Eagle-eyed Noel Sheppard, who writes both for AT and Newsbusters, spotted the New York Times covering a new rescue strategy for TIME Magazine, a fellow media battleship taking on water and listing (to port, naturally). Noel asks:
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?
The answer appears to be that they know they are in trouble, but no, they haven't quite got a handle on what to do, despite hiring the very expensive (and very smart) consultants at McKinsey & Company to study and advise them. (Full disclosure: McKinsey entertained me, flew me internationally in 1st class and put me up at a luxury hotel some years ago. I remember them with fondness, though I didn't accept the job offer.)
According to David Carr's reporting for the NYT, TIME is cutting its rate base 20% (ouch!) and going to a new, much leaner editorial approach, and will
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.
TIME is famous/notorious for processing all the verbiage coming its way from correspondents into narratives composed by editors, in an "Olympian" tone of voice, predigesing opinions that readers were supposed to accept as authoritative. Noel wonders if they haven't caught on to readers' rejection of such pablum as ideologically biased.
While readers clearly have less and less need for a weekly digest of news printed on dead trees, thanks to the internet, I think that TIME is just prolonging its death throes. Readers in search of enlightened thinking have plenty of other places (ahem) where they can get top flight thinking, presented with style and immediacy. The luminaries listed are all established brand names, and every last one of them is smart. But there is a big supply, and some voices are fresher than some of the others, especially those who have been saying the same things for a long time.
Does the world need TIME? I can't think of a reason why. I have to wonder if McKinsey didn't present shutting down the magazine as one of the main options for management to consider. This business failure of one magazine is compounded by the embarrassing choice of the company to name itself (again) Time, Incorporated, once they dropped AOL, after the AOL merger turned out to be a maneuver to give away about half the company to an overvalued falling star.If they admit that their flagship magazine is not viable, what does that imply about their other magazines? The reaction from Wall Street would be something to behold.