Memo: Newsweek Digital director praises magazine’s site

Michael Calderone
November 15, 2010

The Cutline's Joe Pompeo reported earlier how Newsweek.com is expected to be the first casualty of the Newsweek-Daily Beast merger. Now, The Cutline has obtained a staff memo on the subject from Susanna Schrobsdorff, editorial director of Newsweek Digital.

Schrobsdorff highlighted several of Newsweek.com's successes as a way of rallying the troops amid dour news of the site's demise. "I know that the press reports about the future of Newsweek.com are much on your minds," she wrote. "And I wish I had some definitive information for you, but that will hopefully come soon."

Later, Schrobsdorff wrote that "whatever comes next, I am very hopeful that your considerable talents will be valued and deployed on behalf of the company's new venture."

You can read full memo below.

From: Susanna M. Schrobsdorff

Sent: Monday, November 15, 2010

Subject: For dotcommers

Hello everyone,

I was intending to write up a memo today about a number of staff changes and promotions but obviously a lot has changed in the last few days.  I know that the press reports about the future of Newsweek.com are much on your minds. And I wish I had some definitive information for you, but that will hopefully come soon.

In the meantime, what I can do is thank you for the superhuman effort you've put in to maintain our traffic at an enviable 8 million unique visitors/month during this wrenching period of transition. You've had to earn every single reader the hard way competing for space on news portal front pages with web organizations many times our size from the New York Times to NBC.  You should be incredibly proud of the fact that the web-exclusive content you create above and beyond what we publish from the print magazine, accounts for about 60 percent of Newsweek.com's page views. This means that our tiny staff of fewer than 30 editors, writers, producers, designers, photo editors and video producers and technologists has an audience of more than 3 million unique visitors a month. Those numbers are a reflection of  your dedication and talent.

More astonishingly, you've continued to do all this against all odds persevering through a staggering number of management and technology upheavals and the loss of a huge percentage of our staff. Even your desk locations have been subject to near-constant change. A lesser group of people would have started phoning it in by now. But instead you've continue to produce stellar, original reporting and multimedia journalism that brings in award after award up to and including this month when we took first prize for multimedia from the New York Newswomen's Club for a package about how your looks and your age affect your career.

I'm not surprised. This resilience is part of our DNA. Newsweek.com has always had the blessing and curse of operating under the radar within a large print organization. It has allowed us the freedom to pursue stories and projects just because we thought they were a good idea.  But because the magazine's quest for a new identity has taken up most of the oxygen for the last few years,  it has sometimes felt as if the work we were doing on the web was invisible.  And certainly we haven't always been able to display our work the way we've wanted to. But as the numbers show, what we've done hasn't been invisible to millions of readers who chose Newsweek's well-reported stories and gorgeous, smart galleries over and over again. Nor is our work invisible to our peers who've granted Newsweek.com dozens of prestigious awards over the last 6 years including multiple National Magazine award nominations, New York Press Club awards and other accolades for original reporting, photography, interactives and video. We were the first magazine to be nominated for an Emmy for the 2008  "Voices of the Fallen," videos about the families of soldiers lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And this year, our stunning San Joaquin photo essay project about   California county that was ground zero for that state's recession, took a whole raft of prizes as did our 2010 Year in Rewind minisite.  Our photo galleries continue to amaze and delight readers with gorgeous photography like these stunning photos of old Russia which raked in 70 million page views. And, our cutting edge Tumblr blog has won widespread praise has become a trendsetter for old media looking to expand their reach with social media.

The good work continues. Last week, we published an outstanding web-exclusive, multimedia Veteran's Day package exploring the bewildering link between PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury among our combat vets. The original photography, article and videos were both moving and significant in advancing this important story. This worthy work found an audience online of more than 2 million and it attracted advertisers too. This is what we do best.

Whatever comes next, I am very hopeful that your considerable talents will be valued and deployed on behalf of the company's new venture.   I know that anyone who's ever been part of dotcom is blown away by the rare alchemy of friendship and creativity we have in our newsroom.  We hear it every day from our  alums. No where else have I seen the kind of unconditional support and non-competitive cooperation you offer each other daily and I'm convinced we've continued to work so hard for each other as much as for the paycheck.

So thank you for all the days you've checked your BlackBerry from 6am till midnight, for all the weekends you've put in to make sure the award-winning projects we've created are written, produced, arted, designed, edited, and distributed on time. Thank you for staying up late to cover elections, for thinking of creative and honorable ways to meet the never ending pageview commitments, for the  cookies, for your unshakable humor and for making sure we have enough alcohol to cope with whatever new hit the day brings. I'm incredibly proud to be your colleague.

Susanna