Not only is Time magazine changing its publication date – from Monday to Friday – but it’s also planning big changes in the way it covers the news. After decades of concentrating on the week’s hard news it’s going to give more space to essays and analysis of the news. Much like its big rival Newsweek. The reasoning: More people today get their hard news from television or from the internet.
The magazine’s new managing editor, Richard Stengel, in an interview with the NY Times, put it this way: “We’ve traditionally been a mirror…we more and more have to be a lamp.”
His plan – in addition to more essays and news analysis – is to give the magazine a sharper point of view and use more “brand-name” journalists – which is what Newsweek has been doing lately. Already he has hired Ana Marie Cox, an American journalist who made her name by writing very opinionated pieces on a website called Wonkette. Also there are likely to be more cover stories like the one Time ran last week about the Middle East entitled The Way Out
Also it’s reported that Time is considering cutting back on its official circulation. That would be a dramatic change. But according to Mediaweek several top Time executives over the past year have held meetings to discuss ways of altering the magazine’s circulation strategy. At one meeting its was suggested that Time should do away with its current rate base by cutting back its guaranteed circulation by as much as 25 per cent At the moment Time’s circulation is listed at 4 million Chopping back a quarter would put it at roughly the same level as Newsweek
Actually many in the magazine industry believe that rate bases are an anachronism. As one expert Rebecca MacPheters, who heads a consulting and research firm, put it: “These days.the value to the advertiser is not the number of copies or how they are paid for or distributed but rather who reads the magazine and who buys the advertiser’s product” She hailed Time’s possible switch as a “brave thing” to do, one that would be an exciting development for the industry.
As for anyone emulating Time and switching publication dates so far no other American news weekly has said it will follow Time’s example. Advertisers, it’s felt. may find a Friday publication day more appealing because a fresh issue would be on news stands all weekend – which is when many consumers do their shopping. One possible flaw though is the common practice in Washington of releasing politically damaging news late on Fridays – which could mean some stories would be too late to make that week’s issue. But that doesn’t seem to worry Time’s new managing editor. “How much of that bad news of Friday afternoon do we have in the magazine on Monday?” he asked. “Not much really. That’s why the internet was invented” .