THE SPIN CYCLE — Time – Like other media outlets in our digital world – blurs line between news and advertising
by Todd Smith
Published: June 13,2014
Another media outlet has bitten the dust, and blurred that time-honored line between the news and advertising side of journalism – featuring ads on the front page/front cover.
Time Inc., the nation’s largest magazine publisher, is now running Verizon Wireless ads on the cover of two of its most iconic titles, Time and Sports Illustrated. The ads are tiny, but their arrival puts a big crack in the longstanding tradition that kept ads off magazine covers.
The industry’s major players have until now almost entirely resisted pressure to sell cover ads, despite a strong need for new revenue in recent years. That’s partly because ads on covers violate widely-observed guidelines from the American Society of Magazine Editors, but also because most editors believed in those guidelines, which are meant to emphasize and protect editorial independence from marketers.
The Time and Sports Illustrated cover ads, which are likely to both arouse consternation and encourage others to follow, come soon before Time Inc. begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange as a public company, spun off from Time Warne, to fend for itself.
They were originally scheduled to run in early May on Time’s annual Time 100 double issue, which featured Beyonce on the cover, but complications with that plan delayed them until the Friday, May 27th issue. Sports Illustrated hit with cover ads on June 2.
For now the area devoted to the ads is very small: subscribers may notice a Verizon logo in the mailing label area, next to the words “For Best Results Use Verizon” and a page number for a traditional ad. Newsstand copies will print the ad by the bar code, although there won’t even be room there for the page number of the interior ad, according to a Time Inc. spokeswoman.
But, Time Inc. has pitched media buyers on ads that would run across the bottom of its magazines’ covers, according to people who have seen mockups. The company is also shopping around a “native placement” ad for the table of contents. As editorial territory, the table of contents is also usually considered off-limits to ads.
Other magazines have experimented with ads that involved covers to varying degrees. Conde Nast, for instance, attached full-page promotions for Microsoft’s Windows 8 to covers of 14 titles in 2012. The company claimed they weren’t paid ads for Windows 8, but unpaid promos for Windows 8 content that were merely “coordinated” with a massive paid campaign.
And Scholastic Parent & Child began selling ads directly on its covers in 2009, promoting brands such as Juicy Juice, SunnyD Smoothies and PediaSure. But a publishing company of Time Inc.’s size and stature hasn’t previously sold ads directly on its covers.
Time executives spent time recently on a road show to drum up interest among investors. Their pitch involved showing that Time Inc. – which has seen revenue declines consistent with the print industry – is willing to experiment with new advertising products.
Cover ads will likely be listed on Time Inc. rate cards, which give the stated cost of various ads in the company’s magazines.
First-quarter ad revenue at Time Inc. was essentially flat at $390 million, with overall revenue climbing 1 percent from the quarter a year prior to $745 million. But much of the growth stemmed from its acquisition last year of American Express Publishing, which includes the luxury titles Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine. Minus the additional cash from those titles, revenue would have fallen 5 percent, with ad sales down 7 percent.
Fortune Social Register Ranks Most Influential Executives On Social Media
Fortune has launched its inaugural annual Social Register, picking the most experienced, active, influential, and followed members of the business community. Call them socialites; call them social butterflies. Here’s the Top 10:
1. Bill Gates
The Microsoft co-founder has always been a technophile, and it’s no surprise that he’s an active Twitter user. But he shines when tweeting figures about the philanthropic issues that are near to his heart, from rural poverty to urban education.
2. Oprah Winfrey
Chief executive of the cable television network that bears her name, Winfrey demonstrates that she can excite her community without the need for a daytime talk show. Call it a #lifeclass in staying relevant.
3. Richard Branson
It comes as no surprise that the social accounts of free-spirit Virgin Group co-founder Richard Branson are filled with spaceship riding, deep-sea diving, and – wait, was that a picture of him kite-surfing with a model on his back?
4. Russell Simmons
They called comedian Henny Youngman “King of the One-Liners.” You could call the Def Jam co-founder the same for his meditative tweets. “Needing nothing attracts everything,” he writes. With more than 3 million followers, he’s right.
5. Martha Stewart
There’s only one person on this list who can credibly tweet out a photo of a mushroom to wide acclaim. Whether on the farm or backstage waiting for her cue, the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia chairwoman knows her audience.
6. Vijay Mallya
The UB Group chairman lives life in the fast lane – literally. He’s principal of the Sahara Force India Formula 1 racing team, and his social channels track his team’s progress in and out of the pit. All that’s missing is the burning rubber.
7. Arianna Huffington
According to the president and editor-in-chief of AOL’s Huffington Post Media Group, there are better ways to sleep, eat, work, converse, and vacation. Follow Huffington and you’ll get plenty of advice on how to live the good life.
8. Mark Cuban
Three words: Pulls. No. Punches. The AXS TV chief executive, Dallas Mavericks owner, and serial entrepreneur has no problem sharing his opinions (and the successes of his myriad companies) with the masses.
9. Padmasree Warrior
She’s known for her prominent role in technology, but Cisco’s chief technology officer is all about the arts in her social efforts, from Banksy to biker jackets to – well, binary code. (Two out of three ain’t bad.)
10. Tim O’Reily
If you’re in the technology business, it feels as if the O’Reilly Media CEO is always watching. And he is. Follow him for measured thoughts on business models, industry culture, and alpha geekery.
Golden Mic | GM CEO Mary Barra, Owning Up To Auto Maker Crisis
Stepping forward to publicly address faults in ignition switches that were linked to 12 deaths when GM car engines and power suddenly switched off, CEO Mary Barra has earned solid reviews from peers and management experts. She held a press conference and met with reporters to apologize, is cooperating with regulatory authorities, and is trying to manage reactions from GM employees, customers and shareholders.
Having been in her CEO role only since Jan. 15, Barra has pledged to fix the faulty ignition switches and launch an investigation to explain why the automaker failed to correct a problem that it knew existed for 10 years.
Companies that are not being open and taking responsibility are a big reason for public distrust of corporate America. Conversely, “by being proactive and open, Barra generates goodwill for GM and is also setting part of the narrative,” which is what a CEO should do during a crisis, said David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision crisis communications agency.
“The old GM would have tried to distance itself from this,” said Jim Olson, former head of U.S. public relations for Toyota and now a professor at Winthrop University. But “you have to embrace problems to learn from them — not try to bury them,” he said.
For stepping up to the plate on this crisis, Barra can now step up to the stage and take this week’s Golden Mic!
Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!
» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm – based in Nashville, Tenn. – is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him @spinsurgeon and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners
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