Of course, it's true: Time's publishing schedule switch is in part about the disintegration of the news cycle and the magazine's savvy management, including content maestro Mr. Stengel, trying to maintain its relevance in the 21st century. More than that, however, it is a simple ad-boosting strategy, the same sort of catch-'em-when-they-shop strategy that has increased revenue at The Wall Street Journal and has made web and point-of-sale ads such big hits with marketers.
"It's a smart decision to be more in sync with the retail cycles of various advertisers and clients," said Michael Neiss, senior VP-managing director, Universal McCann. "They have left money on the table and they are in no position to continue to leave it there."
Although the move puts Time on the same schedule as Time Inc. siblings People and Entertainment Weekly -- and although Time Inc. is under pressure to cut costs -- executives said the shift would not save a dime. So it must be counting on attracting new advertisers as one way to make the move pay off. (Not everyone believes there won't be some savings; Gregory J. Osberg, exec VP-worldwide publisher of Time's leading rival, Newsweek, said the motivation was probably primarily financial. "It's cheaper because it's less congested at the plants," he said.)
It was 1997, not last week, when Time magazine first told Advertising Age that it was seriously considering switching to Friday delivery from Mondays. People had just made the switch to pre-weekend delivery and immediately saw a bump in both ad pages and newsstand sales. But back then Time could still see a slight advantage in being able to account for news breaking over the weekend. And People's mix of package-goods advertisers could find instant synergy in having their ads in the magazine over the weekend, while consumers were shopping and relaxing. George Janson, managing partner-director of print, Mediaedge:cia, called Time's decision a smart move that was probably long overdue. But he said the advertising Time carries -- more high-minded branding campaigns than toothpaste and diaper ads -- poses the question: Does Friday delivery really matter?
"People, which moved to go on sale on Fridays, carries a lot more consumer package-goods ads," Mr. Janson said. "It's not as clear cut for Time. Their mix of advertisers is not as sensitive to the day of the week."
For precisely that reason, however, Time will probably give any non-traditional advertisers intrigued by Friday delivery white-glove treatment, including standout positions that are bound to make impressions.
"Will all of a sudden their ad pages go up 30%? No," said Page Thompson, CEO North America, OMD. "But will that give them a competitive advantage among the newsweeklies? Yes. Look at what happens in TV. Their prime days lead into shopping days."
Whether Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report will copy the move isn't clear yet; advertisers' response -- if any -- will be the major factor in their decisions.
Mr. Neiss, for one, believes Newsweek and U.S. News will have to follow suit: "It gives Time a competitive advantage," he said. "I think Newsweek will start to see advertiser money start to evaporate a little bit and shift. You can lose money to the internet and that's just the way it goes, but you start losing money to Time and people start to notice."
Newsweek's Mr. Osberg said he is pleased with Monday delivery and preparing readers for the week ahead. But, he added, he has "no idea" where Newsweek will go in the future.
At U.S News, Editor Brian Duffy said a task force going back to 1999 has consistently found that its readers prefer to get the magazine on Mondays. And weekends aren't necessarily the blissful oasis of leisure and lingering over magazines that some describe. "Speaking as a parent, I have less time on the weekend than I do during the week," he said.
But nothing is eternal. "That may change, of course," Mr. Duffy said, "and Time may have found that its readers' needs were changing." The upstart news magazine called The Week already delivers on Fridays.
John Squires, co-chief operating officer at Time Inc., said his colleagues had talked about whether Newsweek, for example, would follow Time's lead, but are trying to look beyond direct competitors. "Our competition cannot exclusively be the newsmagazines," he said. "It has to be the broader digital world, from Yahoo News to Google News to you name it."
The shift to Fridays, effective this January, makes even more sense in that wider world. "I'm glad we're getting to it now," Mr. Squires said.
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What agencies are saying
* "Will all of a sudden their ad pages go up 30%? No. But will that give them a competitive advantage among the newsweeklies? Yes."
-- Page Thompson, CEO North America, OMD
* "It's merging a great brand with retail proximity."
-- Michael Neiss, senior VP-managing director, Universal McCann
* "It's a smart move for Time, probably long overdue. In terms of attracting advertisers, I don't know. ... Their mix of advertisers is not as sensitive to the day of the week."
-- George Janson, managing partner-director of print, Mediaedge:cia