Update: The Compete.com numbers we use below are US-only. Newsweek sent us Nielsen numbers that include international traffic.
Here’s what that chart looks like:
The timing is fitting because the launch comes exactly a year after May 2008, which was the last month that Newsweek.com’s traffic beat its closest online-only approximation, the Huffington Post’s.
That month, Newsweek.com bested Huffpo 2.9 million unique visitors to 2.7 million. But the next month, HuffPo surged ahead, 2.5 million to 2 million flat. By November, even Newsweek’s 3 million uniques didn’t reach two-thirds of HuffPo’s total. Now there’s only an ever-widening gulf between the sites.
Beaten at the traffic game, the new Newsweek.com — launched last Friday — has different goals, similar to its re-launched magazine’s: to attract globe-trotting, aspirational readers, who are attractive to premium advertisers and who also value the kind of content Newsweek’s resources can acquire so much that they would be willing to pay for it, even online.
In an interview with Geoff Reiss, head of Newsweek.com, and Tom Ascheim, Newsweek CEO we learned there were four driving ideas behind the new site:
- Geoff said Newsweek.com had to “get off the notion” that its audience would come to it, and start going to its audience. These days, you’ll find Newsweek distributing itself over channels from Facebook to MSNBC.com.
- Like the magazine, Newsweek.com needed to more aggressively differentiate its brand. Instead of trying to be the place that breaks the news, Newsweek.com is now “the place that gives you context, the bottom line,” said Geoff. In the media landscape there is a “plethora of what,” but a “lack of why,” said Tom.
- “Google taught us that directing people where they want to go is as important as being the source,” said Tom. From now on, Newsweek.com will direct its visitors to the news they want, even if Newsweek didn’t break it. Geoff said that means even if Newsweek’s 75-year-old “cold war rival” Time magazine breaks a story, Newsweek will link to it and analyse the news.
- Newsweek had to become good at being a tech company. Newsweek.com latest upgrade iterated in 4 months.
When we heard all this — that Newsweek.com would be a site built not on putting its resources toward breaking news, but on argument (don’t say opinion), links out to competitors, and distribution everywhere — we had to wonder: Isn’t there already an over-supply of analysis-offering, argument-making, news-aggregating sites distributing themselves all over the Internet? Isn’t that what the Huffington Post is?
CEO Tom Ascheim tried to set us straight. He told us that while there would be a “holy trinity” of content on the new Newsweek.com — aggregated content, user-contributed content and original work — it was this last piece, “fact-based” argument-making original work, that would set the magazine and its Web site apart from the new media competition, including the Huffington Post. He said Newsweek’s resources — its global and highly trained people, as well as its respected brand — give it a greater “ability to command attention” than sites like the Huffington Post.
“Our megaphone is louder,” he said. “It is. It’s just better. It is what it is.”
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