Understanding Time Inc.'s New Editorial Order

Structure Won't Undermine Journalism, CEO Joe Ripp Says

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Storied magazine publisher Time Inc. surprised its editors on Thursday by assigning them to report to division presidents instead of an editorial executive, leading some to wonder whether business interests would now trump those of edit.

Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp said the restructuring will make the publisher of Time, People, Sports Illustrated and Fortune more innovative and entrepreneurial. "We are not only going to be respecting our traditions enormously, but setting the company to move forward," Mr. Ripp said.

New Chief Content Officer Norm Pearlstine, who was installed as part of the changes, said Time Inc. is catching up with the media business. "Frankly, it's more consistent with not only the print industry, but digital and broadcast and the rest of media," he said.

And indeed, editors industrywide have become far more collaborative with their colleagues on the publishing side, particularly as results come under pressure. Ad revenue at Time Inc. fell 5% in the second quarter of this year from the second quarter of last year, while subscription revenue was off 7%.

Rival magazine publishers like Conde Nast and Hearst say nearly all of their editors still report to editorial directors, not business-side executives. Conde Nast made one editor report to the business side at the shopping magazine Lucky, but that was noted as an exception and has since been reversed.

A spokeswoman for Time Inc. said that the appointment of Mr. Pearlstine, who was Editor-in-Chief at Time Inc. before a stint at the Carlyle Group and five years heading content at Bloomberg, guarantees that editorial integrity will remain a cornerstone. "Our editors will have full responsibility for their own content," the spokeswoman said. "Nothing there changes. What will come out of the new structure is a partnership between business and edit that allows us to innovate more seamlessly in the new media world."

Editors agree about the need for innovation -- but also want to be able to push back against ad placements or programs that they think could undermine reader trust. The division presidents' power to fire editors might make such resistance tougher.

But it's too early to tell how the structure will play out day to day. Martha Nelson, who is leaving her post as Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief as part of the restructuring, previously oversaw the editorial functions of the company's 21 magazines. That could mean rewriting an article or even ripping up a cover at the last minute, a former Time Inc. editor said. That's not something Mr. Pearlstine will do. Instead, he'll work on broader editorial strategy and help resolve disputes.

"If a group president disagrees with something in the magazine, it will bounce up to Norm," said a Time Inc. staffer with knowledge of the structure. Editors will not, the person said, be reporting in to their publishers. Both will report to the respective group president.

All parties have an interest in maintaining the company's editorial integrity, according to Ken Doctor, a media analyst at Outsell. "Editorial excellence is at the core of its brand value," he said.

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