News this week that Time's managing editor, Richard Stengel, was leaving the iconic publication for a State Department job surprised some in the media world. But to several insiders at the title, it didn't come as a great shock.
That's because Deputy Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs, who is succeeding Mr. Stengel, had been running the magazine since July. Mr. Stengel had left the newsroom for Time Inc.'s executive suite, where he advised top brass about its separation from parent Time Warner early next year -- and insulated himself from potential criticism down the road.
"When I knew there was a potential of going into government I wanted to not have an appearance of a conflict of interest," said Mr. Stengel, whose title will be under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. "Part of it was not to be editing the magazine when I went through this process."
During his absence, Ms. Gibbs not only put out a magazine and oversaw the website, she also helped to hire roughly 30 new staffers in the lead up to a website redesign planned for later this year.
Ms. Gibbs spoke with AdAge about her new role as managing editor -- the first woman to hold the title at Time -- which the magazine announced officially Tuesday afternoon. (Capital New York and Politico working in partnership broke the story last week.) Here's what she had to say, lightly edited.
Advertising Age: So what do you plan to do with Time magazine?
Nancy Gibbs: We've already been doing it. We're getting ready to do a complete relaunch of Time.com. I've hired more than two dozen reporters, editors and designers. There's a lot of energy on the floor about where we want to take the site. We're going to have the tools to do what we've always done but with an even higher volume and velocity of news coverage and with more video.
AdAge: Where do you want to take the site?
Ms. Gibbs: The answer to that is very straightforward because it's all a part of Time's mission: Bring our audience news they can trust, photography that moves them, and get it to them faster and in real time. Our mission is in our name. People are busy; their time is valuable. We want to get them all the news they need plus wonderful and surprising features that go above and behind the news.
AdAge: Can you imagine a time when Time magazine stops printing?
Ms. Gibbs: No, I can't. We have a bigger audience than ever in our history -- the magazine's founders would only dream of having this audience. One reason the audience is so big is that we're not depending on the Postal Service to reach them … I think readers' habits are going to keep changing and migrating. That doesn't worry me at all, some of that new technology, particularly tablets, are wonderfully suited to what we do best. Time will always exist on pages, but it will be part of a larger presence.
AdAge: What have you heard from executives about the magazine's place after Time Inc. separates from Time Warner?
Ms. Gibbs: On his second or third day in the building, [Time Inc. CEO] Joe Ripp appeared unannounced in my office doorway and came in to talk. His message was very clear about how much Time matters to him personally. He talked about Time as the flagship. We take it very seriously when he tells us that his mission is investing for growth. He wants to hear our ideas about new business opportunities. He wants to know how Time can move into whole other businesses and other opportunities.
AdAge: What did you tell the two dozen or so new hires – many of whom came from digital-only sites like BuzzFeed and The Verge -- about working at Time, an old-media organization that's facing serious economic pressures?
Ms. Gibbs: [Their reaction] surprised me. It's so easy to read about the end of media or the end of print or legacy brands. In all of these conversations with tremendously talented journalists … they were so excited about the idea of coming here and bringing the skillsets and understanding they have been developing and seeing what they could do with those skills at Time.
AdAge: What do you hope your legacy is on Time magazine?
Ms. Gibbs: I think every editor would say the same thing or something very similar: I want Time to be even stronger, even bigger, reach more people and serve them better than we did before.