When [Joe] Ripp first discussed taking the CEO job with Bewkes, he said that Time Inc. needed to stop thinking of itself as a magazine company. But what exactly Time Inc. will become depends on who is talking. Ripp tells me it will be a significant player in video. (The company has backed the online channel 120 Sports and has rolled out channels for sports, celebrity news, and business.) Ripp also wants to branch into e-commerce, conferences, and events. Pearlstine praises Forbes’s user-generated content model. He supports “native advertising,” the practice of running sponsored content that looks similar to editorial content, and also said his dream acquisition is LinkedIn. M. Scott Havens, a digital executive Ripp hired from Atlantic Media, recently told The Guardian that Time Inc. needs to build “the next Gilt, the next Facebook.”
None of this talk has eased skeptics’ doubts. “What is this company?” one recently departed editor asked me. “They’ve declared print dead and hastened the end of the magazine business. But they don’t have an idea of what the company is instead.” Given the crushing debt load, roughly two and a half times earnings, that has to be serviced somehow, many inside the company anticipate extreme budget cuts. And Ripp’s finance background has triggered speculation that Time Inc. is being gussied up for a sale. “Private equity could drain the cow until there’s nothing left,” speculated another longtime Time Inc. executive.
Ripp shoots down that idea. “I would not come back to a company that would be bled and drained,” he tells me. “I didn’t want any part of that. This company defined my life.”
— Time Inc., the storied company behind publications like People, Sports Illustrated, and its flagship TIME magazine, is searching for new revenue models after the decline of print-ad revenues in recent years. In New York magazine, Gabriel Sherman talked to Time Inc CEO Joe Ripp to assess what the future of the company might look like.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons