Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Time Inc.’s Ann Moore Makes the Case for Magazines–And Is Glad She’s Not in Newspapers

Ann Moore, who runs Time Warner’s (TWX) Time Inc. spent last fall overseeing a lengthy series of reorgs and layoffs. But she’s starting off this year on a better note: Yesterday she received a lifetime achievement award from the magazine industry’s trade group.

Here’s an excerpt from the acceptance speech she delivered at the Magazine Publishers of America luncheon. I’m reprinting it here (with her staff’s help) because I think it’s a nice summation of why many of us are dismayed to see what’s happening to traditional media.

But I also think Moore’s argument–that quality magazines/newspapers/journalism will survive because society needs them to–doesn’t hold up.

The more I chew on this stuff, the more I fear that we’re headed for a bifurcated world: People with a lot of resources will get access to high-quality information. Everyone else will get free stuff that has little value. More on that later, and often.

First, I’m grateful in these crazy times that our readers have not abandoned us. On the contrary, readership of magazines is up. And at Time inc our circulation and net profit was up in 2008.

Consumers are still reading…. and buying…. It’s true — we had to go back on press four times for Time’s person of the year Obama issue. Let’s not forget 85 percent of adults in this country still read magazines

And I believe more than ever, especially during times like these, people will turn to trusted content and trusted brands. Am I the only person to notice that even “60 Minutes” has returned to the top ten tv shows?

Second, I’m grateful that print advertising is still very effective. The best [return on investment] is a media mix. So our core businesses—-print magazines–remain very effective vehicles for advertising messages in building brand awareness and purchase intent. That’ s a fact.

Third, I’m grateful that the basic need for fact-based information will not go away. Good editors will be needed more–not less– in an age of too much information. The public will increasingly understand the need for fact-based reporting…because sketchy information can lead to trouble.

The fastest way to turn a college classroom on the subject is to remind them of the price they paid for the rumor of weapons of mass destruction. We have somehow failed to teach the millenials that trustworthy information is essential for the free markets to thrive…

This is not a new problem for society, by the way. Mark Twain complained, ‘a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. ‘ Wouldn’t Twain be amazed that it can now travel almost at the speed of light?

Real reporting takes expertise, wisdom and judgement. That’s why i still believe great news brands will be standing…like those in the Time and Life building — when the economic recovery comes.

And finally I’m also grateful that we’re not in the newspaper business…although i’m rooting hard for them. A world without newspaper journalism is not a better world.

I believe our children will eventually understand that all content can’t be free.Someone has to pay for a Baghdad bureau in the red zone. For investigative reporting. For fact checking. A world without journalism is not a better world.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald