Buying Newsweek and Bringing it Back to Print – The Story Behind the Acquisition and the Rebirth of the Printed Magazine. The Mr. Magazine’s™ Interview with Etienne Uzac, Co-Founder and CEO of IBT MediaMarch 20, 2014
“As soon as we purchased Newsweek, we had partners and businesspeople who wanted to work with us and we were open with them and we want this business to grow so we are willing to do deals, we’re willing to grow the brand based on a strong editorial core.” Etienne Uzac
Fresh life has been breathed into Newsweek with its purchase by IBT Media, a global digital news organization founded by Etienne Uzac and Johnathan Davis. I spoke with one half of the duo while in New York recently, Etienne Uzac who is also CEO of the company, and was met with enthusiasm for his Newsweek team and profitable plans for the future, including their reawakening of the printed edition.
In Uzac’s opinion, there was no reason not to revive the print product as long as it could be done profitably and provide a major service to their customers and he certainly feels as though it can. He knew there were people out there who loved and wanted the magazine back in print and was determined to give the customer what they desired.
The man and his company’s reasons for the purchase and the return to print follow in the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Etienne Uzac, Co-Founder and CEO of IBT Media. So sit back and enjoy Newsweek’s reemergence with a new company, a new future and a whole new leadership vision.
But first, the Mr. Magazine™ Minute with Mr. Uzac answering my question whether he’d rather read Newsweek in print or digital. Click the video to hear his answer:
And now for the Sound-bites:
On why IBT Media bought Newsweek and why they resurrected the print product: There are several reasons we bought Newsweek. The first one is the excellence in journalism that it represents. When we purchased Newsweek we didn’t rule out going back into print. However, we didn’t think we would go back into print this soon.
On their involvement with international editions already in print: Newsweek has had foreign licensed partners. Those are typically in foreign languages and they are complementary to the global/English editions. We currently have about 6 partners and we are planning to continue growing that number this year with partners all around the world.
On their most pleasant surprise since buying Newsweek: I think working with the Newsweek team; I’ve rarely seen this much excitement in the people who work for the brand.
On their major stumbling block: I think as the team grows, as it integrates into a new company, as it integrates with IBT Media, there are technical hiccups sometimes and there are staff hiccups sometimes; I would say it has not been easy, but it has always been moving forward overall.
On his reaction to the media onslaught after the first print issue came out: There was a lot of talk about the cover story and that had a lot to do with editorial. So from a business perspective, I thought that we had a lot of great articles about the launch.
On the future of Newsweek a year from now: I think this passion and the quality of the staff that we have put together will make for really exciting content over the year. And I think it’s going to get better and better.
On whether he prefers to read Newsweek in print or on the app: Personally I prefer the print right now.
On what keeps him up at night: I think making sure that the customer who used the website, who logged into the applications, who subscribed to the magazines, since we’re just launching; they’re experience was great.
And now the lightly-edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Etienne Uzac, co-founder and CEO of IBT Media about his company’s purchase of Newsweek…
Samir Husni: Tell me first about why you decided to buy Newsweek and why did you choose to bring it back to print?
Etienne Uzac: There are several reasons we bought Newsweek. The first one is the excellence in journalism that it represents. This is something that we want to aspire to for the current Newsweek team and our company as a whole. Newsweek has an amazing history of great journalism, has won many awards and it’s had some of the greatest journalists in America working for the brand. We want to aspire to bring that back into the brand and into the company. It’s a great legacy to aspire to.
Secondly, I would say that Newsweek has an amazing global brand. IBT Media, from its inception in 2006, has always looked at the world to grow and develop. We want to end up making more of our business outside the United States than inside the States in the long run. So we thought that Newsweek was a great way for us to open up doors to meet new partners and that did happen. Since we bought the brand it has opened up a lot of doors internationally and we‘re glad that we bought it.
The third reason is that Newsweek had complementary business models to IB Times and some of our other digital properties. Even up until today, we make over 90 percent of our revenue from digital advertising. We saw in Newsweek opportunities to diversify that; we wanted to diversify that ahead of the purchase of Newsweek, but we thought that by purchasing it we could bring that know-how into the company. So whether it’s subscription revenues or user-based revenues; Newsweek also had foreign-licensing agreements and it also had great syndication deals with big university content aggregators. So it had complementary business models to what we were doing. That’s some of the reasons that we bought Newsweek as a brand.
When we purchased Newsweek we didn’t rule out going back into print. However, we didn’t think we would go back into print this soon. I think what really allowed us to make this decision was one day I essentially asked for the numbers, basically how much would it cost to do a magazine out of curiosity. And I received the numbers; we have a great team of people who work for us either on staff or as consultants.
I got the numbers and I looked at them and was not surprised or shocked by them at all. Because you hear a lot of fear mongering in the market, you hear losses of $20 million dollars, you hear losses of $40 million dollars; if you just read the news you think it’s really scary.
