Whither Entertainment Weekly?

Rumors have had it for a few weeks that Entertainment Weekly might kill its print edition and go fully online. Now it’s an Official Rumor from the Official Monger: It’s in Gawker.

Now I suppose I could look at this as the death of my baby or as a continuation of my print jinx. But if it’s true, I’d see it as a necessary metamorphosis. And no, that’s not because I hate print.

But print weeklies are looking doomed without my hex. Newsweek is cutting staff and circulation. I got a Time this week and it was so thin I could have used its spine as a razor. U.S. News is essentially no longer. Business Week is struggling. TV Guide is walking dead. Even mighty People was down last year. Weekly is weakly.

I’ve said in recent years that if I launched EW today, it wouldn’t be as a magazine. Nor should it be as a collection of critics and features. In my book, I say: “One-size-fits-all won’t work anymore, but a system that helps us help each other find the best entertainment would be valuable. If I were to start Entertainment Weekly today, it would be that: a collaborative Google of taste. Today we have ways to make entertainment more of a social experience.” EW should be a system, not a magazine or even a site.

I’ve asked myself whether I’d be sad if EW no longer published a magazine. I do, as Gawker points out, take some pride in starting this x-hundred-million-a-year print brand. But I take my pulse and feel no palpitation. Print isn’t special.

I would feel sad if the brand and franchise died. If they did, it would be because they didn’t update – not today but years ago. Just as newspapers should have seen the impact of the internet coming on more than 13 years ago, so should EW and other magazines, especially a magazine about entertainment in an era of exploding art world and about taste in an era of democratized opinion. Nothing is forever.

: In the comments, Parenting founder Robin Wolaner adds:

Jeff, I have similar feelings about the inevitable demise of Parenting. As the founder, I would rather have people know what I created – a brand that made $20 MM in profits annually in its day. But the print parenting magazine publishers, including our alma mater, haven’t recognized how much better online information serves their audience, so the magazines have been doomed for a decade. It’s just a matter of the advertisers catching on to the artificial circulation levels.