Former Time Editor Jim Gaines: Did You Get the Memo?

Gaines_Jim_color_cropped.jpgJim Gaines is the editor-in-chief of FLYPmedia, the first true digital multimedia publication. Gaines was the former managing editor at People, Time and Life magazines, and also served as the corporate editor of Time Inc. An advocate of storytelling and the widespread use of technology and multimedia within publishing, Gaines blogs about the evolution of the media industry at Crashing Into Media.

In this special FishbowlNY post, Gaines envisions what an established media company, like Time Inc. or Condé Nast, might tell employees if it decided to abandon all its print operations and embrace the future of multimedia publications. Could this be the future for media?

To: The Staff
From: Print Media Conglomerate
Re: The Strongest Rumor You’ve Heard Yet
Date: September 10, 2010

Following on events in our industry with which you are familiar, we have today given notice to our printers, paper manufacturers, ink suppliers, newsstand wholesalers and subscription-fulfillment agencies, as well as the Newspaper Guild and the U.S. Postal Service, of our intent to become the first fully migrated print-to-digital publisher in America.

Once this transformation is complete, all of our brands will be multimedia titles, utilizing audio, video, animation and full-motion information graphics, brought together by a state-of-the-art platform and the most advanced design and communications software in the industry, which we have been developing off-site over the past eight months and about which you will learn more in the days and weeks ahead. Thanks to these innovations and the now virtually ubiquitous Digital Online NUmedia Tablet (DONUT®), all print publication will cease as of July 1, 2011.

Such a revolutionary step naturally raises many questions and issues, few of them easy. Although we anticipate no layoffs among either editorial or business staffs of our titles, production departments will have to master many new skills, and jobs in every department will require the adoption of new methods. Circulation departments will emphasize new analytic tools and social media techniques, for example. Ad staffs will shift their focus to rich-media and television advertising. Editorial staffs will clearly need to grow and change their current focus substantially in order to incorporate new media and software talent — videographers, animators, interactive and social media experts, programmers, integrators, etc.

The enormous savings that we will realize with digital publication will, however, cause grave dislocations among our partners in printing and distribution, and these will be as painful for them as they would be for us.

I will not dwell on the benefits of this step for the planet, except to say that this move will eliminate more than a million tons of carbon from the earth’s atmosphere each year, radically reducing the company’s carbon footprint.

We undertake this initiative not so much in the interest of employees or shareholders, but rather, for the audience that has always been our most cherished customer, the American public. We live in a new world of media, one that offers far more and richer tools of communication than paper and ink. We fail in our purpose as a company if we fail to adapt to a world in which quotes that were words on a page can come alive with the body language of experts and villains, in which music stories can sing, film reviews can play, book reviews can speak, charts can incorporate movement and audio to convey their information more assertively.

We are story-tellers, and as such we need to master all the crafts and arts that are available to us. We expect all of our brands — in newspapers, magazines, books, textbooks and not least our properties already online — to be greatly invigorated and far more useful to their audiences as a result of this digital migration.

Since opening our doors in the early years of the last century, our ultimate ambition has been to enrich with great journalism that civic conversation which is fundamental to a robust democracy. It is in pursuit of the same goal that we are taking the steps we announce today.