Time Inc. CEO: “We Are Not for Sale”
Ann Moore talks digital strategy, and deflates rumors that her company is on the block.
Time Inc. is one of Time Warner’s cash cows, and contrary to buzz around the industry, is not for sale, Ann Moore, the company’s chairman and CEO, said Wednesday.
"It’s an endless debate wasting so much valuable time," Moore told 200 people at an MPA breakfast in New York. "It’s not going to happen anytime soon."
Despite recent rumors including a recent report from a Bear Stearns analyst hinting that Time Warner will most likely be putting Time Inc. on the block, Moore remained ambiguous. However, new developments arose this week as Time Inc. hired a new CFO, former executive vice president of NBC Television Group Howard Averill. Averill could be the man the company has been waiting for to prepare for sale. As FishbowlNY reports, and blogger Rex Hammock echoes, the 300-word news release announcing the new hire failed to even mention the word "magazine."
Although she touched on the sale rumors, the focus of the presentation was Time Inc.’s digital shift. "Everybody stay calm," Moore said, "this is a great business we’re in." Topline growth for the company has been flat or in the single digits in the past few years, according to Moore, which led to a strategic shift company-wide. "We need to wake up and get our industry going again," she encouraged the audience.
In the early days of the Internet, Moore noted, it was ISPs that were all the rage. Now, search and portals rule. "It is still about the consumer whether it’s offline, online, old media or new media," she said. "It’s about building trusted, deep, vertical content experiences. The question is, how do you become their favorite bookmark?"
Time Inc.’s new digital strategy stresses the concept of "When to Play," focusing on what type of information consumers are seeking online. The three-step strategy starts with building a great product, building an audience and then monetizing that audience, said Moore.
Collaborations, such as the company’s joint venture with CNN to form CNNMoney.com and Sports Illustrated’s partnerships with NBC Sports and Yahoo! Fantasy, are extremely valuable, according to Moore. "Digital profit growth [for SI] has tripled. It’s great to see a brand grow again after a decade of being flat."
However, print is not going anywhere, she said. "Consumers aren’t throwing away magazines to go online. They are now just consuming everything," she said. "Magazine ads are still preferred over TV and Internet ads. Print should remain firmly in the minds of our advertisers."
The transition into the digital realm has not been perfect. Moore briefly addressed the number of layoffs at Time Inc. over the past 18 months. "I’m so disappointed. We closed six bureaus around the world," she said, and noted that the company is hiring in the digital space.
Moore also discussed pulling the plug on humor Web site Office Pirates last summer, saying "We killed it because it was never going to be SI.com big." Moore also said that she doesn’t think the company has failed enough, and new product development is an important part of overall strategy. "Steering an organization through change is hard," she said. "We’ve made great progress and there is still much more to do."