Former Time Inc. Exec On Recent Cuts: Positioning For A Better Future

fortune cover.jpgThe expected cuts at Time Inc. started this week, with layoffs at Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly and, Essence and The company has shuttered FSB, resulting in more staff cuts, and is seeking volunteers for buyouts at People, Time and Fortunewhich could lose as many as 40 staffers.

As Time Inc. prepares to shed upwards of 280 jobs, we wanted to take a closer look at these layoffs. Could they have been avoided? What do they mean for the future of Time Inc.’s publications?

We asked Jim Gaines, who spent most of his career at Time Inc., to shed a little light on the situation. Gaines, who is currently the editor-in-chief of FLYPmedia, formerly served as Time Inc.’s corporate editor and was once managing editor at People, Time and Life magazines. Here’s what he had to say:

FishbowlNY: Is there any way Time Inc. could have avoided these layoffs, as well as those last year? What could the company have done differently over the years?

Jim Gaines: I’m not sure anybody, even Time Inc., could have avoided the drastic altering of the media landscape that we have seen in the recent past. It’s a fundamental disruption for which no one was adequately prepared. Certainly, there were moments when all of us in the media industry should have realized the tremendous opportunities that exist within digital media. Hindsight is great. BUT there is no major publishing business that is not facing what Time Inc. faces today.

FBNY: What do these cuts say about the health and future of the company and its magazines?

JG: While it’s never pleasant to see anyone lose a job, the good news for Time Inc. is that the company is positioning itself for a better future. It’s hard to see that through the pain that cuts like this cause friends and colleagues, but it’s true.

FBNY: Do you think, if things don’t change, there will be even more cuts next year? What can the company do from this point on to avoid that?

JG: There may very well be future cuts; it’s impossible to know right now. What Time Inc. and every other publisher should be doing is re-imagining their titles and online brands for a new publishing world, the world of digital broadband. In that world, you can do without the cost of paper, ink AND distribution. People will still be laid off in the printing business — that business is suffering already — but at least it will free up more money for story-tellers and align publishers with the media world that’s being born right now. What the media industry is going through now is a classic example of creative destruction.

Related: Former Time Editor Jim Gaines: Did You Get The Memo?