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Summary:

Chris Hughes is young, wealthy and now owns a venerable but struggling magazine. Does he have a plan to make money from it? Right now, it appears he doesn’t care about the financial side of publishing.

Chris Hughes Jumo

When multimillionaire and former Facebook executive Chris Hughes bought the struggling New Republic last year, critics were quick to dismiss the purchase as a rich man’s folly.

Speaking at the Dive into Media conference on Tuesday, the 29-year-old Hughes spoke about the state of the magazine but offered no clear answers to questions about its future profitability.

According to Hughes, the New Republic has 44,000 subscribers, which is up from the 34,000 when he bought it. Despite the small number, he said “for the moment, we make money in print” but acknowledged the operation is not making money overall.

“I think we can be profitable, not this year, probably not next year, but there’s a route to it,” said Hughes.

Hughes and fellow panelist Larry Kramer, president and publisher of USA Today, also praised traditional news brands as curators and a source of conversation.

In short, Hughes didn’t appear to have any solid answers about how he will make money from the New Republic — but for now he doesn’t seem to care and appears happy to embrace what host Kara Swisher described as his “do-gooder” and “Lincoln-y”mission.

Hughes did address the role of social media for publishers, saying it brings in 25 percent of website traffic. He also noted that his former employer is not especially helpful for spreading stories.

“Facebook has an interesting challenge when it comes to newsfeed products. They tend to reward images rather than links and the sort of journalism we do. It means we spend more time about Twitter.”

(Want to learn more about monetization strategies for content? Come join us at the paidContent Live conference in New York on April 17).

This story was updated on Wednesday to reflect that the New Republic’s subscriber numbers are 44,000 not 45,000 and that the publication had 34,000 not 38,000 before Hughes purchased it.

  1. One fewer now. After subscribing for 15 years I just canceled when I saw their artsy redesign. New Republic’s design used to be too boring, but it was good for communicating information quickly. The new design indicates that the publication has elevated “style” to the same importance as the underlying content.

    Bringing Lewis back, and keeping Morosov in there, won’t overcome the annoyance of dealing with indecipherable headlines, columns broken by artwork and then pages with nothing but disconnected photographs that add little to stories.

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  2. Ditto — I was a long time reader of the TNR via their website. Plain and boring was perfect, as I was there for the (gasp) CONTENT!!!! Yet now thanks to another egotistical 1% with time on his hands (it must be dull to count money all day), their new restrictive paywall (eight free clicks a month) has turned me off them. Sure, I understand if one wanted to read their archives or longform articles that appear in the magazine, but catching up on the world’s news via a few of their daily ‘blog post’ isn’t worth $35 a year. Sure, for Hughes and his 45,000 subscribers who according to the site make upwards of $100K a year, it’s the price of two trips to Starbucks, but for the rest of us, it’s any number of monthly bills and expenses.

    It’s ironic, someone as wealthy as Hughes even needs to think about making a ‘profit’ from TNR. As I imagine the interest alone on his bank account, is enough to fund the magzine for the entire year (and thusly as long as he or anyone else is alive to read it).

    Good work Mr. Hughes limiting access to news and opinion. Oh that’s right, in your mind you’re part of the new ‘gatekeepers’. Carry on keeping the ‘barbarians’ ignorant!

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