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Time Inc. Is “Ripping” Away The Past And Getting Ready For The Next 100 Years. An Exclusive Mr. Magazine™ One-Hour Conversation With Joe Ripp, CEO and Chairman, Time Inc.

September 12, 2014

“I’ve been very clear; I think print is around for the next 25 years. Print will be around for a long time. It’s in a slow decline. There’s always going to be room for someone to sit down with a magazine on a cozy afternoon and read a great magazine. That is always going to go on.” Joe Ripp

The first book I read when I arrived in the United States in 1978, as a graduate student, was Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise by Robert T. Elson. Joe Ripp, current CEO of Time Inc. is reading the same book now. Not that he needs to, but it is a very good refresher history into the ins and outs of a company that was, is and always will be more than “just a magazine company.”

Joe Ripp – CEO & Chairman of the company, returned in September 2013. Joe started with Time Inc. in 1985 and spent many years involved in the digital aspects of the company, along with advertising and publishing. Mr. Ripp is quick to remind you that Henry Luce has created much more than magazines. From newsletters to newsreels, Luce used all the media platforms available to dispense the different content that was created by the folks at Time Inc.

So when people mention to Joe Ripp that Henry Luce would be turning in his grave with all the changes Time Inc. is making today, Mr. Ripp is quick to answer that Luce would be turning in his grave if we were not engaged in all these changes. “After all, Henry Luce was a multi-platform person himself and we ought to be.”

Samir Husni and Joe Ripp I reached out to Mr. Ripp on a recent trip to New York City and over a one hour conversation in his new executive office on the second floor of the Time-Life building (the former private dinning room for Anne Moore, Time Inc.’s former CEO) we discussed the power of the Time Inc. brand, the role of the Internet in today’s publishing world and where the future of the brand is heading for the next 100 years. His answers were open, honest and very informative. A man who believes the audience and how they want to consume their content always comes first; Joe Ripp knows Time Inc. and that audience just like a childhood friend. The bond between the man and the magazine is palpable.

So before you take some “time” to sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ one-hour conversation with Joe Ripp, click on the video below to watch the Mr. Magazine™ Minute with Joe Ripp and hear what the CEO of Time Inc. has to say about the many false perceptions surrounding the company.



Now for the sound-bites…

On how he plans to utilize the power of the brand to achieve even more success today and in the future: I come at it with a fundamental belief that there is real value in brands. Brands have always driven consumer interest, consumer affection; consumer purchasing power is created with brands, because brands convey to us a sense of trust, a sense of quality in what they are.

On why the publishing world didn’t follow the same business model as cable TV when it came to the Internet:
I have no idea why. I know that when the Internet first came out there were a lot of people dismissing it, a lot of people saying that it wasn’t going to work; some people called it a Black Hole, as I recall.

On Sports Illustrated’s continued success and creativeness:
They’ve been very inventive in thinking how else can I get high quality content and information to consumers of sports and maybe that’s the brand.

On whether mobile technology will be the future of the brand:
I don’t see mobile as the future, because it has its own problems, but I think there is more and more people who are going to access mobile and if you create the kind of great, quality content that people are looking to consume on mobile, they’ll come back to you and your brand.

joseph_ripp On whether today’s editors and publishers in the media world understand the value of data:
I would think that most of them don’t. I came from the big data industry, so I understand what’s going on with big data and I understand how data is really changing the way B to B sales work.

On millennials not getting their important content from the web: Right, because there is so much silliness on the web. The world is collectively wasting its time, people sharing just a bunch of things. But the reality is there is also important information that we produce and we think we’ve got great, quality content.

On whether Time Inc.’s print editions will ever disappear forever:
I’ve been very clear; I think print is around for the next 25 years. Print will be around for a long time. It’s in a slow decline.

On the role book-a-zines play in Time Inc.’s present and future:
Book-a-zines are very, very topical, they’re very high-priced as you know, and they’re very profitable for every publisher that does them with us.

On the most pleasant surprise he faced when he came back to the company:
The most pleasant surprise that faced me when I came back? That I’ve still got a great company, with great people, the talent is still here, that the enthusiasm for this company is stronger than ever.

On his biggest stumbling block:
The biggest stumbling block, quite frankly, is just can we change fast enough? I don’t think we’re moving fast enough. I’m impatient on that.

On what keeps him up at night:
The reality is that I work very, very hard and think about where this company is going. You worry about if you can move it fast enough with the decline so that the investors will leave the cash.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Joe Ripp, CEO & Chairman, Time Inc.


