Time Inc. has changed the leadership at its most famous and lucrative title, naming Jess Cagle to replace Larry Hackett as the top editor of People. In a shift for the title, Cagle, who talks about his new role here, will also have responsibility for People.com, and he'll continue to have oversight for sibling pub Entertainment Weekly, where he most recently was the top editor. His replacement there is expected to be named shortly.
Hackett is leaving the company after 15 years at the brand, including eight as editor. Under his tenure, the celebrity weekly launched franchises including World’s Most Beautiful Woman and Teacher of the Year. He's also been an active industry figure, serving as president of the American Society of Magazine Editors.
But Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp is under pressure to show potential investors that he's making big changes at the company, and its crown jewel in particular, as it prepares to spin off from Time Warner later this year. Under Ripp, several longtime executives have left the company, including editor in chief Martha Nelson and top lieutenants Maurice Edelson and Howard Averill. Employees are uneasily expecting layoffs in the weeks ahead, and the People move could presage other top editor replacements.
Most shockingly, Ripp changed the organizational structure so that the company’s magazine editors report to the business side instead of an editor in chief. Today's news was announced jointly by David Geithner, evp and group president of the Style & Entertainment Group, to whom Cagle will report; and Norm Pearlstine, the company’s newly named chief content officer.
People has been a reliant cash cow for Time Inc., contributing 20 percent of its revenue, per recent financial filings. But it also isn't what it once was. The brand has built a substantial online presence, but faces stiff competition from online gossip news sites like TMZ and Hollywood Life. People is heavily reliant on the newsstand, where sales have been on a downward slide for years. In the first half of 2013, People's newsstand sales fell 11.8 percent to 828,590 on a total circulation of 3.5 million, per the Alliance for Audited Media. Hackett's days also were seen as numbered because of his closeness to Martha Nelson.
The creation of an editorial director role for EW also is interesting move. EW has always taken pride in having its own culture distinct from the rest of the Style & Entertainment Group (it’s not even housed in the Time & Life building where the rest of Time Inc. is). But it’s believed that Cagle sees keeping a hand in EW as a way to get People magazine better access to Hollywood talent. At an edit meeting today announcing his move, Cagle said he would look for ways to share content between the two titles.
Also leaving the company is another Nelson favorite, Mark Golin, who was group editor of Time Inc.’s Style & Entertainment Group and has had a leading role in the development of People.com and Time Inc.’s digital strategy.