But instead of making her magazine better attuned to the culture, Brown has made war on it.
Over the last 12 months, the magazine has been rightly called out on several occasions for “trolling.” This is a demented cousin of “pandering” which sometimes passes for being smarter: It’s when you try to start outrage or disbelief among readers. You amass, essentially, hate-readers who can’t help but look at the spectacle you are creating.
Perhaps the best recent examples are Niall Ferguson (no longer making hash) on why Barack Obama shouldn’t be re-elected—a piece full of howlers evidently meant to provoke its own readership—that it resulted in a tremendous backlash for the magazine, one from which I don’t think it recovered psychologically. But plodding forward, its infamous “MUSLIM RAGE” cover continued the downward spiral.
There were only really two roads Brown could have taken when she took over Newsweek: the high road and the low one. I’m not saying that her magazine would have made it on the high road—the title was reportedly losing as much as $40 million for its proprietor. But taking the low road didn’t really increase the odds, and resulted in people of relative good will pronouncing Newsweek dead well before the “all-digital” announcement made it official.