Samir Husni: In a few years you’ll be celebrating 100 years of Time Inc. As you get ready to celebrate this momentous milestone, you have brands, they were magazines, but now they’re brands; how are you going to utilize the power of these brands to achieve even more success?

Joe Ripp: I come at it with a fundamental belief that there is real value in brands. Brands have always driven consumer interest, consumer affection; consumer purchasing power is created with brands, because brands convey to us a sense of trust, a sense of quality in what they are. And Time Inc.’s brands have always stood for quality, for trust, for respected journalism, for incredible information; whatever it is, our brands have stood for that. That’s why we can get $115 a year for People magazine, because it’s a good magazine with really good quality content.

I think what you’re going to see moving forward are those brands manifesting themselves in other places. When I came back to Time Inc., I was talking to Jeff Bewkes and he asked me: what do you think the company missed, this is before I even knew he was talking to me about a job. I told him when I left Time Inc. 14 years ago, the magazine had this ad campaign on the air, and it was very effective. It said: join the conversation, Time Magazine. When I was down at AOL a new technology was deployed for the first time in the history of the human race; the human race could now actually have a conversation about every topic they want to talk about and they could find groups of people who wanted to talk about that same topic.

Time Inc. didn’t join the conversation. It was still printed pages pushing out the opinions of its editors and it didn’t engage in a conversation with those audiences who now wanted to really talk about all those things that the magazine was covering. And had the magazine simply understood what it was, a subject matter expert that really had important things to say in that conversation and had embraced that conversation more readily, it probably would have been a lot more successful. But because of the AOL merger, because of Turner, because of a lot of things, Time Inc. was told no, don’t join the conversation, you’re still editors pushing things out.

And I think that’s the change; that’s the only thing the company missed and it’s not too late for that. We’ve been able to demonstrate when we started thinking about the conversation, for example, Time.com is doing very well right now. I had a group of millennials here, around 150 of them we had for interns, and some of them said, “My favorite website has become Time.com.” And they weren’t sucking up to me, it was private conversations. They just wanted me to know it had become their favorite.

There is no reason in the world why Time with its brilliant content can’t reach audiences in the way they want to consume their content. We just haven’t tried as hard as we should have in the past, because we had this sense that we were editors pushing out this one-sided conversation. That’s changed now. We’re now embracing those audiences and going after those crowds and making sure we’re a part of the dialogue going on out there.

When Rick (Stengel) put on the cover of Time Magazine Jamie Lynne Grumet breast-feeding her child, there were probably a billion conversations around the world about that cover, it was one of the most widely reported covers that we’ve ever done and I think it was on every TV show that week, every news program, but none of that conversation came back to us, because we didn’t have the technology or the outreach, but it fueled massive amounts of social conversation and sharing; yet none of it came back to us. Why? Why would we let that happen?

Samir Husni: If that cover had been digital-only; do you think it would have generated as much buzz?

Joe Ripp: No, if it wasn’t TIME Magazine it wouldn’t have generated that much buzz. If it would have been Gawker or BuzzFeed, any of those other guys out there, it wouldn’t have generated that kind of controversy. It was Time Magazine and the respect that the brand has that allowed it to generate that kind of controversy and covered that subject in an important way. It was the brand that created that.

Samir Husni: So what went wrong? When I look back into the history of Time Inc., you founded HBO…

Joe Ripp: When I first started, we put the money into it, $20 million.

Samir Husni: And you went to the utility companies and said, “You wire this home, they’ll pay you $9 and we’ll split the money.” Why didn’t we follow the same model with the Internet?

Joe Ripp: I have no idea why. I know that when the Internet first came out there were a lot of people dismissing it, a lot of people saying that it wasn’t going to work; some people called it a Black Hole, as I recall. (Laughs)

The reality is that the Internet fundamentally changed the way we all consume content and get information. It may fundamentally change the way democracy works in the future, who knows? None of us know if the Internet is a good thing. The founding fathers created the Senate and the House. The Senate was supposed to protect us from crowds, so the crowds couldn’t do all the nutty things that crowds sometimes do. Well the nuts can all find themselves on the Internet. So the Internet can be a very powerful force for good, like in education, because it brings the world’s libraries to the rest of the world, but it can also be a very powerful force for evil, because all the nuts can find each other. So I don’t think the story of the Internet has been written yet.

