Is Shrinkage at ‘Time’ a Sign of the Times?

Have the brain-trust at Time magazine stepped out of a cold pool to recognize that their publication is not the brand it used to be, or are they finally wising up to political and technological shifts in the population they market to? Regardless of the answer, New York Times media critic David Carr had some harsh words Monday for the incredibly shrinking periodical that recently named “You” as the Person of the Year (emphasis mine throughout, hat tip to Drudge):

Time Inc. management, with the help of air cover from the consultants from McKinsey, is trying to cut costs to reflect brutal realities in the mass magazine business. At the end of the month, there will be significant layoffs at the magazine division, and it will not end with Time’s 280 editorial employees.

According to Carr, this is just the beginning of changes in store for Time:

In the last six months, the huge rate base of Time magazine has been cut by almost 20 percent, the street date has been moved, and at the end of the month, the standard editorial model — a centralized, well-paid cadre processing every bit of copy that comes in the door — will be kaput, replaced by a leaner enterprise build on star voices who presumably will get less editing.


To do this, he is prepared to eschew Time’s historically Olympian editorial voice, and more recently, a default to cover articles that track trends in lifestyle, and to present point-of-view journalism, booking “revered economist Jeffrey Sachs” and “great modern historian and Harvard University professor Niall Ferguson” as contributors. Some of the other new and fresh voices at Time include William Kristol, Walter Isaacson, and Michael Kinsley, not exactly an underexposed group.

Hmmm. So, Time’s “historically Olympian editorial voice” is being cut? Might it be that a growing number of Americans have lost their interest in this voice, and have chosen to purchase magazines that aren’t forcing such an obviously dogmatic liberal agenda on them?

Maybe more compelling a question is whether or not Time is moving to adopt a more “fair and balanced strategy.” In the most recent issue, competing views concerning a surge of troops in Iraq were offered to the reader. The managing editor addressed this:

Mr. Stengel sees no problem with what seems like a U-turn in the middle of his magazine. “I am giving the reader two interesting takes and saying to them, you are smart enough to figure it out and I will help you do that.”

Hmmm. Sounds a bit like Rupert Murdoch, doesn’t it?

Time Media Business
Noel Sheppard's picture

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