Print's Dead For Life, Will Live Online

Another magazine joined the litany of Time Inc. closures Monday, with the announcement that Life--reincarnated a third time as a weekly newspaper supplement in October 2004--has died. The April 20 issue will be its last. Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore explained in a memo: "The market has moved dramatically since October 2004 and it is no longer appropriate to continue publication of Life as a newspaper supplement."

As with previous magazine closures, Time Inc. will maintain a Web presence for the Life brand, according to Moore, "including a new photographic portal making millions of Life photos available to the public." The magazine possesses an enormous library of about 12 million photographs, including many by famous 20th-century artists. The brand will also continue to publish hardcover and softcover books.

Although it's more bad news for Time Inc.'s print operations, media buyers say the closing has more to do with the newspaper-distribution model than the overall health of the consumer-magazine business. "It's a difficult approach to take on, in light of the problems in the newspaper industry," says Audrea Fulton, vice president and director of print for Carat USA, who pointed to print newspapers' declining circulations and generally stagnant ad revenue as indicators of reader interest.

Similarly, Roberta Garfinkle, senior vice president and director of print strategy for TargetCast tcm, says: "It's particular to the genre. The whole newspaper-distributed supplement category is going to be hard for a newcomer to break into."

For one thing, Garfinkle explains, "there are already a couple publications doing this, and doing this fairly well," including USA Weekend and Parade. In an effort to differentiate Life from these competitors, Time Inc. chose a Friday distribution schedule, but "given the nature of the medium, I'm not sure that's enough." Relative newcomers in the category which have proved successful, such as American Profile, did so by "targeting C and D counties that weren't being served by the other supplements," she notes.

Rumors circulated last fall that Time was contemplating closing the title for a third time, but Monday's announcement came as something of a surprise to industry observers. In 2006, the title increased circulation by 1 million through a new partnership with The Washington Post, and ad pages were up 5.5% compared to 2005, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Things took a sudden dismal turn in the first two months of 2007; in January and February, ad pages were down 21.3%, compared to the same period of 2006.

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