The newest owner of The New Republic magazine is Chris Hughes, a new-media guru who co-founded Facebook and helped to run the online organizing machine for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
Mr. Hughes’s purchase of a majority stake in the magazine will be announced on Friday, once again remaking the masthead of the nearly century-old magazine that helped define modern American liberalism.
His focus, he said in an interview in advance of the announcement, will be on distributing the magazine’s long-form journalism through tablet computers like the iPad. Though he does not intend to end the printed publication, “five to 10 years from now, if not sooner, the vast majority of The New Republic readers are likely to be reading it on a tablet,” he said.
Mr. Hughes, 28, will become publisher and the editor in chief of the magazine, and Richard Just will remain the editor. Martin Peretz, who was editor in chief from 1975 until 2010, when his title was changed to editor in chief emeritus, will become a member of the magazine’s advisory board. The terms of the sale were not disclosed. Mr. Hughes said he was motivated by an interest in “the future of high-quality long-form journalism” and by an instinct that such journalism was a natural fit for tablets. He said he would “expand the amount of rigorous reporting and solid analysis” that the magazine produces.
For Mr. Just, that means an opportunity to hire more writers and editors — an important step for a publication with a total head count of 29. “It’s been a long time. It’s been years” since total head count increased, he said.
The influence of The New Republic has often outstripped its small staff and its small circulation (around 50,000). Founded in 1914 by the political journalist Walter Lippmann, it has long been a part of the liberal movement, counting presidents as readers, including John F. Kennedy, and luminaries as writers, including George Orwell, Virginia Woolf and Philip Roth.
Under Mr. Peretz’s editorship and ownership, the magazine has passionately supported Israel and drawn criticism at times for its pro-war stances. The magazine’s editorials supported the Iraq War in 2003 and later expressed deep regret for doing so.
In recent years, The New Republic has reduced its publication schedule to biweekly from weekly and redesigned its once-staid pages in an effort to modernize its look. It has also sought to find a successful digital strategy, including charging readers to access some parts of its Web site and by introducing an iPad app.
Mr. Hughes said he expected to “revamp the existing iPad and mobile applications so that they’re clearly an investment for the enterprise.”
The magazine is currently owned by a consortium led by Laurence Grafstein, a longtime media banker. Others in the group include the hedge fund manager William A. Ackman and the real estate developer Michael Alter. The investor group teamed up with Mr. Peretz in 2009 to buy The New Republic back from CanWest Global Communications, a Canadian publisher.
The consortium started to contemplate selling the magazine several months ago. At the time, people briefed on the sale process said the owners wanted to find a partner that could help invest in the magazine’s digital transformation, including developing a more robust strategy for social networking and mobile applications.
Potential partners who had early conversations about the magazine included Jared C. Kushner, the owner of The New York Observer; Thomson Reuters; Yahoo; and Bloomberg L.P. Mr. Hughes was identified as a potential buyer in January by The Huffington Post.
Mr. Hughes, who was a roommate of Mark Zuckerberg’s at Harvard and who ran publicity for Facebook at its outset, quit the company in 2007 and joined Mr. Obama’s campaign, where he ran a social network for the candidate’s supporters. He later founded Jumo, an online hub for charities, which merged less than a year later with GOOD, a publishing company that promotes social action.
Mr. Hughes said he would continue to advise GOOD, but The New Republic would be his priority. He will continue to reside in the Hudson River Valley of New York but will visit the magazine’s office in Washington often.
Mr. Just said that Mr. Hughes “has assured me that I’m going to continue to run the editorial side of the magazine.”
Asked how he would turn a profit for the money-losing magazine, Mr. Hughes said, “Profit per se is not my motive. The reason I’m getting involved here is that I believe in the type of vigorous contextual journalism that we — we in general as a society — need.”
He added that he hoped the magazine could be profitable. “But I’m investing and taking control of The New Republic because of my belief in its mission, not to make it the next Facebook,” he said.