The Washington Post Co. (WPO) says the rather unimpressive handful of publicly-identified potential buyers for Newsweek are by no means the only parties to have expressed interest in the magazine. But if there are others, who are they?
One obvious candidate is Bob Guccione Jr., the founder of Spin and former CEO of Discover. Guccione has made it clear he's in the market for a new publishing portfolio, and even tried to convince Time Inc. to sell him Fortune. Guccione may not have the deepest pockets around, but then again Newsweek is unlikely to cost much, at least up front.
Guccione, however, says he's not interested -- and doesn't understand why anyone else would be, either. "I hate to say this, but I feel that the newsweeklies are almost an anachronistic category," he says. "It's in the late autumn of its life cycle. As much as I have infinite confidence in my abilities to make something interesting, I don't think I could have turned that great ship around because I don't think it's solely a matter of making it interesting. I think the field itself is fading into the sunset."
That said, Guccione thinks that Time has done a far better job than Newsweek of swimming against the current of obsolescence. "I don't read most magazines cover to cover, and I actually read Time cover to cover," he says. "The difference is Time has found that sort of rhythm between being of-the-moment while standing back from it just enough to give you a bit of context."
Meanwhile, Newsweek, under editor Jon Meacham, made itself into a less inviting read by attempting to go highbrow. "By the end, Newsweek kind of read, to me, like the New York Review of Books, but without covering enough books," says Guccione. "Time got a little flabby, and then it went to the gym and got in shape. Newsweek put on a gray waistcoat and said 'Let's sit around and drink brandy and talk about great literature.'"
Although he calls himself an "apostle" for print, Guccione believes that whoever buys Newsweek would do well to ditch the physical edition entirely and become "purely an iPad magazine. It has to be something that drastic and that much of a departure from their history."
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