It was reported in late November that Time Inc., the publisher of popular magazines and websites, including Time, PEOPLE, and xoJane, rejected a $1.8 billion buyout bid led by a consortium of media investors. Many in the industry have wondered why anyone would be interested in print journalism, a dying American industry. The answer? Brands, now more than ever, matter.
As the barriers to entry have declined in many industries, brand equity is often the only thing separating a great, reliable company from a sham.
Recently, Spotify has been forced to invest heavily in hiring music critics who can make trendy playlists. With over 30 million songs on the platform and countless other music streaming services available, it’s up to Spotify to distinguish itself as the service that can separate the hits from the duds.
Or consider CNN, which just re-signed Anderson Cooper to a new contract. Anyone now has the capability to share and consume news, so it’s up to news outlets to invest in talent that conveys trust.
Time Inc. currently has over 100 recognizable and relevant media brands globally, covering subjects from yachts to celebrities. Today, it’s incredibly hard to create a singular brand in a noisy world, let alone a collection of them.
If given the opportunity to reinvest in their brand like Spotify and CNN did, the magazine conglomerate could have an incredible runway of growth ahead of them. Their strategy for the future seems to be based in video, as evidenced by Instant, a “mobile-first video-only service” they unveiled this summer.
In a world full of cable-cutters and, more importantly, magazine-subscription-cutters, Time Inc. seems well-positioned for the digital video marketplace. Imagine an OTT service of channels around sports, news, celebrities, and food. But instead of ESPN, CNN, E!, and the Food Network, it’s Sports Illustrated, Time, PEOPLE, and FOOD & WINE.
The strength of these individual brands alone could transform Time Inc. into a full-fledged digital video company. It would be incredibly hard for a fledgling upstart to take on established television powerhouses. Yet, Time Inc.’s brands’ entrenched fan bases give the company a head start.
Alternatively, some of these brands could launch as cable networks, still a robust business. NFL ratings are down this year, along with other leagues. Sky just announced that they will no longer invest as heavily in sports rights. Similar to CNN’s strategy of airing original programming when there’s not news showing, sports networks are investing more in documentaries and non-rights programming. If stories are more cost-effective than rights, Sports Illustrated is suddenly the hottest sports brand in the world. They hold a treasure trove of IP stemming from their decades of reporting. Several weeks ago, they published a well-reviewed story of a Green Bay Packer who happened to be a serial killer. Content like this could easily be adapted for television.
The enduring power of Time Inc.’s brands will prove to be invaluable in today’s cluttered media environment. Rather than seeing magazines, people need to start seeing brands, something that transcends old and new media.
Image credit: Wikimedia/Time Inc.