First Mover: Josh Quittner

After 16 years at Time Inc., the writer and editor joins hot startup Flipboard

Pardon the pun, but weren’t you a Time lifer?

In a funny kind of way, I wanted to leave Time Inc. almost right away. I guess I never considered myself a big company kind of a guy, but the amazing thing about Time Inc. is it’s an entrepreneurial place. Every couple of years, they gave me something new to do, right up until about a year ago.

So why a startup?

I’m 54 years old. I have always wanted to work for a startup, and I’ve watched two enormous tech cycles go by, and I’ve watched from the sidelines. I’d very much felt like this was one that I wanted to participate in.

Why this startup?

I believe that successful media has to do three things: It has to be able to atomize, it has to be able to aggregate, and it has to be able to make its content available everywhere. And if you believe those three things, I think you pretty much have to pass through Flipboard to be able to achieve those objectives.

This isn’t a bubble, then?

I think that if this is a bubble, it’s a big, long bubble. [Laughs]

What exactly is Flipboard?

First and foremost, it’s a social magazine, meaning that it is put together on the fly based in large part on the recommendations of your friends. So its first incarnation included taking your Facebook feed—or your Twitter feed or your Instagram feed—and laying each one of those things out in a very magazine-like way for that lean-back, leisurely browsing experience. I think as it evolves—as we start to sign up more media partners from all types of publishing ventures, magazines, newspapers, blogs—we’ll start to bring more and more content in there, surfacing the social layer and allowing the best of that content to come to the fore.

What will the editorial director do?

I’m not really doing the deals, per se. I hope to be in the room when some of these deals are done because my job is to work with editors and create a really compelling, really cool experience. To the extent that I can bring 25, 26 years of editorial thinking to bear, I could probably contribute some things there to the whole overall usability of the product.

And this is all on a tablet?

The tablet makes what we do much more interesting, and maybe, just maybe, provides a much better business model.

Where exactly am I supposed to read my copy of Time magazine? The Time app? Flipboard? Am I supposed to call up my Web browser on my iPad?

The answer to that is, ”yes.” Where once we made money from one source, the successful media company today is going to make money from 20 different sources. You’ve got to make your content available everywhere. How you will read Time magazine depends very much on how you want to read Time magazine.

Your children only know you as a Time employee, correct?

Yes, it’s amazing. It’s like they believe basically two things: One, that Time Inc. has always existed, and two, that the Internet has always existed.

Will they both continue to exist?

I think they absolutely will both continue to exist, and both of them will evolve.

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