In 2003, worldwide circulation was more than 4 million, including 2.7 million in the U.S; by 2010 it reduced to 1.5 million (with newsstand sales declining to just over 40,000 copies per week). Newsweek publishes editions in Japanese, Korean, Polish, Spanish, Rioplatense Spanish, Arabic, and Turkish, as well as an English language Newsweek International. Russian Newsweek, published since 2004, was shut in October 2010. The Bulletin (an Australian weekly until 2008) incorporated an international news section from Newsweek.
Based in New York City, the magazine claimed 22 bureaus in 2011: nine in the U.S.: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago/Detroit, Dallas, Miami, Washington, D.C., Boston and San Francisco, and others overseas in London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, South Asia, Cape Town, Mexico City and Buenos Aires.
According to a published 2015 column in the NY Post("Media Ink": March 6, 2015), Newsweek's circulation had fallen to "just over 100,000" with staff at that time numbering "about 60 editorial staffers," up from a low of "less than 30 editorial staffers" in 2013, but with announced plans then to grow the number to "close to 100 in the next year."
News-Week was launched in 1933 by Thomas J.C. Martyn, a former foreign-news editor for Time. He obtained financial backing from a group of U.S. stockholders "which included Ward Cheney, of the Cheney silk family, John Hay Whitney, and Paul Mellon, son of Andrew W. Mellon". Paul Mellon's ownership in Newsweek apparently represented "the first attempt of the Mellon family to function journalistically on a national scale." The group of original owners invested around $2.5 million. Other large stockholders prior to 1946 were public utilities investment banker Stanley Childs and Wall Street corporate lawyer Wilton Lloyd-Smith.
Journalist Samuel T. Williamson served as the first editor-in-chief of Newsweek. The first issue of the magazine was dated 17 February 1933. Seven photographs from the week's news were printed on the first issue's cover.
In 1937 News-Week merged with the weekly journal Today, which had been founded in 1932 by future New York Governor and diplomat W. Averell Harriman, and Vincent Astor of the prominent Astor family. As a result of the deal, Harriman and Astor provided $600,000 in venture capital funds and Vincent Astor became both the chairman of the board and its principal stockholder between 1937 and his death in 1959.
In 1937 Malcolm Muir took over as president and editor-in-chief. He changed the name to Newsweek, emphasized interpretive stories, introduced signed columns, and launched international editions. Over time the magazine developed a broad spectrum of material, from breaking stories and analysis to reviews and commentary.
The magazine was purchased by The Washington Post Company in 1961.
Osborn Elliott was named editor of Newsweek in 1961 and became the editor in chief in 1969.
In 1970, Eleanor Holmes Norton represented sixty female employees of Newsweek who had filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Newsweek had a policy of only allowing men to be reporters. The women won, and Newsweek agreed to allow women to be reporters. The day the claim was filed, Newsweek's cover article was "Women in Revolt", covering the feminist movement; the article was written by a woman who had been hired on a freelance basis since there were no female reporters at the magazine.
Edward Kosner became editor from 1975 to 1979 after directing the magazine’s extensive coverage of the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.
Richard M. Smith became Chairman in 1998, the year that the magazine inaugurated its "Best High Schools in America" list, a ranking of public secondary schools based on the Challenge Index, which measures the ratio of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams taken by students to the number of graduating students that year, regardless of the scores earned by students or the difficulty in graduating. Schools with average SAT scores above 1300 or average ACT scores above 27 are excluded from the list; these are categorized instead as "Public Elite" High Schools. In 2008, there were 17 Public Elites.
Smith resigned as board chairman in December 2007.
During 2008–2009, Newsweek undertook a dramatic business restructuring. Citing difficulties in competing with online news sources to provide unique news in a weekly publication, the magazine refocused its content on opinion and commentary beginning with its May 24, 2009, issue. It shrank its subscriber rate base, from 3.1 million to 2.6 million in early 2008, to 1.9 million in July 2009 and then to 1.5 million in January 2010—a decline of 50% in one year. Meacham described his strategy as "counterintuitive" as it involved discouraging renewals and nearly doubling subscription prices as it sought a more affluent subscriber base for its advertisers. During this period, the magazine also laid off staff. While advertising revenues were down almost 50% compared to the prior year, expenses were also diminished, whereby the publishers hoped Newsweek would return to profitability.
The financial results for 2009 as reported by The Washington Post Company showed that advertising revenue for Newsweek was down 37% in 2009 and the magazine division reported an operating loss for 2009 of $29.3 million compared to a loss of $16 million in 2008. During the first quarter of 2010, the magazine lost nearly $11 million.
