Newsweek Localization: Sometimes The Truth Hurts

Thanks to fellow Mizzou J-school graduate Matt Hilburn for pointing this out. If you visit the home page of Newsweek.com, you’ll see the front pages of this week’s issue from around the world, as shown here…
Newsweek covers

Outside the US, the lead story is Afghanistan. Inside the US, the lead story is an entertainment piece on Annie Leibovitz.

Is Annie Leibovitz more important to US readers than Afghanistan?

Newsweek execs would probably say in their defense that they have simply localized the US edition for the needs and wants of this market. After all, Americans get enough negative daily news.

Annie Leibovitz will likely move more issues off the newstand than a war that is not going particularly well these days. And those folks who buy the Annie Leibovitz issue will still get the Afghanistan feature — which is an end that should justify the means.

Localization is, after all, about adapting your product to the needs and wants of your customers. However, when this product is news, everything gets a bit more complicated.

The plain and simple truth is that newspapers and news magazines have become more and more like People Magazine. And, sometimes, the truth hurts.

UPDATE: The Guardian has written a brief article on Newsweek. Excerpt: Newsweek’s international editor, Fareed Zakaria, said that in the US, Newsweek was a mass market magazine with a broad reach, while overseas it “is a somewhat more upmarket magazine for internationally minded people”.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

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