November 1, 2013
Vijaya Prasad

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norman pearlstine owns the media business

Norman Pearlstine’s return to Time inc. is marked by a major shift: his title is now Chief Content Editor and Vice President, which according to this AdWeek article,  really means:

editors will now report to their business unit heads rather than an editorial executive.

Pearlstine serve as Editor-in-Chief of Time Inc. from 1995-2005, so this is a homecoming. According to Time Magazine’s business blog,

Time Inc., which publishes TIME, is reorganizing as it prepares for a spinoff from parent company Time Warner in 2014.

AdWeek had a great interview with Pearlstine, but one question’s response stood out in particular to me.

(AW): Will editors risk losing editorial independence now that they’re reporting to the business side?
Pearlstine: I wouldn’t have come here if I thought that were a risk. If I didn’t know Joe Ripp and his commitment to editorial independence and quality and his clear understanding that to do anything to undermine that is clearly not in the best business interests of the company. That said, it’s time to recognize we’re not in the magazine business, we’re in the media business. I don’t expect to be signing off on covers of magazines. [As editor in chief] I overruled two covers, at Time magazine. I want to be available to address problems, but…I do expect editors…to solve their problems themselves.

When I first read that phrase, “We’re not in the magazine business, we’re in the media business” the journalist part of me questioned his motivations. Is this the takeover of the advertorial (advertisement + editorial)?

But really, it’s just another example of how those who run magazines want to ultimately make money: it’s how people get paid and what keeps the powers that be happy. Really, it’s amazing that he has to say it at all. And given that he comes from the editorial side of things, he’s in a better position to understand the business/financial side of things.

It’s why the New York Times has  a paywall but wins awards for their multimedia content. And why Newsweek shut down, in spite of being around for a long time. One innovated, one didn’t. In order to stay competitive and to survive in an increasingly diversified market, Time Inc has to be innovative.


In a company wide email, Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp wrote (you can read the whole email if you’d like)

We are confident this new structure will create a strong partnership between business and editorial, promote creativity and result in a cohesive vision for each of our brands that will be essential to long-term growth,

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