Who Will Buy Newsweek?

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When we reported last month that the iconic magazine brand, Newsweek, was up for sale, we lamented the fact that “The sale of the venerable brand is a harbinger of the generally besieged print media industry, as readers continue to jump ship to the web and mobile, and ad sales remain lethargic.”

But several industry players must believe the Newsweek brand is worth something. The New York Times reports that at least three bids have been made on the magazine by its auction deadline yesterday.

The potential buyers include Newsmax Media, owner of a conservative magazine and website; OpenGate Capital, owner of TV Guide; and Thane Ritchie, a hedge fund manager who has tried to create a third political party in America.[more]

Sidney Harman, founder of Harman Kardon, the stereo equipment maker, is said to have expressed an “intention to bid,” and Haim Saban, a major player in the entertainment industry, was supposedly interested but “was not believed to be among those seriously considering placing a bid,” says the Times.

Perhaps the bid that raised the most eyebrows was that of Newsmax Media, spurring speculation that the company would re-engineer the liberal-leaning Newsweek into a more conservative publication. But Newsmax issued a statement that suggested if it were successful, “Newsweek’s stellar brand and editorial representation would remain distinct from our other brands.”

Buyer interest notwithstanding, a monumental issue remains: whether there is a place for a newsweekly print magazine in today’s digital marketplace. Newsweek editor Jon Meacham suggested in an appearance on The Daily Show that the property would be better off leading with a digital edition, and following up with a print weekly that represented the “best of what ran online.”

Whether Newsweek becomes primarily a digital/online brand, stays primarily print-focused (as happened to Businessweek under new owner Bloomberg), or is transformed into some combination of both remains to be seen. First a legitimate buyer has to emerge, and the magazine’s owner, the Washington Post Company, has to pick the winning bid.

In the meantime, Newsweek staffers are fighting to keep the ship afloat until it’s safely docked by its new owner.

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