Who'll Save Time Inc. Now?


It’s true that the company has some digital bench strength in Fran Hauser, who recently was promoted to president of digital for Time Inc.’s Style and Entertainment and Lifestyle Group; and John Cantarella, digital president for the company’s news and business titles. There are examples of success coming from individual brands: Sports Illustrated, in a continuation of its aggressive digital development, was the company’s first brand to announce an “All-Access” subscription plan that lets consumers access the magazine on the Web, in print and on Android mobile devices. The sports title also has rolled out a series of new digital products tied to its Swimsuit franchise.

Time Inc. also announced plans to make Time, Fortune, People and SI available for subscription on the HP TouchPad when it’s introduced later this year. On the Web, People surpassed 1 billion page views in January, probably a magazine first.

Still, All-Access falls short of its promise. Time Inc.’s magazines still aren’t available for subscription on Apple’s iPad, which is anticipated to be the dominant device for some time. EMarketer forecasts the iPad will represent 88 percent of U.S. tablet sales in 2011. (Apple announced subscription terms for publishers two weeks ago, but Time Inc., along with other big publishers, was mum on whether it would accept them, saying it still needed to work through questions about consumer data.)

But the company also lost some Apple expertise when Monica Ray, a consumer marketing executive and the company’s Apple point person, was scooped up by rival Condé Nast last summer. And in another more recent digital loss, Time Inc. Digital president Kirk McDonald left during Griffin’s short tenure.

Time Inc.’s past efforts to prop up its paid subscription model have been spotty. Maghound, a Netflix-like service for the magazine industry that Time Inc. launched in 2008, never caught on. And Next Issue Media, an e-reader publishing consortium in which Time Inc. is a charter backer, is far behind schedule in launching its promised digital newsstand.

“A couple of titles are strong [digitally], but it’s not enough,” said Audrey Siegel, president and director of client services at TargetCast tcm. “Next Issue Media hasn’t done anything. Monica [Ray] left. I think there’s a vacuum right now.”