Time’s Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs Isn’t Afraid of Native Ads

Also, some big opportunities after the split from Time Warner


Who Nancy Gibbs

Age 53

New gig Managing editor, Time magazine

Old gig Deputy managing editor, Time magazine

Time is the last of the old newsmagazines. Where does a newsweekly fit these days?

The print circulation has remained as strong as it is, even as the digital audience has been growing. Two weeks ago, we did as the cover the anniversary of the financial meltdown. That Sunday, George Stephanopoulos holds that up when he interviews Obama and says, “Here’s the cover of Time. What do you have to say about that?” You can’t hold up a blog; you can hold up a magazine. When you put a topic in that red border, it still has a very powerful impact.

Is a diminished print presence inevitable?

We are one of the very few national, global news organizations in print. There are secular trends, but Time has some opportunity that exists beyond our category.

Will having Time Inc. editors now report to their business division heads make it harder to resist initiatives that could undermine reader trust?

Not at all. I’ve already been working closely with Todd Larsen, who is as determined as I am to see Time grow and thrive. Thanks to his advocacy, I’ve been able to recruit all this new talent and launch the redesign of the site. He has been extremely respectful of my independence when it comes to editorial decisions, and I agree that he and I need to be working together to identify new opportunities where Time could expand our audience.

Such as?

We’re having fascinating conversations about Time’s opportunities in live events. We are an enormously powerful presence in classrooms. We’re moving much more aggressively in video.

How important is it to be Time’s first top female editor?

There are many things that matter much more than an editor’s gender in shaping the direction of the leadership. But there was more symbolical importance to this than I had recognized. It may be that Time has some particular image of being the voice of God from the mountaintop, and that that voice might sound a little different now seems to be something people are very excited about.

You’ve written more cover stories than any writer at Time. Are there ones that particularly resonated?

The one that got me the most street cred with my children was profiling J.K. Rowling. Also because she fascinated me as someone who came out of nowhere and not just became the most well-read author on the planet but the subject of foreign policy seminars.

What was your stance on Time’s wildly controversial breastfeeding cover?

People forget that was a story about attachment parenting. What the cover reminded people is, we can stop the country in its tracks with a story on hospital costs [by Steve Brill] or parenting. I don’t think it’s necessary to shout if you have a good story. But I also don’t think you should shy away from being bold in the statement that you’re making.

What’s your take on native advertising?

This is not as big a challenge as it’s made out to be. I think there’s a lot we can do as vehicles for advertisers, provided that there’s no confusion about where this content is coming from. What I’ve seen in terms of how native will live on the new site, it just makes it a richer, deeper site. As long as you know what the content is, I don’t have any problem with that. We’re all grown-ups.


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