After failed negotiations with magazine publisher Meredith, Time Warner said it would spin out its magazine division including Time, Fortune, People and Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. describes itself as “the largest magazine media company in the US.”
My grandfather worked for more than 40 years for Time Inc. I have a personal, nostalgic connection to the magazine accordingly.
Nonetheless, like all magazines in the US, Time is struggling as consumers shift their reading habits from print to digital formats. There has also been considerable internal turmoil with Time’s management.
Just as AT&T sold off its print yellow pages division, Time Warner is getting rid of its print pubs as a perceived drag on its market perception and positioning.
There was a time, so to speak, when being on the cover of time had a major cultural impact. However newsweeklies have seen their visibility, credibility, newsstand sales, ad pages and influence steadily decline. The cover of Time today barely merits notice. (Perhaps that’s why Sheryl Sandberg has such an ambivalent look on her face.)
Onetime rival Newsweek late last year became an online only publication, actually subordinate to its new parent (and the more ephemeral) The Daily Beast. The Newsweek brand was preserved because there was a perception that it still carried substantial value.
The irony is that without the print publication Newsweek becomes just another website and will further see its value and influence erode. And its only a matter of time before Time follows Newsweek as an all-digital publication. I predict that will come between 12 and 24 months from now.
At that point, Time’s decline will only further accelerate. Within five years the publication and the brand will probably be entirely gone.