But I do think that Time Inc. can play a very active role in the Internet with the digitization of assets and content and our ability to reach consumers. We have right now 83 million unique’s and it’s going up rapidly. We’re redoing all of our websites. When I came in, quite frankly, all of the websites were pretty awful. They didn’t have a lot of video content. You couldn’t share or comment on the stories; you couldn’t do all of the things that you’re supposed to be able to do.

You look at our iPad edition; what is it? It’s a PDF version of our magazine. Why would you take that device with all of its wonderful features and technology and do a PDF version?

So if you got TIME Magazine right now, I think you’d see a lot more singing and dancing and a lot more video on the iPad edition. What we’re trying to do is utilize the devices, utilize the way people want to consume our content and reach them and it’s one of the reasons we have a big video initiative going one. We’re producing thousands and thousands of videos now in this organization and that’s going to go up even more dramatically next year because video is an important component of the way we tell stories and people want to consume video. They want to see it on their phones and sit at the airport and watch them.

Samir Husni: In your interview last week, you mentioned that you want the company to look at SI as the guiding light of the video…

Joe Ripp: I wouldn’t call them the guiding light because then they’ll get their heads too expanded. (Laughs) What I want to look at them and say is I wish more of my company was like you, because they’ve been in a scrappy, competitive environment for years with ESPN. Sports are all over television, it’s one of the biggest things on television. Advertisers love it because it’s safe, reliable content; you don’t have to worry about anything when you advertise on an NFL football game. And I think it’s a great opportunity for growth. SI, because they’ve been scrappy, has done a lot of work creating new products and services, newsletters, new websites; the SI Swimsuit Issue has become a major business by itself; they’re doing an awful lot to promote the brand and expand the audience that they’re reaching. You know, we just got into FanNation and we did the 120 sports deal with the leagues, created two minutes of sports clips, about 8 hours a day of that and it was distributed on cell phones.

They’ve been very inventive in thinking how else can I get high quality content and information to consumers of sports and maybe that’s the brand. Extra mustard goes out and you don’t really know that’s SI, it’s just a newsletter. Then MMQB from Peter King, which is a newsletter that goes out from him, very widely read. What we’re doing is saying we’ve got this great content, how else can we find audiences for it, how else can we distribute it and advertisers are willing to promote it with us.

Samir Husni: One thing I’ve always said is we have two competitors out there: time (not the magazine) and attention span. And when we read and see that 50% of people in Europe, and I just saw the statistics today, access the web through their mobile phones and cell phones, rather than the desktops or laptops; do you think the future of the brand is going to be in mobile technology?

Joe Ripp: I think it’s a problem for everyone, because people are asking, how can I track it; the amount of tracking going on right now is enormous. Everybody is tracking everyone’s behaviors, but on the mobile market it makes it a lot harder to track behaviors and the results of advertising.

In addition, you have to be a lot more creative about it, because how many times have you looked at an ad on your mobile phone? Not so often, right? So you have to be more creative. I don’t see mobile as the future, because it has its own problems, but I think there is more and more people who are going to access mobile and if you create the kind of great, quality content that people are looking to consume on mobile, they’ll come back to your brand on websites, on printed editions, newsletters and whatever else.

I think mobile becomes just another form of distribution, but what people haven’t developed yet is what’s the real monetization formula for mobile. That’s a little harder; because advertisers can’t get the specific kind of information they think they’re getting at websites.

The reality is that we’re working very hard right now to find a chief data officer, because I believe that we have this huge data base, we track 150 million U.S. adults, we have billions of interactions a year with people; there’s a way for us to monetize that in ways that others have. One of the reasons that Facebook is doing so well is because of the data that they provide back to advertisers. I think that data can be an important component of what we can help advertisers to see: that we can be just as effective for them, so I think you’ll see a lot more of that coming.

And mobile can be data-sourced, data-collection efforts, so you can understand what’s going on. There are ways that once you tag people, if you tag it right, you can get a sense of generally where a person went, here or there, so you can get a lot more information for advertisers.

Samir Husni: Do you think our current crop of editors and publishers in the magazine industry as a whole, not necessarily just at Time Inc., have an understanding of how valuable that data is?

Joe Ripp: I would think that most of them don’t. I came from the big data industry, so I understand what’s going on with big data and I understand how data is really changing the way B to B sales work. It’s certainly changing the way B to C sales is working. And I think there’s a huge opportunity for us in the data play.

