We got an email today to to renew Entertainment Weekly. It was part of a new Time Inc. service called Maghound. With Maghound, you get a subscription to all the Time magazines, and you can pick and choose which ones you like.
The logo is cool. I like dachshunds, a breed that I swear I thought was spelled “d-o-x-e-n-s” until 1997 when a newspaper composing room staffer corrected it on my page, and completely embarrassed me. While we wish Maghound well, we hope it doesn’t go the way of that other uber-Time brand, Pathfinder.com.
We thought of Maghound because Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore (Time is actually part of Time Warner Inc, NYSE:TWX) mentioned it at an ABC Circulation Conference a week ago at the Waldorf-Astoria. But the main thrust of her talk, reported in Folio magazine by Vanessa (what a great name, btw) was the future of Time’s legacy magazines. Her main point was that it was back to “1931” in terms of the number of advertisers in trouble.
I love the idea of Time. I love the idea of Life. I love the idea of Fortune (here, a cover; click on it for a whole display of notable covers under the banner “memories are the essence of civilization.”)
Who can’t be taken with the whole idea of Briton Hadden and Henry Booth Luce and Claire Booth Luce and Madame Chiang Kai-shek. That’s all part of the brand mystique. These magazines are great, powerful media brands, and I think it’s not a stretch to say that much of the rest of the world also holds these brands in very high regard too. It’s a pity that in a time when legacy media brands like Time could be more powerful than ever, putting even more reporting on the net and using their credibility to define news online, they are cutting back staff. At a time when Bloomberg, Brietbart and Politico are taking over news gathering, why is Time Inc. laying off? Please tell them that a slowdown (like it was in 1931) is the time when the strong, like Time Inc., add market share.
I wouldn’t dare to tell Time Inc. what to do with People Weekly and Entertainment Weekly. And such is the power of the Life brand that it has died and been reborn a number of times, and still lives on. Life has had so many lives that any suggestion of what to do there other than sell photo prints and knick-knacks seems doomed. (We guess the online direction of Life.com as a photo site seems appropriate.) Oh, and we do think there is room for an American version of IPC’s Country Life.
But back to Time Inc.’s legacy brands, Time and Fortune, for which we have some thoughts, and some modern-day Time-speak:
Fortune. Making suggestions here seems way too bold, as they seem to be holding onto circulation. But ad sales are down in double digits and paper prices are skyrocketing. What if it was monthly, but double the size. Increase the magazine’s heft, and put it out monthly as a giant 11×14 coffee table extravaganza, much like it used to be. Show glorious Margaret Bourke-White-like photos of factories, tycoons and the like. Let it be the beacon for revived industry in America. Make sure each story is not timely to the week’s news, but instead leads the thinking that revives American industry each month, like the “Why Talent is Overrated” piece in the magazine Oct. 27. It ought to be so prestige and handsome that every executive around the world wants it on every office coffee table. If Conde Nast Portfolio dissects business and Forbes cheers it, then Fortune should celebrate it, but with a wary eye.
Time-Life: This book and record unit was sold off, and combined by Direct Holdings LLC into a marriage with Lillian Vernon. It is now part of Reader’s Digest. Time-Life ought to reclaim its franchise and produce books, educational videos and reference books under this banner, while still selling through Reader’s Digest. Currently they are producing some books under the Life books banner, which is a good move. There ought to be more.
Time. Make it again that tightly edited synopsis paper-pile. Drop bylines; all singular voice. Make it funnier. Use illustrations on the cover. Synthesize the news, don’t break it. Bring back Time-speak, with a new vernacular; make it resonate. Reinvent the language like it did 60 years ago, all the Time editors. This edit-plan-lite sounds like The Economist, but imbue Time with a sense of Americano-bouncy-bouncy optimism in spite of all the end-o-capitalism in the news. And even up the slant a bit. While we know New York media is a bit lib, such sycophancy showed Time up to bias, mega-mega, by the the endless covers of Barack Obama.