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
Autism Inc.: The Discredited Science, Shady Treatments and Rising Profits Behind Alternative Autism Treatments
Parents of children on the autism spectrum are wading through a considerable amount of information on the Internet purporting effective treatment and “cures” for autism. A majority of the treatments have been discredited:
“Almost by accident, Laidler says he and Ann, discovered the diet they’d put their son on didn’t work. ‘He was gluten-free and we thought it was a miraculous cure for our son because he’d made pretty dramatic strides from the age of 3 to 4. We were starting to see real progress. But on a trip to Disneyland, he grabbed a waffle off the table and ate it before we could stop him. Doctors had told us that one drop [of gluten] would cause a dramatic relapse—we’d been told anecdotal stories that a speck of wheat bread would cause an autistic child to have weeks of bad behavior. And nothing happened.’
“The Laidlers had also tried chelating their son, and as physicians they had helped other families who wanted to try it. ‘Nobody ever told me it did any good. So to regain my sense of mental balance I started asking a lot of pointed questions: Have you tried chelation? What was the result? Ninety percent of people I asked said they saw no improvement.'”
Best Takedown of an Old, Established Writer by a Young, Hungry Writer in an Awkward Press Junket Setting
“Aaron Sorkin knows the weight of last words, and his last words to me, as we walk-and-talk out of the HBO press room, are: ‘Write something nice.’ He says this in the ‘Smile, honey’ tone of much less successful jerks.”
Those words launch Prickett into a funny, cutting attack on the pretentions and assumptions of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. Through her eyes, the creator of A Few Good Men and The Social Network is guilty of an insufferable nostalgia for white male power, and she uses a press junket interview for Sorkin’s HBO show The Newsroom to diss the iconic writer in a way that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking.
Liveliest Profile of a Sprawling Corporation and its Straight-Laced Chief Executive
Big companies and their CEOs are tough to report on. Disney, led by the profoundly un-flamboyant Bob Iger and guarded by its disciplined phalanx of PR professionals, may be one of the toughest. That’s why Reingold’s story is so masterful—it explains Iger in way that’s vivid, thoughtful, and rigorous, giving us a sophisticated picture of him and his plans for the company. I wish Reingold would profile News Corp., Viacom, and every other American company, for that matter.
Investigative Story Responsible for Spurring Most Unintended “Holy Shit!” Uttterances
For me, this story’s surprises came in waves. First, there was the shock at how systematically and rampantly Wal-Mart bribed its way into Mexican retail. Next, there was awe at how Barstow nailed every crucial aspects of the ensuing cover-up. This is investigative reporting at its best—even-handed and rigorous, with no room for perpetrators’ excuses or squirming.
Best Confirmation that Super PACS and Karl Rove are Just as Creepy as We Thought They Were
You probably remember the media firestorm that followed this story, which quoted Karl Rove joking about killing Todd Akin (“If he’s found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!”). The glimpse of the inner workings of Super PACs that follows in Kolhatkar’s fly-on-the-wall account is fascinating reading, even months after the election.
Best Confirmation of, Admit It, What We All Were Kind of Wondering While Watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony
Those hot-bodied Olympians are having lots and lots of sex! Alipour illustrates hook-up culture in the Olympic Village with kickass reporting (big-name athletes go on the record, and are surprisingly candid) and just the right tone: The story is lighthearted and detailed without being prurient or icky, a tough order for a gossipy sex piece.
Clearest Portrait of a Misunderstood and Deadly American Subculture
Following the Tucson, Arizona shooting, Laskas set out to understand gun culture by working at a gun store in Yuma and profiling its clerks—the last line of defense between us and mass murderers. I love the way she leaves politics aside and zeroes in on her subjects’ humanity. The story appears in Laskas’s new book, Hidden America, a collection of her GQ stories about the many professional subcultures that make the U.S. work, from oil drillers to coal miners to migrant fruit pickers. Read it, read it, read it.
Does Zong, a member of the Communist Party, see himself as more of a communist or a capitalist? He smiles. “That’s a very German question,” he says. “I’m a pragmatist.” As such, he says, he fights for the rights of business owners and workers. “If there is anyplace in the world where socialism prevails, it’s Europe,” he says. In Zong’s opinion Europe, with its high taxes and welfare states, is a dead end. “People in your country should work harder,” says the richest man in China, sounding almost sympathetic.
What you’ll see on the following pages is hard to misinterpret: We have big issues, but the U.S. is in sounder shape than Apple was in 1997, when it lost a billion dollars. That’s the year Steve Jobs returned as CEO and took extreme measures, including agreeing to make Internet Explorer the Mac’s default browser. Jobs also got Microsoft to buy $150 million in nonvoting Apple shares—a lifeline for a company that, according to Jobs himself, was 90 days from bankruptcy court. Apple is now the second most valuable company in the world.
For those at the top, the American military profession is that rare calling where retirement need not imply a reduced income. On the contrary: senior serving officers shed their uniforms not merely to take up golf or go fishing but with the reasonable expectation of raking in big money. In a recent e-mail, a serving officer who is a former student of mine reported that on a visit to the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army—in his words, “the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Military Industrial Complex”—he was “accosted by two dozen former bosses, now in suits with fancy ties and business cards, hawking the latest defense technologies.”