Time Inc's Real Problem
Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore is making all the right sounds about how Time Inc. might survive in a world without physical magazines. And she's made the right moves: the fact is that you don't need hundreds of editorial staffers to churn out what is effectively a series of zines associated with particular titles. You do need reporters, and you need people who know how to get this content onto the Web (and how to arrange for a two-way conversation about it), but you don't need a massive editorial infrastructure.
But the more I thought about Time Inc's problems, the more they seem to deeper than can be solved by yet another round of layoffs. And the more I read about Moore's new initiatives, including the planned rollout of a celebrity database for People Magazine, the more I became convinced that she just doesn't get it.
Yo, Ann: who was Time's Person of the Year? It was us: all of us, not some celebrity. What are the biggest, fastest-growing Web properties? Myspace and Youtube. People Magazine's "let's look at the golden people and drool" model is completely out of place in today's media world, which isn't top-down but peer-to-peer. And in a world where online erotica is pervasive, who needs the SI Swimsuit Calendar?
These fundamental problems aren't going to go away. For Time Inc. to invent itself, it will have to completely rethink its basic selling proposition, which can no longer be "to bring the world to you" but must change to "bring you to the world."