Over at his blog, Walter Russell Mead has done a number on Time Magazine. According to Mead:
National television newscasts undermined its ability to set the national news agenda. The success of national newspapers freed educated people in smaller cities and towns from dependence on newsweeklies for serious national and international news. Meanwhile, its writers and editors wanted to move up the food chain, shunning the humble role of aggregation in order to break news, write under their own bylines, and opine.
While I agree with all of these points, I think something can be added. I was a loyal Time subscriber for a number of years (in fact I think my last subscription runs out at the end of this month), but I found myself increasingly selecting bits of the magazine to read (or just shunning it entirely) as I found Time’s material free elsewhere, and I found publications with essays informed more by data than opinion.
For starters, pretty much everything Fareed Zakaria writes for Time is word-for-word the same as the “Fareed’s take” segment on his TV show. What point is there then to read his essays? Similarly, Joe Klein’s blog on Time.com features Klein’s opinion for free and on a timely fashion. What point is there to wait for the magazine? And when you take these two big names out, what is there left? The weekly fluff of Joel Stein and the occasional brilliance of Rana Foroohar? Please.
But I think the second point is much more important. Magazines like The Economist clearly blow Time away. Instead of fluff pieces by Joel Stein, they have data driven investigative reporting. And instead of pretty pictures they have witty drawings. The special report on the Nordic countries from two weeks ago is a perfect case in point. I have not seen anything of that quality, or that thought provoking, in Time for a very long time.
And this is why my Time subscription is lapsing in a few weeks while my Economist subscription is going strong. No wonder Time Warner is trying to sell it “today, not tomorrow”.