Part of the problem that we have is we’re considered non-measured media. The reality is most of the stuff being measured is silliness. There’s a lot of click-fraud going on. I call it click-bait, but there’s another term that people call it. We write a catchy headline and it doesn’t mean anything, billions of people show up to look at the headline and that’s all they do, they show the headline. They’re not really engaging in the content, not really looking and there’s seems to be, as I was quoted at the last conference, there seems to be a bubble going on, there’s a traffic bubble. There’s an evaluation bubble in traffic. Suddenly, anyone who has traffic seems to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, even if they haven’t figured out to monetize it yet.

And there is a lot of traffic being generated by creating traffic traps that look at this and you’ll share it and throw it around ten times; you didn’t do anything with it.

The reality is that we’ve got really good content to engage in. I think we’ve got really good opportunities to engage people more wisely and I think that at the end of the day good content will prevail. I certainly hope that our kids don’t get raised on 10 ways to feed your gerbil. There’s a real opportunity to give them good quality content and information about serious issues, because there are serious issues in this world. And there’s a place for serious dialogue, for good, quality entertainment, for great information about how-to and there’s a place for that.

Samir Husni: There was a study just released this morning by the Pew Research Institute about millennials aged 16-28. One of the things that they discovered is that a big chunk of that age group spends a lot of their time on digital devices, but a hefty number of them said if they really need something serious or important they don’t find it on the Internet. And this was a higher number than our generation.

Joe Ripp: Right, because there is so much silliness on the web. The world is collectively wasting its time, people sharing just a bunch of things. But the reality is there is also important information that we produce and we think we’ve got great, quality content. I firmly believe that there is a role for quality journalism, for quality content and quality information going forward and will be forevermore.

Where it’s distributed, what form it takes, how people consume it; that will all change and it’s morphing over time. I began my career when HBO started out and we all got five channels for free; now look at what we have. Look at the transformation that will occur in cable going forward. What’s going on with the cable mergers? They’re all deathly afraid of over-the-top video. They’re realizing that cable companies created these pipes into the home that they can’t control anymore.

In the beginning when it all rolled out, if you remember, these full-service networks; the cable guys all thought they’d control that. That they would be in charge and everyone would pay a toll to come over that. The Internet said no, no, no, that’s free. Now the cable guy has this pipe into the home and it’s actually dislocating them, because fewer millennials are getting cable television. Fewer of them are watching television on TV, they’re watching it over-the-top with Netflix and Amazon Extend Video and some of the stuff that we’re producing and will produce going forward.

So that whole eco-system of cable is changing and that’s why you’ve got these marketers going on, because people are all looking at the morphing technology like over-the-top video. I look at it and say that it’s pretty exciting for us.

It used to be if I tried to get a cable channel going, I’d have to pay a couple hundred million dollars to some cable guys to allow me to get one station for them. Now, quite frankly, I can create all sorts of channels and content that gets distributed to consumers and I don’t have to pay anybody any toll. And that’s kind of an interesting opportunity for us. Those days have changed. It used to be that the cable guys were in charge of video distribution, they’ve lost that. Over-the-top video is now the next rage, everyone is talking about it.

Samir Husni: A lot of my students they wait until the end of the season…

Joe Ripp: And then they watch it all at once.

Samir Husni: Yes, all at once.

Joe Ripp: They can watch the entire season in a day.

Samir Husni: Yes.

Joe Ripp: That’s very common right now. And that’s actually troubling the Comcast’s of the world and the other cable companies. They’re looking at this and asking what does all of this mean? In part, the merger. If you look at some of the disclosures of the cable companies, none of their disconnects have gone down. They’re still seeing disconnects, because the millennials aren’t getting cable. They’re getting a broadband connection and they’re calling it a day. They’re getting Hulu, Netflix or whatever they want, whenever they want to watch it and they’re binge-watching. So they’re very, very different and we’re all trying to adjust to this. This is the first time we’ve ever really had a true digital generation becoming adults. And they’re going to change the way they do everything and a lot that goes on in the world. The way they think, act, share, talk; they’re just different.

Samir Husni: Yet, they still love magazines, as is evident by your newest magazines that were launched in the last 20 years, InStyle, People StyleWatch or Real Simple; these magazines are still printing their biggest issues ever.

Joe Ripp: Yes, InStyle just did over 700 pages.

Samir Husni: Exactly. And I know that People is really the cash cow of the company; will we ever see those print editions disappear completely, including InStyle?

Joe Ripp: I’ve been very clear; I think print is around for the next 25 years. Print will be around for a long time. It’s in a slow decline. There’s always going to be room for someone to sit down with a magazine on a cozy afternoon and read a great magazine. That is always going to go on.

