The Biz: Time Inc. reorders its secondary titles

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`Tis the season when, in days of yore, Conde Nast Publications could be counted on to shuffle a few seats around. But last week, it was Time Inc. that moved around high-level talent at some of its largest magazines.

The biggest bangs? Naming Sports Illustrated Publisher Fabio Freyre as group VP-corporate sales and marketing, where he will, among other things, package for advertisers a number of titles with hefty young-male readership. And grouping a bunch of secondary Time Inc. titles-People En Espanol, Time For Kids, SI For Kids and the recently slumping Teen People-into a newly formed Growth Markets Group.

`lousy second half'

The moves come as the world's largest magazine publisher, like all others, grapples with a U.S. ad climate that's "had a pretty good first half and a pretty lousy second half," in the word of one company executive. But Time Inc., nonetheless, is suffering through a more significant stall than its competitors. Through October, Time Inc.'s ad pages fell 0.4%, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. The other members of the magazine world's Big Three, Conde Nast and Hearst Magazines, posted ad page gains of 6.5% and 2.3%. A slowdown at Time Inc. was cited as a drag on better results from cable and TV properties in the third quarter.

One key Time Inc. executive saw little light at the end of that tunnel. "It's going to continue to be a tough environment," this executive says.

To deal with this, as well as well as the increasingly consolidated agency world, Time Inc. ramped up efforts to carve out ad packages from its roster of more than a hundred titles. Last year, the publisher began packaging a group of women's titles under its Time Inc. Women's Group. Last month, Time Inc. partnered with American Express Publishing Corp., whose titles it manages, to form a group luxury buy. Freyre's plans to aggregate what his boss, Exec VP Jack Haire, says will be 11 titles with a total audicence of over a million young male readers, continues that strategy. Time Inc. will use selective binding in key titles, including Time, Money, Sports Illustrated, Field & Stream and Golf, to reach this audience.

In a brief interview, Freyre said that the young-men's buy was one of multiple unspecified "products" he was looking to introduce, adding that with luck, by the end of the year, Time Inc. would be selling the young men's package to advertisers.

But the formation of the Growth Markets Group aggregates titles with three different Time Inc. names, with circulation strategies running from the school-distributed (Time for Kids, which runs no ads) to the newsstand-heavy (Teen People). Teen People, its largest revenue play, decisively underperformed this year. Its newsstand dropped double digits for the first half of the year, and the title missed hitting its 1.6 million rate base. The title will drop its rate base to 1.45 million with its February 2004 issue, and recently revamped under new Managing Editor Amy Barnett, albeit in ways that makes it seem more like the other big players in the niche.


And more than one Time Inc. executive said one byproduct of the new group could be job cuts. (Time Inc. Chairman-CEO Ann Moore has repeatedly put cost-cutting front and center during her tenure, and the current ad market isn't offering any help on the revenue side.)

Exec VP Nora McAniff, to whom Cathy O'Brien, group publisher of the Growth Markets Group, said, "These things have a much better chance of cross-pollination when we have them focused," she said. She stressed the group's role as feeding in the next generation of Time Inc. readers, as well as its foothold in the growing Latino market via People En Espanol. Ditto the opportunities to share research among the younger titles, and the chance, say, of looking at school-distribution of SI for Kids.

As for cuts coming after the move, though, she said "I couldn't answer one way or another."

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