How Newsweek Got My $6.95 and Lost My Subscription
Posted by Allison Fine on July 15, 2009
A few days ago my lovely husband came home from the market with a copy of Newsweek magazine that he knew I’d like. The cover was a photograph of a young Michael Jackson. It was a tribute edition to the singer with only the words “The Meaning of Michael.”
I had a delicious vision in my head of leisurely reading the magazine on my back porch, cold drink in hand on a warm summer’s night. And I sat down to do just that last night. And then I realized that I had been scammed.
See, we’re regular subscribers to Newsweek, have been for a long time. After flipping through a few pages I realized that I was reading the exact same issue I had just read a few days. The only difference was that the issue we received in the mail had a picture of books on the cover for a story about the books that we read and what they say about us.
I flipped to the front of the magazine to find this statement from the editor, Jon Meacham:
“There is one cover, Jackson, for the newsstand, and another, about books, for our subscribers, a solution we think helps make us part of the current conversation in the marketplace and gives our committed readers a broader-guaged cover with the same content inside.”
I was stunned and had to read that sentence that ended with “wiht the same content inside” three times to believe what I was reading. How is producing two covers with the same content providing greater value to the reading public? More importantly, how is tricking Newsweek fans (which is how I felt, tricked, swindled, baited and switched) into thinking there was a special edition just on Michael Jackson on the newsstands helping the magazine better connect with their readers? And, why am I, a person focused on using social media for social change, reporting this saga to you?
I am relaying this story because it is yet another example, a particularly egregious one, of the tone-deafness of the mainstream media in the Connected Age and their complete inability to imagine a different relationship with their readers. Because that is the true power of social media, it changes the relationship between istitutions and individuals and enables us, the reader, to develop a stronger relationship with the people behind the magazine. But, only if they want to, only if they let us in and stop hiding behind logos and multiple covers!
There are lessons here for all organizations. The main lesson, the one Newsweek and many other publications don’t seem to get (no matter how often I say it, if they just listened to me or better Jay Rosen a little more . ..) is that the relationship between the publication and the reader has changed.
In the old paradigm the publication talked at us and we didn’t have many other choices but to buy what they were selling. Now we have lots and lots of choices and I’m only going to stick with particular organizations and publications that treats me well. What does “treats me well” mean? Well, for starters, how about not snookering me into buying an expensive extra newsstand copy of the magazine? And how about inviting me into conversations and treating me like a thinking member of a community not a walking wallet. I’m really tired of publications thinking that their entire social media “strategy” consists of additional content online that wasn’t good enough to go into the issue. Or reporters reluctantly blogging but not really participating in the conversation through the comments.
Enough! We have brains and interests and we used to have institutional loyalty to magazines like Newsweek, and still could, if they treated us like people, respect our relationship and strengthen it. Let us suggest stories, and crowdsource content and have real conversations with reporters, and many other things that I’m not creative enough to think of but the crowd certainly could.
So, Newsweek, you win this round, here ya go, take my $6.95. But you lost the war, we won’t be renewing our subscription.
This entry was posted on July 15, 2009 at 12:41 pm and is filed under Social Media. Tagged: Jay Rosen, Jon Meacham, Michael Jackson, Newsweek. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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