Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp made waves in a New York magazine story when he said “magazines, as a print business, will ultimately die.”
Today, he clarified: They’ll actually be around for another 25 years, but Time Inc. “has an opportunity to grow by saying ‘we’re not just in print.’”
Ripp, interviewed by Peter Kafka at Re/code’s Code Media series in New York, said he believes the storied magazine company -- publisher of People and Sports Illustrated -- has the capital with $4 billion raised and $300 million in free cash flow to make the transition from magazine publisher to multi-platform media company.
Time Inc. has been standalone public company since June. In the interview, Ripp said that very little had been done over the years to even attempt the transition. “Print has been in decline for seven years, but to deal with it you have to confront it,” he said. “As this business has been declining very little has been invested back into it.”
Some of these investments will go into print. Ripp said he decided to spend an additional $6 million a year on heavier paper stock for People. “We wanted it to look better on the newsstand, to look better to readers and better for advertisers,” he said.
But Ripp says the company is on the hunt for digital investments, but probably not the likes of Vice and Buzzfeed, which have been valued at $2.5 billion and $850 million, respectively. “We are back at 1999 in a crazy bubble,” he said.
Ripp is looking at startups in the $30 million revenue range that could use Time Inc.’s platform to scale to the next level. “Marketing is free for me,” he said. “I can reach half the U.S. adult population for nothing.”
In addition to acquisitions, Ripp said Time Inc. wants to emulate the traffic-building techniques of some of some of its Web-only competition. “Some of the things Buzzfeed are doing is quite interesting,” he said.
Like the Huffington Post, Forbes.com and others, Time Inc. is building its own “contributor network” where unpaid writers can submit stories. “The top four stories on Time right now are from contributors,” he said.
Ripp said a leaked memo that appeared to suggest editors and writers be evaluated on the value their content provides to advertisers was misconstrued. That, combined with a reorganization that had editors report to the business side, was held up as signs of the end of an editorial tradition at Time Inc.
Not exactly the case, Ripp said. Rather, editors can't be the sole stewards of the brand and must be more collaborative with the business side. “We want editors that create the right content that attracts the right audience and the right advertisers,” Ripp said. “The editors are working very hard right now to save this business and make it thrive.”