn't run Newsweek's infamous "Zombie Diana" cover from 2011, for example, choosing instead a more classic, black-and-white photo of the Princess. The highly criticized "Muslim Rage" cover from last fall wasn't run in Pakistan either, where it was shrunk to a cover line.

Of course, the U.S. cover that loudly proclaimed Newsweek's "#lastprintissue" couldn't be printed in Pakistan either.

Newsweek Pakistan does feature stories by its own reporters: A profile of Pakistani activist and author Tehmina Durrani graced a July issue's cover.

Mr. Ahmed, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who started Newsweek Pakistan in 2010, said his editions will pull Newsweek copy from a daily story list, then tweak it for their audiences. For example, copy often refers to "our" President Obama, or "our troops." To maintain a "sense of internationalism," Mr. Ahmed will change the wording in the copy.

But the Newsweek Pakistan that the IBT is buying isn't the same Newsweek Mr. Ahmed started at, as people that he had relationships with one by one left the company, so what began as a collaborative editorial relationship has turned into a more practical licensor-licensee one. Mr. Zakaria left Newsweek International to head to Time, Arlene Getz, editorial director, went to Reuters and Jack Livings, special editions editorial director, also went to Time. As Mr. Ahmed says, "New Time is like the old Newsweek."

Forbes magazine, which has 30 local licensing agreements, has sought to avoid trouble with licensees run amok by approving all of the editors at their foreign editions. Newsweek also has final approval on editor hiring, and keeps an on-call editor in the U.S. to answer any questions about stories.

"We've more than doubled our print audience with local language audiences," said Miguel Forbes, president worldwide development of Forbes Media. He said the agreements have also been "very profitable," though he declined to discuss specific financial details.

Newsweek Pakistan is the largest English weekly newsmagazine in the country, with circulation of 15,000, according to Mr. Ahmed. It is financially successful, he said, declining to discuss financial details.

That's far smaller by print circulation than Newsweek had in the U.S. even at the end, but Newsweek in the States was also losing millions of dollars. Newsweek U.S. declined to comment.

"As licensed partners, having invested time and capital in our Newsweek editions," Mr. Ahmed said, "we're pleased that IBT values the brand highly and will work to restore and preserve its integrity as one of the premier global platforms for thoughtful, engaging journalism."

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