By May 2010, Newsweek had been losing money for the past two years and was put up for sale. The sale attracted international bidders. One bidder was Syrian entrepreneur Abdulsalam Haykal, CEO of Syrian publishing company Haykal Media, who brought together a coalition of Middle Eastern investors with his company. Haykal later claimed his bid was ignored by Newsweek's bankers, Allen & Co.
The magazine was sold to audio pioneer Sidney Harman on August 2, 2010, for $1 in exchange for assuming the magazine's financial liabilities. Harman's bid was accepted over three competitors. Meacham left the magazine upon completion of the sale. Sidney Harman was the husband of Jane Harman, at that time a member of Congress from California.
At the end of 2010, Newsweek merged with the online publication The Daily Beast, following extensive negotiations between the respective proprietors. Tina Brown, The Daily Beast's editor-in-chief, became editor of both publications. The new entity, The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, was 50% owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp and 50% by Harman.
The goal of The Newsweek Daily Beast Company was to have The Daily Beast be a source of instant analysis of the news, while Newsweek would serve to take a look at the bigger picture, provide deeper analysis, and "connect the dots," in the words of Harman, and for both publications to ultimately be profitable.
During her tenure as editor-in-chief of Newsweek, Brown has taken the news weekly in a different direction from her predecessor. Whereas Jon Meacham looked to make the focus solely on politics and world affairs, Brown brought the focus back onto all of current events, not just politics, business, and world affairs (although these issues are still the focus of the magazine). This was evidenced by an increased attention to fashion and pop culture as seen in many of her covers since taking the job.
Newsweek was redesigned in March 2011. The new Newsweek moved the "Perspectives" section to the front of the magazine, where it served essentially as a highlight reel of the past week on The Daily Beast. More room was made available in the front of the magazine for columnists, editors, and special guests. A new "News Gallery" section featured two-page spreads of photographs from the week with a brief article accompanying each one. The "NewsBeast" section featured short articles, a brief interview with a newsmaker, and several graphs and charts for quick reading in the style of The Daily Beast. This is where the Newsweek staple "Conventional Wisdom" was located. Brown retained Newsweek's focus on in-depth, analytical features and original reporting on politics and world affairs, as well as a new focus on longer fashion and pop culture features. A larger culture section named "Omnivore" featured art, music, books, film, theater, food, travel, and television, including a weekly "Books" and "Want" section. The back page was reserved for a "My Favorite Mistake" column written by celebrity guest columnists about a mistake they made that defines who they are.
On July 25, 2012, the company operating Newsweek indicated the publication was likely to go digital to cover its losses and could undergo other changes by the next year. Barry Diller, Chairman of the conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp, said his firm was looking at options since its partner in the Newsweek/Daily Beast operation had pulled out.
On October 18, 2012, the company announced that the American print edition would be discontinued at the end of 2012 after 80 years of publication, citing the increasing difficulty of maintaining a paper weekly magazine in the face of declining advertising and subscription revenues and increasing costs for print production and distribution. The online edition is named "Newsweek Global". The magazine is still available in hardcopy in the UK and Europe, but is published by a different company, AG Castillo Media Ltd. of London, under license from the Newsweek/Daily Beast company.
In April 2013, IAC Chairman and Founder Barry Diller stated at the Milken Global Conference that he "wished he hadn't bought" Newsweek because his company had lost money on the magazine and called the purchase a "mistake" and a "fool's errand."
On August 3, 2013, IBT Media acquired Newsweek from IAC on terms that were not disclosed; the acquisition included the Newsweek brand and its online publication, but did not include The Daily Beast.
On March 7, 2014, IBT Media relaunched a print edition of Newsweek with a cover story on the alleged creator of Bitcoin, which was widely criticized for its lack of substantive evidence.
IBT Media returned the publication to profitability on October 8, 2014.
In January 2015, the Serbian edition of the magazine, Newsweek Serbia, was to be relaunched under license to Adria Media Group.
In 1970, Eleanor Holmes Norton represented sixty female employees of Newsweek who had filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Newsweek had a policy of only allowing men to be reporters. The women won, and Newsweek agreed to allow women to be reporters. The day the claim was filed, Newsweek's cover article was "Women in Revolt", covering the feminist movement; the article was written by Helen Dudar, a freelancer, on the belief that there were no female writers at the magazine capable of handling the assignment. Those passed over included Elizabeth Peer, who had spent five years in Paris as a foreign correspondent.
The 1986 cover of Newsweek featured an article that said "women who weren't married by 40 had a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than of finding a husband". Newsweek eventually apologized for the story and in 2010 launched a study that discovered 2 in 3 women who were 40 and single in 1986 had married since. The story caused a "wave of anxiety" and some "skepticism" amongst professional and highly educated women in the United States. The article was cited several times in the 1993 Hollywood film Sleepless in Seattle starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Comparisons have been made with this article and the current rising issues surrounding the social stigma of unwed women in Asia called sheng nu.
