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Only Time Will Tell: TIME Magazine Publication Analysis

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History in TIME

TIME magazine was created in 1923 by former Yale students Briton Hadden and Henry Luce. The pair originally worked as chairman and managing editor of the Yale Daily Newspaper. TIME was the first weekly news magazine for the United States. The magazine’s original intention can best be explained by the anachronism many, including TIME, suggest TIME actually stands for The International Magazine of Events.

Trademarks of TIME

History has treated TIME well. It has managed to prosper in every decade since its birth. However, it is time for TIME to readjust. Its seat on complacency has just about expired, and although there are a few key timeless elements of the magazine, many things have changed within its infrastructure. Change is crucial and must continue for the survival of TIME. Whatever inevitable changes that may occur in the future, one thing is clear: the magazine is an American icon.

Like every icon, it contains its own unique trademarks. The developed trademarks of TIME are now as famous as the magazine itself. They are the few elements that have remained timeless, and although the magazine now is currently reinventing itself, these are the few things that will remain unscathed by the process.

In 1927 TIME first introduced its signature red border to the nation. The red border has been absent only twice in history: once, after the assassination of John Franklin Kennedy, and then again after September 11, 2001. The magazine changed the color to black in order to symbolize mourning.

Also symbolizing the trademark of TIME is the annual TIME Person of the Year. The Person of the Year is someone whom TIME believes has impacted that year’s world news the most. The designated person’s face is put on the cover, and an article is written featuring the reasons why he or she is the TIME Person of the Year.

However unconventional it may seem due to the name, the award does not necessarily have to go to a particular person. In the past the award has been given to the personal computer, and in 2006 the award was given to “You,” representing the every-day individual. Also, the title is not always given to those who have positively impacted the news. Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin have each been featured as TIME’s Person of the Year.

These components of TIME magazine have remained steadfast since its beginning, and offered readers throughout its history some consistency. However, because TIME reports on the news, which is an overall reflection of “the new,” the format and material itself must be progressive. In the past, readapting to “what’s next” is what has continued TIME’s prosperity. As of recent studies, TIME’s success may be in jeopardy. Has TIME become stagnant? The relationship it has developed with America is a push-me-pull-me balancing act, and although TIME has historically mastered that balance of keeping up and pushing forward, what is it doing to continue its affluence in the present and future?

TIME’s Influence on American Culture

Although the future is skeptical regarding the success of the news magazine industry genre, currently TIME’S dominion in the gauntly genre is still solid compared to its competition. Since TIME’s beginning, it has flourished a relationship with American culture. TIME’s mark on the magazine industry alone is an overwhelmingly large one. From the original TIME magazine to the spin off of its people section which created People magazine, to Teen People magazine, to In Style magazine, to Entertainment Weekly, and even to People En Español, TIME has continually shed light on the market available for specialized consumers.

Because TIME dabbled in a little of this and that before committing to certain markets, TIME found the unfulfilled hole in the consumer’s wants and filled it. In this way, by introducing much-wanted spin-offs, TIME has indirectly affected American culture. The influence each of these magazines has on Americans originates from their beginning at TIME magazine.

In a more direct way, TIME has influenced American Culture. Before TIME, America was only informed of their national news and their international news by newspaper and radio outlets. The stories were hard news stories and daily updates. The only other way to get an analysis of the news would be to listen to an entertainment talk show on the radio or to float through the opinion section in the newspaper.

The magazine offered analysis and unique graphic features that provided more of an insight into the news than a 10-minute news bit or a 30-minute radio show could. More importantly, the news magazine provided both educational insight to the masses, as well as credible news stories and entertainment. The magazine didn’t have the time slots of radio or the strict non-creative policies of newspapers. TIME offered a deeper story than just the news of the day. As evident in television ratings, magazine circulations, and online “hits,” people responded to this way of obtaining news, and people still do.

The articles to be read in TIME are a clash of entertainment with news, and inevitably a clash of opinion and fact. TIME has consistently managed to be known for its analysis of the current. Whether it is politics, policy, economics, technology, or something else affecting the masses, TIME reflects upon it. TIME reveals and reviews America, and the rest of the world, to Americans.

There is little concrete evidence that TIME magazine has an effect on America. Only one example of slight proof comes to mind. Michael Wolff, of Vanity Fair, wrote an article exploiting what he believes as TIME withholding information during the John Kerry/ George Bush 2004 election to avoid blowing up political chaos. Wolff claims that in 2004, TIME magazine reporters purposefully chose to stay private about the widely disputed conversations between Karl Rove, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Matt Cooper, and Robert Novak.

Supporting his claim, an L.A. Times article stated that the TIME reporters admitted to withholding the story because, “TIME editors were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year.” Many believe that if TIME would have published the story earlier, because of TIME’s large influence on Americans, the outcome of the election may have turned out differently. It is hard to say, but evidently not even the editors of TIME were willing to underestimate their influence and take such a large gamble.

American Culture’s Influence on TIME

Even as early as the 1930s, TIME editors have worked to accommodate and ensure that the American public gets what the American public wants out of their news magazine. In the thirties, to keep up with the radio, TIME launched a 10-minute weekly broadcast reporting about the articles that were featured in that week. The broadcast began to gain success and converted many listeners to readers of the magazine. The broadcast was changed to thirty minutes, and even more readership followed.

