Social media junk vs trill: a tale of Time and Newsweek


A comparison of Time and Newsweek shows different approaches in 2009 to interactive communication with their readers.

10/24/2011 – This article focused on how the two leading news magazines used social media in 2009 in relation to how they hyped it.  A lot has happened since then.  Time has continued to pontificate from within the cozy nest of the Time-Warner media empire.  Internet media company, The Daily Beast absorbed Newsweek in 2010. Today, Newsweek has around 1.5 million followers and follows some 63,000; Time has 2.9 million followers and follows less than 500.

Time Cover-Twitter

In June 2009, Time magazine explained "How Twitter will change the way we live."

In trying to add value to the dialogue about new media and their uses by business, Ribblog harps about needing to know exactly how technology can make you better, rather than following the latest experts and their predictions.  Make sure you learn about everything new before your competitors do. Then, use the latest techno tools to communicate with your customers as soon as you have a solid plan for improving your business with them. Make sure you rely on those who walk the walk, which is a lot trickier than talking the talk.

Comparing news media competitors Time and Newsweek illustrates the point.  In my recent post, The medium is NOT the message, I referred to Time’s June 15 cover story How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live to show how new-media gurus endlessly glorify every method for blabbing in cyberspace, while ignoring the reality that most it is nonsense.

Because savvy bloggers can broaden their audiences by placing a post or a link to it in other synergistic forums, I thought would be a good place to start. Many, if not most, online magazines let their readers comment on articles just like blogs do.  Time’s managing editor, Richard Stengel lauded Twitter as “a prototype of a new kind of shared national experience: people talking to one another in real time about real events.”  And remember, Time anointed “You” its 2006 Person of the Year: “for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game.”  However, for all its new-media bombast, I could not post a comment on the article. Time’s web pages are flooded with bookmarks, feed links, subscription options, and print buttons so that YOU (Person of the Year 2006) can get stuff from Time, but Time would rather evangelize two-way communication than practice it.  Stengel boasted that Time has “700,000 Twitter followers and sends updates every hour,” but Time is following less than 60 people.

It seemed right to compare Time to its rival, Newsweek.  Newsweek articles about Twitter, Facebook, and social media in general are straightforward and analytic. Newsweek doesn’t flood its pages with links and feed buttons, but they have them. And, guess what? Any reader can post a comment on any article. Newsweek’s blogs integrate more seamlessly with its reporting. On Twitter, Newsweek only has 89,000 followers, but they are following 24,000 people.

Time claims to be the oracle of digital mass communications. But. which one of these traditional media organizations is using the tools and resources most effectively?  As with everything else in life, actions produce results, talk is empty wind.

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