The Player: Squires mans front line of Time Inc. circulation battle

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There's no shortage of executives at AOL Time Warner who may be due to receive care packages of extra-strength Tylenol and Xanax these days, but John Squires, newly promoted to one of Time Inc.'s five exec VP positions, must be considered near the front of the line.

In his new role, Mr. Squires, 45, returns to running Time Inc.'s consumer marketing department-responsible for subscriptions and newsstand sales-and continues to lead its relationship with slumping online unit America Online. According to his boss, new Time Inc. Chairman-CEO Ann Moore, he'll play the key role with Time Inc. "to cooperate and help [new AOL head] Jonathan Miller move from an ad model to a product model."

As such, his is a crucial pivot point not only for the nation's largest magazine company, but one for the entire magazine world as well-the ways in which Time Inc. seeks to deal with a dysfunctional distribution system, for instance, will be closely watched by the entire industry. Mr. Squires' will not be an easy task, but even those outside Time Inc. testify to his industry smarts as a major plus in dealing with them.

"He didn't get bogged down on over-analysis" as magazine circulation executives are prone to, said Dan Rubin, exec VP of Gruner & Jahr Publishing USA who worked under Mr. Squires at Time Inc.'s Warner Publisher Services. "He was also a street-smart business guy. ... And he is also a consensus builder."

"One of my jobs is to worry about succession planning and the next generation of leaders," said Ms. Moore, who promoted Mr. Squires from president of Entertainment Weekly in her first round of executive changes in August. Mr. Squires "comes to the 34th Floor"-where Time Inc.'s corporate staff is housed-"with exactly the skill-set and dance card I am looking for."

Mr. Squires' 13-year career at Time Inc. includes stops in circulation and consumer marketing at People, Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated. Before landing at the magazine giant, he served as circulation director for Forbes. Circulation revenue for magazines in recent years has suffered severe strains. Mr. Squires claims no easy fixes, and talks candidly about the depth of the problems. He called the demise of the subscription agents like American Family Publishers and Publishers Clearing House "cataclysmic" and said on newsstands, magazines "were not only losing units, but profitability."

"Probably one of those factors would have spelled a recession," he said. "Two of them have put a hammerlock on magazines." He plays his potential solutions close to the vest, but says he's intrigued by the prospect of new, targeted retail outlets and "partnership marketing"-like using TicketMaster to sell Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated subscriptions based on what events consumers are buying.

He has less to say about Time Inc.'s plans with AOL, noting "this has to follow their lead."

"But I think you can imagine we will be working more closely to [create] more proprietary value on AOL."

Fast Facts

Name: John Squires

Age: 45

Now: Exec VP, Time Inc.

Challenge: Find and nurture new subscription sources for Time Inc., and oversee its relationship with America Online.

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