Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

January 31, 2007

Time Inc's Real Problem

Time Inc. is running out of TimeTime 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."

Good luck.

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January 19, 2007

A Bloodbath at Time Inc. and the Ghosts of Pathfinder

If you're in the media world, you know that this has been a grim week for Time Inc., which laid off about 300 people this week, most of them on the editorial side.

As you may know, I worked for Time Inc. when, back in the mid 1990's, it attempted to transition its world-class brands to the Internet. The vechicle for this transition was Pathfinder, a 120-person startup which only lasted a few years before it collapsed, a victim of many forces, not the least of them being continual sabotage by senior management, many members of which saw Pathfinder as a threat. Such managers, whose main interest was in preserving the status quo, destroyed the vehicle that could have taken them out of the danger zone created by the advent of the World Wide Web, and then, a few years later, without realizing their mistake, plunged headlong into a disastrous merger with AOL, mistakenly believing that AOL was their salvation.

I don't know Ann Moore, the executive under whom the layoffs are being conducted. Nor does it really matter who weilds the axe: the fact is that the fat-cutting that Moore is doing now should have happened eight or ten years ago. It was clear in 1995 that the Web was going to force seismic changes in media, that fewer people would be needed to produce electronic magazines, and that other efficiencies would remove the need for so many back-office paper pushers. More than ten years later, the price is being paid, and it is being paid by low to mid-level editorial people, not the executives whose decisions failed to steer Time Inc. away from danger. These executives will either remain, or have long left, with billowing golden parachutes that will keep the wolf away from their doors for the rest of their natural lives.

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