Niche content, Palinism vs. Liberalism and the plight of Newsweek

Palin

While watching my somewhat regular 15-20 minutes of O’Reilly Factor every other day, I caught an interesting segment with Bernard Goldberg. He and Baba over there, were discussing (nay, dissecting) the Rick Pearlstien story on Palin in Newsweek, mulling over the overwhelming negative tone coming from a ‘left wing activist writer’ as they called him. What got me thinking was the focus on the survival of Newsweek as a media publication part of the discussion…

Note: I read the story after watching the exchange on the air, which was very heated about the level of criticism Mr. Pearlsien gave ex Gov. Palin. While possibly seeing their point while watching, I didn’t find the story to be vicious at all or bellow the belt while reading… if anything it was more about OReilly/Limbaugh/Beck backend of the story that got him heated more; and no, I don’t like Palin.

When I was growing up in an avid various press reading family, the one magazine I always remember being around is Newsweek… that is until one day, my dad got enraged at the number of ads impeding his reading flow, cancelling and cursing the pub for nearly a decade. Despite this hiatus, I got used to Newsweek being my de-facto consumer news weekly, until encountering the TIME magazine staple at the in-laws.

Either way, going back to the segment spot… the point that Bernard Goldberg was making is that all of these publications (as is most media) are fighting for survival and thus seeking out niche plays to satisfy the bottom line. Given the various perspectives out there on Newsweek’s coverage tone (i.e., the 2008 campaign coverage of Palin, read: Has Newsweek Gone (Too) Liberal? or Newsweek: Palin Too Common, Too Stupid to be VP, She’s ‘Dangerous’), can Newsweek go too niche into liberalism by shunning Palinism outright? And, how niche is niche, in terms of content and the changing face of media nowadays any way?

Another major trend I’ve been observing at as part of my industry monitoring is the rise of niche content as a possible silver bullet to the media’s woes. The troubles facing Newsweek, TIME, et al (unfortunately now also including my personal favorite BusinessWeek, read: McGraw-Hill Puts BusinessWeek on Auction Block) unite them in the need to hone in their messages to their core strengths and please a niche audience to maintain a base for survival… easy for me to say.

But it does seem to have an ounce of possibility to work (think: WSJ/NYT editorial, Washington Post/Washington Times, etc.)… if my two families could recognize the coverage tone between Newsweek and TIME in the 90’s enough to drive them to a distinct choice… why not harness those wings and fringes then really go all out?

O’Reilly was upset that Newsweek didn’t disclose that Mr. Pearlstein was a ‘left wing activist writer’ versus the ‘author’ credit they printed him with… to quote my beloved Judge Judy: “Baloney!” Even if true, why should they disclose more (agreeing with Bernard Goldberg again); he’s not a first time contributing writer. Bill is once again huffing up hot air about something he himself is a part of. As centrist as he says he is (no spin zone and all), everyone knows he is a conservative talk show host, and he continues to be named alongside Rush in print, which I think always sets him off.

I see no radical change in the coverage of Newsweek toward liberalism (even if anti Palin, I’m looking at you Peggy Noonan)… but maybe, just maybe, Newsweek is circling the wagons around a theme and message that works for them (the trimmed down redesign that Newsweek underwent recently is another possible sign)… possibly taking a chapter out of Bill’s play book, hm?

I don’t know, but for me it’ll always be that magazine that Dad read, however liberal or anti-Palin or over-stuffed with ads it is… I do like the old design better though, but it’s good to not have as much celebrity focus anymore… consider your wagons circled.

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