Time Warner is joining other media conglomerates in pushing to
compartmentalize their publishing units during a fragile time for
Time Inc., the largest magazine publisher in the United States,
with properties like People, Sports Illustrated and Fortune, is
preparing for one of the most pivotal periods in its 91-year
Within the next six months, its parent, the media conglomerate
Time Warner, hopes to spin off Time Inc. into a separate public
company. But if the plan succeeds, Time Inc. will become independent
at a difficult moment. Not only do the magazine industry's fortunes
continue to sag, but Time Inc. has also shown signs of instability.
It has churned through three chief executives in the last three
years and lost a star editor, its former editor in chief, Martha
To combat these negative forces, Time Inc. will abandon the
traditional separation between its newsroom and business sides, a
move that has caused angst among its journalists. Now, the newsroom
staffs at Time Inc.'s magazines will report to the business
executives. Such a structure, once verboten at journalistic
institutions, is seen as necessary to create revenue opportunities
and stem the tide of declining subscription and advertising sales.
Overseeing these changes is Joseph A. Ripp, a former longtime
Time Warner official who became Time Inc.'s chief executive in
September. In an interview, Mr. Ripp said it was refreshing to shake
things up. In recent months, he confirmed publicly that there would
be additional layoffs in 2014. He has also expressed openness to
initiatives, including expanding the company's television
programming and conference businesses.
"Because we were part of a larger media conglomerate, our ability
to expand outside of print magazines was always restricted," said
Mr. Ripp, who explained that Time Warner's television and film
businesses often hampered the magazines' ability to move into video.
Time Warner is not alone in separating ailing print assets from
more profitable businesses. In 2014, Tribune Company will try to
split its newspapers from its television and digital units. And this
year, News Corporation cleaved its film and television businesses
from its newspaper and publishing arms.
In going it alone, Time Inc. will return to its roots as a stand-
alone company, which was co-founded in 1922 by the publisher Henry
Luce. About a quarter-century ago, Time Inc. merged with Warner
Communications. Today, Time Warner is a media and entertainment
giant with a $63 billion market value and profitable assets likes
HBO. But in recent years Jeffrey L. Bewkes, Time Warner's chief
executive, has shrunk the company, discarding businesses like AOL
and Time Warner Cable to concentrate on film and television.
Next on the spinoff block is Time Inc. To run the magazine
business as a separate company, Mr. Bewkes hired Mr. Ripp. He
assumed the post this summer from Laura Lang, who lasted only 15
months in the job. She had succeeded Jack Griffin, who was forced
out after less than six months in 2011.
Mr. Ripp, 61, a former chief financial officer at Time Warner,
said that while he moved to restructure Time Inc. and push it into
new businesses, he recognized that the company's value was tied to
its magazines' credibility.
But he draws a distinction between the journalistic standards
applied to magazines like Time and those for lighter fare, like
Cooking Light. Would it be an ethical breach for an executive on
Time Inc.'s business side to suggest a certain type of cream cheese
to be used in a frosting recipe? By Time Inc.'s old standards, it
"We will never, ever, ever, violate our trust with consumers,"
Mr. Ripp said. "If you look at journalism at Time Inc., we have
applied the concepts equally to covering budget deficits and food
titles. Service journalism can be different."
To mediate any disputes and help the newsroom side maintain its
independence, Mr. …