Time Inc. Announces Major, Executive-Level Changes

Ripp Says Changes Not About Cutting Costs

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Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp.
Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp. Credit: Peter Foley/Bloomberg
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After weeks of speculation about a possible editorial management reshuffling, Time Inc. made it official Wednesday, announcing that Fortune editor Alan Murray will replace Norman Pearlstine as the company's chief content officer.

Mr. Murray will continue as editor of Fortune until the company identifies a successor.

Mr. Pearlstine, who re-joined Time Inc. in 2013, will remain with the company as vice chairman, reporting to CEO Joe Ripp. In a memo to staff, Mr. Ripp said Mr. Pearlstine will "focus on international growth opportunities for Time Inc.'s brands and content and other projects."

Time Inc.'s U.S. publications will report to Rich Battista, president-entertainment and sports group and video, who has been named exec VP and president-brands. "In this role, Rich will be the primary brand steward, overseeing brand editorial, development, marketing, public relations, operations and strategy, as well as Time Inc. Video," Mr. Ripp wrote.

Editors at the company's brands, which in addition to Fortune include Time and People, now report to Mr. Murray instead of business-side group presidents.

In the fall of 2013, in what was characterized as a "shakeup," Time Inc. publication editors began reporting to the business side, instead of to the top editorial officer. Mr. Ripp, when asked in an interview about essentially reverting back to the old editorial reporting structure, said the company has achieved the goal behind the switch. "Our editors have become much more commercial in their outlook," he said.

Mr. Murray will report to Mr. Battista, however, instead of to Mr. Ripp as Mr. Pearlstine did in the chief content officer role.

Mr. Murray will report to Mr. Ripp on matters of journalistic integrity and editorial standards, according to the company.

The other bombshell in Mr. Ripp's memo: Time Inc. Exec VP Evelyn Webster, who played a key role in the company's effort to make itself as a digital media powerhouse, is departing at the end of August. "We thank Evelyn for her many contributions throughout her years of service to Time Inc.," Mr. Ripp wrote.

Mr. Ripp, when asked whether layoffs would be part of the reorganization announced Wednesday, said "this isn't about that."

"This is not a cost program," Mr. Ripp said, but noted: "We're going to constantly look at ways to be more efficient."

There were also changes announced to the company's sale-side hierarchy. Time Inc.'s U.S. brand and digital ad sales teams will now report to Chief Revenue Officer Mark Ford, who previously oversaw only the corporate sales team.

In a separate memo provided to Ad Age, called "Positioning Our Team For Success," Mr. Ford wrote that additional details "about our new structure and staffing" will be announced shortly.

"We are already deep in conversations with our sales and marketing leaders, and their collective input has been invaluable," he wrote.

Mr. Ripp said Time Inc. is going further with the company's "category approach" to ad sales, a contrast to earlier title-by-title sales, which he said will make it easier for advertisers to "buy across our portfolio."

In the interview with Ad Age, Mr. Ripp conveyed the importance of making the company's sales apparatus run more efficiently. "We could have 25 people calling on the same advertiser," he said, describing a weakness in the way things have been structured.

He said it's too early to say whether the company's decision to institute a category-focused approach to selling has made a difference, since the structure has only been in place for four weeks. "I do know that we're having much more significant conversations with advertisers at all levels," he said.

As part of the same announcement, Jennifer Wong, who has served as Time Inc.'s president of digital since January 2016, has been tapped to assume additional responsibilities running The Foundry, which creates new editorial and commercial products for the company. The Foundry had been oveseen by Mr. Ford.

It's a lot to process, and Mr. Ripp said that company town hall meetings will be held throughout the day to discuss the changes.