As much as the space enterprise has changed in the 25 years since we began publishing, the news business has changed even more.
In the pre-Internet age, the minimum news cycle for print publications was 24 hours; for SpaceNews, it was seven days. Information flowed in a trickle, some of it via snail mail. Obtaining a report, or covering a hearing, usually required leaving the office.
Today, information cascades from all directions. The news cycle is measured in hours or even minutes — for better or worse.
SpaceNews adapted, slowly at first. In its first incarnation, the SpaceNews website was reserved primarily for nonexclusive or still-unfolding stories, reflecting a misguided notion that news somehow carried more weight in print than online.
Legitimate business concerns also factored into that mindset: As the main revenue engine for SpaceNews the company, the weekly paper had to stay relevant.
But with news, relevancy tends to diminish over time, and the Internet has compressed time almost immeasurably. Inevitably, the SpaceNews mission — delivering the news that matters — reasserted itself, driving us to take full advantage of the speed and flexibility afforded by the online medium.
Adopting a don’t-hold-back philosophy for the website was absolutely the right thing to do, but it only brought the relevancy issue with the weekly into sharper relief. The paper, in essence, had become a clipping service of sorts for website content.
This was fine with some readers, who enjoyed the convenience of having an entire week’s worth of news compiled in one easily accessible and portable package, even if much of that news was no longer fresh. But for a growing number of other — mostly younger — readers, the paper mattered less and less.
So, in case anyone reading this hadn’t noticed, we’ve made some changes.
For openers, the obvious: The print version of SpaceNews is now a magazine with a two-week publishing frequency.
The new format allows us, first and foremost, to drill beneath the surface of events. News almost by definition matters; SpaceNews, the magazine, will explain why.
Certain topics will get the in-depth treatment that the demands of a weekly publishing cycle rarely permit. This issue’s cover story, for example, examines up close the thinking behind the U.S. Defense Department’s plan to spend some $5.5 billion over the next five years on space protection activities.
You’ll also find important collateral coverage that often gets lost in the scramble to keep up with the latest breaking stories. In this issue we recap the recently concluded World Radiocommunication Conference through the eyes of Francois Rancy, director of the International Telecommunication Union’s Radiocommunication Bureau.
The magazine gives SpaceNews’ seasoned reporters a platform to offer their reflections on the events they cover so closely. Our longtime Paris bureau chief and telecom reporter, Peter B. de Selding, and Washington-based commercial and civil space reporter Jeff Foust weigh in here in the inaugural issue.
There also will be regular, short-form glances of the people who, while not necessarily household names, help make the space industry what it is today.
Finally, the magazine will offer up some lighter fare. Space is serious business, but it need not be all work and no play.
These changes, by far the most dramatic since we began publishing almost a generation ago, do not in any way represent a retreat from SpaceNews’ longtime news-gathering mission. They are, rather, a recognition of the reality that a weekly newspaper, in the traditional sense of the term, is an anachronism in the modern information age.
SpaceNews, the website, continues as our primary outlet for news and information affecting this industry. SpaceNews, the magazine, is a complementary product that offers, we hope, a little bit more.