New Design and Ad Rate Set for Time Magazine

November 10, 2006 at 10:45 pm (Uncategorized)

From The New York Times

For years Time magazine had a seemingly insurmountable lead in circulation over other weekly news magazines, but now that lead is narrowing.

Time said yesterday that starting in January it would cut its rate base — the number of readers it guarantees to advertisers — by 18.8 percent, to 3.25 million, from 4 million. The advertising rates charged by a magazine generally rise and fall based on that number.

But Time also said it wanted to persuade advertisers to switch to a new way of paying for ads, based on the total number of magazine readers, including those who read someone else’s copy. On that basis, Time says it has 19.5 million readers.

Time also said yesterday that it would increase its newsstand price by $1, to $4.95, starting in January. About 116,000 copies of the magazine are sold on average at newsstands.

Editors at Time are working on a redesign to be introduced in January, along with a change in the day the magazine hits newsstands, to Friday from Monday. Also, 800,000 of what Time determines to be its wealthiest readers will receive added style, travel and leisure content once a month. Time will pitch that magazine version to high-end advertisers.

The magazine’s announcement comes after months of tumultuous changes at Time, part of the Time Inc. division of Time Warner. Time Inc. has reduced the staff at all of its publications by 550 in the last year.

This year Time hired a new managing editor, Richard Stengel, with a mission to reinvent the magazine. It also hired Josh Tyrangiel to revive its Web site. Time and other weekly magazines have struggled to stay relevant against the Internet, cable channels and daily news.

Time’s publisher, Edward R. McCarrick, said the changes represented a monumental shift in magazine accountability. Some in the media industry have said that ads should be sold based on estimates of the total number of people who read a magazine, a system that would be similar to TV ratings.

Currently, magazine ads are sold based on the number of people who subscribe or buy the magazine on the newsstand. Mr. McCarrick said if advertisers agreed to switch to the new system, Time advertisers would be able to purchase space in the magazine based on a guaranteed number of 19.5 million readers starting next year, and the way the rate would be calculated would give advertisers more for their money.

“I don’t think the number of readers has gone down. That’s a number we are comfortable guaranteeing,” he said. “We’re doing something really bold and direct, which is throwing down the gauntlet.”

Previously, Mr. McCarrick said, Time’s rate base counts included people who received magazines through a variety of channels that other publications still use, including magazines sponsored by advertisers and sent out unrequested.

Earlier this year, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which reports magazine circulation, began requiring magazines to break out the number of magazines in their circulation that go to places like doctors’ offices. Time magazine’s figure for such magazines was 350,623 out of about 4.1 million magazines sold in the first half of this year.

Newsweek magazine, in contrast, did not have such copies to report. Richard M. Smith, editor in chief of Newsweek, which is owned by the Washington Post Company, said he knew that Time had been looking at its rate base numbers for a while, just as his own magazine had.

“We continue to look carefully at the rate base, and I think for everyone in the magazine business the postal rate increases have been dramatic over the last few years, and we’re facing another increase of 12 percent in 2007. So that forces you to look at the economics of your circulation,” he said. “The other thing is, for both Time and Newsweek, the Web has provided both a very large audience and substantial advertising revenues.”

Time’s total circulation was up about 1.2 percent in the first half of this year compared with 2005. In contrast, the circulation of Newsweek fell 1.8 percent in the first half of this year, to about 3.1 million.

Some in the industry said Time’s reduction in its estimated readership was not surprising. Other magazines, including Reader’s Digest and Playboy, have also cut their base rates as circulations declined.

“Magazines are evolving to a kick-back medium from a news medium,” said Joe Mandese, editor of MediaPost in New York, an online and print trade publication. “Time is saying with the change that it’s not a start-your-week publication, it’s a kick-back, over-the-weekend publication, and is for news.”



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