When I looked at the numbers I thought, yes, it’ll cost a few dozen cents to make and distribute, sure; I didn’t expect it to be free. Really, looking at the pricing and the cost of a yearly subscription, distribution and print as well as newsstand; very quickly we were able to see that there was a way for us to become profitable fairly rapidly based on as long as the pricing model made sense.
When we did decide to go to print, we were very clear in our minds that this would not be a loss-leader. That was very clear. We said if we’re going to do print, this is a new platform for us, we have the website and the apps; print is just another platform to reach our audience. There are people out there who do like and want print; we are printing for them, but it has to be profitable.
Samir Husni: One of the things that very few people noticed in the States is that internationally Newsweek did not stop printing; it stopped maybe for 3 weeks before different licensees started printing it in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Are you now involved in the international editions or is this going to be the national and international edition of Newsweek?
We’re also planning later on to launch an Asia/English edition. So you will have, when the Asian edition comes out; you’ll have your Americas/English edition, you’ll have your EMEA/English edition and you’ll have your Asian/Pacific English edition. So those are all owned and operated by us.
Now, as you said, Newsweek has had foreign licensed partners. Those are typically in foreign languages and they are complementary to the global/English editions. We currently have about 6 partners and we are planning to continue growing that number this year with partners all around the world. And they will typically be in their local language to reach their local audience. And they will probably share the majority of the content with us, they will translate it and there will be a portion of that content that we will allow them to produce on their own. So we will co-exist together; the global/English editions and the foreign licensing agreements in each particular country with their own languages.
Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant surprise in all this, from the day you bought Newsweek until today?
Etienne Uzac: I think working with the Newsweek team; I’ve rarely seen this much excitement in the people who work for the brand. I think just working with this team that’s so passionate about the brand and is trying really, really hard to bring back Newsweek to where it once was; we have really great people on staff. I think working together with them and seeing the level of excitement that we have internally and also externally.
As soon as we purchased Newsweek, we had partners and businesspeople who wanted to work with us and we were open with them and we want this business to grow so we are willing to do deals, we’re willing to grow the brand based on a strong editorial core.
So I guess my best surprise has been the level of enthusiasm that this has generated both internally and externally.
Samir Husni: And what was the major stumbling block?
Etienne Uzac: The major stumbling block? I mean, you have growing pains; we started putting out weekly digital issues, so there were technical difficulties putting out on different platforms: the iPads, Kindles and all that. And transferring the assets from the previous owner and making sure that we fulfilled the date of the digital issue on time for the customer that was stressful.
I think as the team grows, as it integrates into a new company, as it integrates with IBT Media, there are technical hiccups sometimes and there are staff hiccups sometimes; I would say it has not been easy, but it has always been moving forward overall. So I wouldn’t say there have been massive stumbling blocks yet.
Samir Husni: Were you expecting when the first issue came out that you were going to be under the microscope and the gates of the media would “open” at you and were you pleasantly surprised by it, were you upset; what was your reaction when you saw the media onslaught?
Etienne Uzac: There was a lot of talk about the cover story and that had a lot to do with editorial. So from a business perspective, I thought that we had a lot of great articles about the launch. I did several interviews and most of the articles turned out very well.
We did get a lot of media attention, but from a business perspective I was pretty satisfied. I thought that it went pretty well.
Samir Husni: If I sit with you here a year from now; what will you tell me about the year in the life of Newsweek?
Etienne Uzac: I think people will really love the content that we produce and I think they will like the vitality of the content that we bring. Again as I said to you; the team is extremely excited about working here. We have experienced editors that have been doing this for the greatest newspapers on the planet; we have junior guys with digital backgrounds; but really they’re all uniting under this desire to have Newsweek really be a strong editorial brand in media.
I think this passion and the quality of the staff that we have put together will make for really exciting content over the year. And I think it’s going to get better and better. We will continue hiring and investing in editorial. I think that we’ll continue revamping and renewing our apps and the website to give the best possible experience to the user. And I think those folks who are really print nostalgic and who like the medium will be very pleased with the quality of the magazine. They will see beautiful paper, design and images that look really, really high definition, great colors on the beautiful advertisements. So people who like print will be really satisfied by the product.
Samir Husni: Which do you prefer to read Newsweek on, in print or on your app?
Etienne Uzac: I prefer the print because I look at a backlit screen 8 hours a day, so I don’t want to go home and read more news on another backlit tablet screen. Personally I prefer the print right now.
Samir Husni: What keeps you up at night?
Etienne Uzac: Just making sure all the nuts and bolts of the subscription process is working flawlessly. I think making sure that the customer who used the website, who logged into the applications, who subscribed to the magazines, since we’re just launching; they’re experience was great. I think this is what I’m most focused on right now. Making sure that everything runs smoothly as the launch continues to extend.
Samir Husni: Thank you.
New: Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning newsletter. Free and delivered to your in box every Monday. Click here to subscribe.
Issue Preview 2 is now available. Click here to view.