The New New Republic Is Dead, Long Live the New New New Republic!

by Charles C. W. Cooke

The New New Republic is set to become the New New New Republic. Per the Wall Street Journal:

The New Republic, the century-old magazine that was rocked a year ago by the mass exodus of its staff following an effort by its owner to make it more digitally focused, is being put up for sale.

The reason:

“After investing a great deal of time, energy, and over $20 million, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for new leadership and vision at The New Republic,” the memo read. “Although I do not have the silver bullet, a new owner should have the vision and commitment to carry on the traditions that make this place unique and give it a new mandate for a new century.”

That sounds reasonable enough. But it should be remembered that the “mandate” Hughes describes was supposed to be ushered in by his last round of changes. Last year, the magazine fired its editor and almost all of its good writers and traded thoughtful left-of-center analysis for transient progressive fluff. Why? Because its owner wanted to mix things up. As I argued at the time:

Contrary the reports of some outlets, this does not seem to have been a battle between modernizers and traditionalists, but rather a fight to the death between those who wished to work for a storied magazine and those who wished to be led by a myopic bunch of clowns who are incapable of speaking in anything other than moronic platitudes.

Politico’s Dylan Byers reports that the company’s new CEO, Guy Vidra, had a vision for TNR that

was radically different than that of Foer and Wieseltier. In meetings with staff, he spoke of the magazine as though it were a Silicon Valley startup, sources said. He talked about “disruption” and said he wanted to “break shit.” He referred to himself as a “wartime CEO.” At one point, he proposed giving every employee shares in the company, suggesting that he had plans to make it public.

Owner Chris Hughes, meanwhile, had:

decided to stake TNR’s future on Vidra’s vision rather than Foer’s. In an interview with The New York Times last month, Hughes said he no longer even thinks about TNR as a magazine. “Today, I don’t call it a magazine at all. I think we’re a digital media company.”

All told, this is perhaps not surprising. Last year, Timothy Noah told Politico that Hughes had informed students at the Kennedy School that “he’d like to co-brand a chain of cafes called the New Republic.”

Certainly, it is difficult for opinion journals to make money in our digital age. But TNR’s problems are much worse than most. As the Journal reports:

Immediately following the tumult, the magazine’s Web traffic declined by more than 50%, according to comScore Inc., and hasn’t risen much in the last year. In November, the site attracted 2.3 million unique visitors, down 38% from the same month a year earlier.

Fifty percent! That tends to happen when your product stops being good.

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