What Happens When Magazine Editors Start Reporting to the Business Side?

It is this week’s biggest and most far-reaching NYC media world question. What’s going to happen at Time Inc. now that editor-in-chief Martha Nelson is moving on and Norman Pearlstine, at CEO Joe Ripp’s behest, has returned to oversee all such matters from the business side as executive VP and chief content officer.

AP recently announced that it will be entering the sponsored content game in 2014, so let’s start out by reminding ourselves that the rules are changing fast, and often. Ad Age media reporter Michael Sebastien spoke to both Ripp and Pearlstine in the wake of this week’s seismic news. Ripp restated something he said in the official announcement – that it’s designed to speed up the content work-cycle:

“Whenever you have a very large organization as ourselves and important decisions need to be cleared through multiple layers it creates a slowdown of the process,” Mr. Ripp said. “I’m a firm believer that businesses are more successful when you can empower people at a local brand level.”

“It will help create entrepreneurship at the brands,” Mr. Pearlstine said.

That double mention of the word “brand” and the notion from Pearlstine’s end that journalists even at a place like Time Inc. need to think of themselves as entrepreneurs is no doubt alarming some readers.

In terms of if, when and how the tentacle of the business side reaching into editorial leads to internal conflict, a close watch will need to be maintained. No one should expect to see Ripp or Pearlstine adorning TIME as 2014 Person of the Year. Still, one of the first things Pearlstine might want to focus on (if he is not already) is a set of revised Time Inc. standards and practices.

Under the new company structure, editors of Time Inc. titles will report to the president of their respective magazine group: David Geithner (Style & Entertainment), Evelyn Webster (Lifestyle) or Todd Larsen (News & Sports). For his piece, Sebastien spoke to several media buyers, all of whom unsurprisingly praised the reorganization.

Previously on FishbowlNY:
Norman Pearlstine Returning to Time Inc.

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