"Tina Brown took Newsweek in the wrong direction," Husni said. "Newsweek did not die, Newsweek committed suicide."
To be sure, the problems were acute by the time Brown took control. Newsweek's circulation had plummeted from about 3.1 million in 2007 to 1.8 million in 2010, when The Washington Post Co. sold the magazine to stereo equipment magnate Sidney Harman for $1. Harman later placed Newsweek into a joint venture with IAC/InterActiveCorp's The Daily Beast website in an effort to trim the magazine's losses and widen its online audience.
This year, total circulation is down to about 1.5 million, less than half of what it was five years earlier, even including about 29,000 digital copies.
Meanwhile, circulation of rival Time magazine is down from about 4 million in 2006 to 3.3 million this year, a decline of just 19 percent.
General news format magazines have been challenged with the rise of news reading on the Internet, much of which is free. And Newsweek isn't the first to drop its print product. US News & World Report dropped its weekly print edition years ago and now focuses on the Web and special print editions, such as a guide to the best graduate schools. SmartMoney announced in June that it was going all-digital.
Yet others are succeeding. The Economist has nearly doubled its circulation to 1.6 million from 844,000 a year ago. The Week is up to 541,000 from 525,000.
And unlike the bold move by Newsweek, many publications are taking steps to add digital formats while maintaining the print product, which is still the mainstay of their business.
Paul Canetti, the founder and CEO of MAZ, a company that helps magazines publish digital editions, says he tells prospective clients to "dip their toes" into digital publishing and "wade in as the market demands it." He notes only about a quarter of Americans own tablet computers, which have become a popular way to read online magazines.