Former Alaska Governor and 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin was featured on the cover of the November 23, 2009, issue of Newsweek, with the caption "How do you Solve a Problem Like Sarah?" featuring an image of Palin in athletic attire and posing. Palin herself, the Los Angeles Times and other commentators accused Newsweek of sexism for their choice of cover in the November 23, 2009 issue discussing Palin's book, Going Rogue: An American Life. "It's sexist as hell," wrote Lisa Richardson for the Los Angeles Times. Taylor Marsh of The Huffington Post called it "the worst case of pictorial sexism aimed at political character assassination ever done by a traditional media outlet." David Brody of CBN News stated: "This cover should be insulting to women politicians." The cover includes a photo of Palin used in the August 2009 issue of Runner's World. The photographer may have breached his contract with Runner's World when he permitted its use in Newsweek, as Runner's World maintained certain rights to the photo until August 2010. It is uncertain, however, whether this particular use of the photo was prohibited.
Minnesota Republican Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine in August 2011, dubbed "the Queen of Rage". The photo of her was perceived as unflattering, as it portrayed her with a wide eyed expression some said made her look "crazy". Sources called the depiction "sexist", and Sarah Palin denounced the publication. Newsweek defended the cover's depiction of her, saying its other photos of Bachmann showed similar intensity.
In the May 9, 2005, issue of Newsweek, an article by reporter Michael Isikoff stated that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay "in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur'an down a toilet." Detainees had earlier made similar complaints but this was the first time a government source had appeared to confirm the story. The news was reported to be a cause of widespread rioting and massive anti-American protests throughout some parts of the Islamic world (causing at least 15 deaths in Afghanistan).
A 2004 study by Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo asserted that Newsweek, along with all other mainstream news outlets except for Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, exhibited a "liberal bias" . However, media watchdog Media Matters for America described Groseclose's and Milyo's study as "riddled with flaws". Eric Alterman, writing for the Center for American Progress, criticized the study for its "shockingly desultory intellectual underpinnings and almost comically obvious ideological imperatives". Berkeley linguist Geoffrey Nunberg stated that Groseclose's and Milyo's work was "based on unsupported, ideology-driven premises" and suffered from "severe issues of data quality".
Newsweek's Washington Bureau Chief and later Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas stated: "I think Newsweek is a little liberal," and, in 1996, "there is a liberal bias at Newsweek, the magazine I work for."
Fareed Zakaria, a Newsweek columnist and editor of Newsweek International, attended a secret meeting on November 29, 2001, with a dozen policy makers, Middle East experts and members of influential policy research organizations that produced a report for President George W. Bush and his cabinet outlining a strategy for dealing with Afghanistan and the Middle East in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The meeting was held at the request of Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the Deputy Secretary of Defense. The unusual presence of journalists, who also included Robert D. Kaplan of The Atlantic Monthly, at such a strategy meeting was revealed in Bob Woodward's 2006 book State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III. Woodward reported in his book that, according to Mr. Kaplan, everyone at the meeting signed confidentiality agreements not to discuss what happened. Mr. Zakaria told The New York Times that he attended the meeting for several hours but did not recall being told that a report for the President would be produced. On October 21, 2006, after verification, the Times published a correction that stated:
An article in Business Day on Oct. 9 about journalists who attended a secret meeting in November 2001 called by Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense, referred incorrectly to the participation of Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International and a Newsweek columnist. Mr. Zakaria was not told that the meeting would produce a report for the Bush administration, nor did his name appear on the report.
The cover story of the January 15, 2015, issue, titled What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women proved controversial, due to both its illustration, described as "the cartoon of a faceless female in spiky red heels, having her dress lifted up by a cursor arrow," and its content, described as "a 5,000-word article on the creepy, sexist culture of the tech industry." Among those offended by the cover were Today Show co-host Tamron Hall, who commented "I think it’s obscene and just despicable, honestly." Newsweek editor in chief James Impoco explained "We came up with an image that we felt represented what that story said about Silicon Valley ... If people get angry, they should be angry." The article's author, Nina Burleigh, asked, "Where were all these offended people when women like Heidi Roizen published accounts of having a venture capitalist stick her hand in his pants under a table while a deal was being discussed?"
In January, 1998, Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff was the first reporter to investigate allegations of a sexual relationship between U.S. President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, but the editors spiked the story. The story soon surfaced online in the Drudge Report.
In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, the John McCain campaign wrote a lengthy letter to the editor criticizing a cover story in May 2008.
Notable regular contributors to Newsweek have included: