Yesterday, Gawker released a spreadsheet leaked from Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated brand. The document is said to be an editorial performance chart, but one metric has raised concerns about how the company graded its writers–"Produces content that [sic] beneficial to advertiser relationship." What’s more, the document, which contains 8 criterions, was allegedly used to determine which editors to layoff during a massive house cleaning in February.
This is not the first time over the past year the company has been criticized for its abandonment of the industry’s implicit church-and-state policy. Last fall, several months prior to its spinoff from Time Warner, Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp symbolically tore down the invisible wall between sales and editorial when he reorganized the company so editorial reports to the business unit. It was a polarizing decision; some opponents claimed it would mark the beginning of the end for editorial integrity, while others saw it as a natural progression–and not unlike other industry models, including Meredith’s.
Nevertheless, the Sports Illustrated document that leaked yesterday has reignited the debate.
The KPIs in the evaluation were scored from 1 to 10+. The seven other attributes for evaluation are not unusual–Quality of Writing, Impact of Stories/Newsworthiness, Productivity/Tenacity, Audience/Traffic, Video, Social and Enthusiasm/Approach to Work. Yet, some see the advertiser appeal criteria as troubling, and even go as far as saying that it carried serious weight in determining layoffs.
Time Inc. disputes those claims, however. Company spokesman Scott Novak says in a statement that the spreadsheet was created in order to justify layoffs to the Newspaper Guild of New York, and adds that "The Guild’s interpretation is misleading and takes one category out of context." He goes on to say that the evaluation "encompasses all of the natural considerations for digital media. It starts and ends with journalistic expertise, while including reach across all platforms and appeal to the marketplace."
Image credit: Gawker