Late Friday afternoon, media reporter Keith Kelly posted a Tweet that said U.S. News & World Report is shutting down its print publication, but a staffer at the company told The Observer that the report was “a lie”.
Update 4:53PM: Romenesko got his hands on the official memo confirming Kelly’s Tweet. Staffers appear to have been blindsided by the news.
“‘U.S. News & World Report‘ is shutting down. An internal announcement just went out,” wrote Kelly.
According to Kelly, the upcoming December issue will be the last one mailed to subscribers. Kelly said the magazine will still publish digitally in addition to eight newsstand-only issues.
When The Observer called the U.S. News & World Report offices in D.C. to ask about Kelly’s report, the man who answered the phone angrily said, “It’s a lie, nothing like that is happening here,” before hanging up the phone. He declined to give his name or identify his title beyond confirming that he worked in the editorial department. Subsequent calls to the D.C. office and calls to U.S. News & World Report’s corporate offices in New York were not returned.
U.S. News and World Report was created through the merger of two publications, United States News and World Report in 1948. United States News was founded in 1933 and World Report was first published in 1946. In recent years, U.S. News & World Report has struggled financially along with the other major newsweeklies, Time and Newsweek, which was recently sold by The Washington Post Co. for just one dollar after years of losses.
The full internal memo announcing the changes at U.S. News & World Report is below:
From: Kelly, Brian
Sent: Fri Nov 05 15:31:30 2010
Subject: Digital Strategy
To: U.S. News
From: Bill and Brian
RE: Completing Our Shift to the Digital World
Colleagues, We’re finally ready to complete our transition to a predominantly digital publishing model with selected, single-topic print issues. This will allow us to make the most of the proven products, useful journalism, and great audience growth we’ve been sustaining. Thanks to all your great work, we’ve been able to maintain our core values of creating high-quality content while establishing a new, healthy business model. This puts us in a strong position to continue building the U.S. News brand in the new media world. As you know, we’ve been a leading innovator in adapting to the changing environment — and we don’t intend to give up that lead.
The December issue will be our last print monthly sent to subscribers, whose remaining print and digital replica subscriptions will be filled by other publishers. Going forward, our non-subscription print offerings will be for newsstand sale and targeted distribution. They’ll include the college and grad guides, as well as hospital and personal finance guides. In addition, we’ll publish four other newsstand special editions, focusing on history, religion and some of the other subjects that have been a success for us in the past. And of course we’ll continue to expand our audience and products on the various usnews.com channels and grow the digital U.S. News Weekly.
All of us at U.S. News Media Group have been aggressively responding to the changing habits in the media marketplace, and these latest moves will accelerate our ability to grow our online businesses and position ourselves to take advantage of the emerging platforms for distributing information such as the iPad and Android tablets. We’ll discuss this in more detail in meetings starting next week.
With an average unique audience of 9 million and counting, we’ve become a significant publisher in the digital space, creating content that people want and an audience that advertisers will pay for. Each of our channels — Politics & Policy, Education, Money, Health, Autos, and Travel — are now fully-formed business units that are developing on their own best course. By working both in the vertical channels and horizontally across them, the company has diversified its revenue beyond display advertising to include e-commerce products, lead generation, licensing and other sources.
Our emphasis on rankings and research content is the right path, making us an essential information source in a commoditized marketplace. We provide information that helps people make important decisions. Whether they’re picking a college or voting for a senator, it’s clear from the response of our users that accurate, searchable information is something they value highly. The proof is in the audience. People come to us every day, all day, for information they can’t get anywhere else.
We can’t sit still. We have to keep improving the existing products while selectively creating new ones. In addition to upgrades in college and hospital rankings, we’ll refine and expand the data and tools that allow consumers to evaluate mutual funds, high schools, cars, online education, health plans and more. Travel is getting ready to come out of beta. Politics & Policy is developing its extensive database allowing citizens to examine the records of every member of Congress and is part of an expanding group of public policy tools. The iPad and the next generations of tablets and mobile platforms will create a brand new set of opportunities for us. We know that the creative energy and team spirit of everyone at U.S. News will continue to keep us ahead of the pack.
Bill and Brian