Three top magazine editors at premier brands out in the space of a week. One each at Condé Nast, Hearst and Time Inc. The latest is Nancy Gibbs, the editor of Time magazine for the last four years, someone who noticeably invigorated her brand, made news and introduced valuable new brand extensions.
Gibbs, the first-ever female editor of the century-old Time magazine, told a variety of news organizations that she wanted to explore new opportunities. In that, she sounded similar to both Graydon Carter, the longtime editor of Vanity Fair, who resigned last week and told the New York Times that he wanted a “third act.” Time is precious.” Carter’s first act, of course, had been as a co-founder of Spy magazine, one of the truly notable (if short-lived) magazines of the last 50 years. Spy famously lampooned Donald Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian.”
Meanwhile, Robbie Myers, longtime editor of Elle, announced earlier this week she’s leaving after 17 years. In a note to staff, she cited a desire to spend more time with her family. But WWD reported that more high-profile departures are coming at Hearst.
And perhaps that’s the connective thread among all three of these departures and others that might be coming. Time Inc. is enduring an extended period of turmoil, and although Gibbs did much to restore the luster of her brand, the long-term outlook for newsweeklies is bleak. Carter was said to have been wary of downsizings to come at Conde Nast, having had the clout so far to cling to the old ways of glossy magazines, which is to say huge salaries, huge staffs, expense accounts, town cars and the like.
That magazine industry, for the vast majority of brands, is long gone. It lives on in outposts like parts of Condé Nast and Hearst, but it can’t live on forever. It’s pretty much gone at Time Inc., once the most prestigious magazine-journalism company on the planet. Time Inc., a public company since 2014, has performed poorly during those years—and well before then too. Condé Nast and Hearst are private companies, making it harder to assess their financial performance, but the magazine industry overall has been pummeled non-stop for the last decade.
The industry is adaptive and resilient, for sure. Scores of its brands are the most influential and still-powerful media brands in the country, but the economics are in turmoil and the media industry seems always a step behind the innovations of the technology/media hybrids, especially the duopoly of Facebook and Google.
Put aside the old notion of big news coming in threes. We predict more of the high-profile departures of the last week.