The hardtracking staff has noted on numerous occasions Time Inc.’s pimping out its editorial content to advertisers.

Now comes Exhibit Umpteen, via Gawker.

Time Inc. Rates Writers on How “Beneficial” They Are to Advertisers

Time Inc. has fallen on hard times. Would you believe that this once-proud magazine publishing empire is now explicitly rating its editorial employees based on how friendly their writing is to advertisers?

Last year—in the opposite of a vote of confidence—Time Warner announced that it would spin off Time Inc. into its own company, an act of jettisoning print publications once and for all. Earlier this year, the company laid off 500 employees (and more layoffs are coming soon). And, most dramatically of all, Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp now requires his magazine’s editors to report to the business side of the company, a move that signals the full-scale dismantling of the traditional wall between the advertising and editorial sides of the company’s magazines.

The unkindest cut of all? A Time Inc. spreadsheet that ranks writer/editors according to this criterion: “Produces content that [is] beneficial to advertiser relationship.”

Go nuts graf:

Anthony Napoli, a union representative with the Newspaper Guild, tells us: “Time Inc. actually laid off Sports Illustrated writers based on the criteria listed on that chart. Writers who may have high assessments for their writing ability, which is their job, were in fact terminated based on the fact the company believed their stories did not ‘produce content that is beneficial to advertiser relationships.’”

As night follows day, Sports Illustrated spokesman Scott Novak sent this statement to Gawker:

“The Guild’s interpretation is misleading and takes one category out of context. The SI.com evaluation was conducted in response to the Guild’s requirement for our rationale for out of seniority layoffs. As such, it encompasses all of the natural considerations for digital media. It starts and ends with journalistic expertise, while including reach across all platforms and appeal to the marketplace. SI’s editorial content is uncompromised and speaks for itself.”

That is some world-class gobbledygook.

Time magazine founder Henry Luce, who pimped out his magazine empire to Italian fascism in the run-up to World War II, would no doubt approve.


John Carroll, who also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town, is a media analyst and mass communication professor at Boston University.
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