Eventually, America wanted more, and TIME figured out a way to get it to them. Although there is no longer a radio segment, the problem still persists. As of the late eighties (thanks in part to the introduction of 24-hour news networks and to the Internet), TIME once again needed to reinvent itself. The immediacy of the Internet and television news was leaving the weekly news magazine in shambles, forcing them to adapt their material onto the web.

In 1994, TIME launched its pathfinder website, adding story databases, showcase photography, and more advertising space. The site was not the boom TIME had hoped for, and efforts once again were made to deliver content in an innovative way to its readers. The site was not immediate enough. TIME’s reputation of professionalism as a news magazine was expected by readers to cross over into the World Wide Web. Many believed the site did not uphold that certain cutting-edge professionalism, and because of it, the initial website was never the large success TIME desired it to be.

The website relaunched in January of 2007 in hopes of posting blogs and news updates at least twice a day, in an effort to provide a cleaner, bolder look for advertisers. TIME.com Editor Josh Tyrangiel recently stated that the site will adopt a more consistent focus on providing constantly updated news and analysis. “TIME has had a fluctuating online strategy, and there have been moments when it’s been really, really good and moments when it’s been really bad.”

Consumer’s desires for technologically delivered news is not the only force pushing TIME forward. Recently TIME changed its publishing dates to Fridays instead of Mondays. It is also still spending great efforts on creating a new look in order to appeal to younger audiences. TIME has lightened its stories, and has included even more information about pop culture. Even though TIME is trying relentlessly to appease the public’s demands, according to some it may not be enough.

MediaMark conducts research for magazines. In its latest analysis of TIME magazine, it makes a lengthy statement about the latest consumer data on news magazines, “The news genre may not be dead, but growth and energy is outside the traditional big three news magazines. Whether that is a permanent condition, or a reflection of their current hybrid format, is a question that cannot be answered here. But the attempts by these magazines to become younger, by becoming lighter do not, according to the numbers, seem to be working.” The statement reads on, “While ad revenues grew between 1988 and 2002, ad pages declined. What does this mean? The news genre is at least in need of reinvention and may indeed be saturated.”

From this issued statement one can conclude that TIME might be financially stagnant for now, but it appears as though everyone involved in TIME is thinking ahead for the company. On the TIME.com website, TIME posts, “Early in 2007, TIME was given a new look and structure — with new features and columnists — to best tell the larger story about the world we live in. It’s all part of a broad array of changes that are redefining our brand and blazing a trail for the rest of the public industry.” The statement continues, “With its enormous brand strength and diverse multi-media assets, TIME brings businesses more opportunities for creating full- circle messaging to reach millions of consumers.”

TIME is marketing itself as the standard for the future. It is struggling to adapt in any way, shape, or form to accurately fill the void of what Americans want. The Managing Editor of TIME, Rick Stengel, writes, “Because of the blizzard of information out there, there is not only a need but a hunger for one brand to make sense of it all. TIME is the guide through the chaos. TIME converts information into knowledge, confusion into clarity.” The message seems eerily similar to that of sister company CNN, which claims to be, “The most trusted name in news.”

In the Words of Bob Dylan

Whether this new spin on mass media will work or not, only time will tell. Whatever happens, it is clear that TIME must once again reinvent itself. According to MediaMark, TIME’s circulation has fallen by 13 percent from 1988 to 2002. This hit, however, is one of the least detrimental in the news magazine business. Currently, TIME is the most profitable in the news magazine industry. However, since TIME is a part of the Time Warner magazine empire, and can offer advertisers group packaging, it may never have to withstand the technological blow in the way Newsweek or U.S. News might. TIME and the news magazine industry are struggling to keep up. TIME’s consumer and advertisers’ demands to reinvent itself in this technological age, while still maintaining its core news magazine appeal, are apparent in MediaMark studies. Trial and error may be the only formula holding a solution for this slump. Needless to say, the times, they are a-changin’.

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  • http://kevineagan.blogspot.com Kevin Eagan

    Interesting read. My wife has a subscription to TIME and I must say, I’m disappointed in its news quality. It seems like it’s trying too hard to be “hip,” and it shows. I wish they’d stick to in-depth world news coverage, because that’s what makes TIME great. If I wanted to read about pop culture issues, I’d stick to the Web sites and magazines that deal with POP CULTURE not TIME.

  • http://www.mediamark.com Steve Ellwanger

    Greetings. I handle public relations for Mediamark Research & Intelligence. While MRI does collect consumer readership information about magazines, it does not issue the kind of “analysis” cited in this story. Quite often, someone obtains MRI data and uses it to write a report, issue a press release, etc., but MRI does not issue reports on individual magazines. It collects data and sells them to its clients.

  • Dizzy

    Did you unintentionally use the word anachronism instead of acronym?

  • Kate nyc

    Who is John Franklin Kennedy?

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    John Franklin Kennedy: noted American inventor, naval officer, satirist and statesman. Tragically met his demise at Dallas in 1963 when a rifle bullet, fired by a Mr Oswald who was using the excellent vantage point offered by the Texas School Book Repository building for shooting pigeons, ricocheted off the kite he was test-flying as part of the manned lunar program and dealt him a mortal wound.

  • Perspectus

    John F. Kennedy. The ‘F’ stands for Fitzgerald.

  • TampaTeri

    John FITZGERALD Kennedy, please!!!