But print is in a slow decline and will continue to shrink. And I believe that is going to happen. And even if it doesn’t; I still have to plan for that. As I’ve said, I’m going to plan for it anyway, because I think for too long people were saying that that wasn’t going to happen; we’ll find a way to turn it around. I say that we’re going to do everything that we can to stabilize those trends; we’ll invest in our core businesses to stabilize them and make sure they decline at the slowest rate possible, but I have to believe as an organization that we’ve got to focus on the fact that it is going to continue.

And if we do that; we’ll plan for that future and not deny it. But if it does plateau out a little bit, that’s fine too. Because then we’ll be in much better shape. But I have to keep making sure that this organization says, yes, that will change. Therefore let’s get into more digital, more video, more experiential; let’s think about new digital magazines we can launch, new ways of reaching consumers, more newsletters, etc. How else can we reach consumers.

Samir Husni: What role do the book-a-zines play? Time Inc. has around seven book-a-zines per week. You’re doing it for National Geographic, the American Bible Society; you’re doing it for your own brands.

Joe Ripp: We have a lot of other publishers too talking to us about doing more of it, so it’s actually doing quite well. Book-a-zines are very, very topical, they’re very high-priced as you know, and they’re very profitable for every publisher that does them with us. We have 280,000 pockets in supermarkets and newsstands around the United States where we sell book-a-zines. They’re highly profitable for the retailers and they’re highly profitable for the publishers. And as you can see; we can turn them out on a dime.

When Robin Williams killed himself, we had no advance warning of that. We had three book-a-zines out in 3 or 4 days, in the marketplace and on the shelves. We can turn that out pretty quickly because we have really good people who can do that. They have the distribution vehicles to get it out there.

Samir Husni: The problems on the newsstand did not impact that?

Joe Ripp: No, that’s a great, growing strong business for us. And that business continues to prosper.

Samir Husni: Even after we lost Source Interlink and others?

Joe Ripp: We’re actually back up now to 100% distribution since Source Interlink; we’ve recovered fully from that. When that whole thing happened we went into action really quickly and we’re fully recovered as far as we can tell.

Samir Husni: What’s the next big thing from Time Inc.?

Joe Ripp: If I told you that, I’d have to kill you. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: I won’t ask you why you don’t take the company private…

Joe Ripp: I don’t plan on taking the company private. I think that we’re just finding the public markets. We’ve got a great stable base of shareholders, people who are very interested in the story, who we are talking to very, very publicly and often about where we’re going and what we’re raising. I’m very happy with the capital structure we have; we’re not debt-laden. If you look at what we came out with, $185 million cash, 1.4 in debt and the cash will be up even further by the time you get to the third quarter. We’re in a pretty good position.

But I think that we’re in a great position; I wanted to make sure that we had the right capital structure. If I go private I’ve got to borrow out the wazoo. Lever the company up strongly and then the company loses its ability to grow.

Because a private equity transaction is usually not, for the company this size, about the best thing; it’s about stripping it and taking the values out and monetizing. They all want to get in and out in five years. So, you could have done that transaction with Time Inc. and you could have probably made a lot of money, stripped into little pieces.

The reality is this company needed to be saved and I came back to do that, not strip it. And I think by investing in this company we’re going to find the right way to grow the business and to employ the resources that it generates. It has rich cash flow; I have access to every CMO in America, I have a data base of 150 million U.S. individuals, I’ve got one of the best direct marketing operations in the United States, I have 2000 of the best content producers in the States and I have incredible brands, many of which have been around for over forty years, with one for 165 years. And I have a great company; why can’t I do things with that? Stripping that and layering that up with debt is not a good idea.

One of the things I was very focused on when I came back was making sure that we did not get burdened by debt on the way out the door, because I did not want to operate in that company. Once you start tripping over covenants, you lose your ability to invest in your future, because you’re always paying the piper.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant surprise that faced you when you came back?

Joe Ripp: The most pleasant surprise that faced me when I came back? That I’ve still got a great company, with great people, the talent is still here, that the enthusiasm for this company is stronger than ever. I have more people talking to me about how great Time Inc. is and that it needs to be saved. People respect and love the brand more and more and come up to me and say I love People or TIME or I’m a Fortune person.

The passion that we generate among the people who know us is incredible. So the most pleasant thing, despite all the years of being beat up and under-invested in and stripped of its cash; you’ve got a company that everyone still loves. And everyone wants to be successful. That’s been actually the most surprising part.

Samir Husni: And the biggest stumbling block?

Joe Ripp: The biggest stumbling block, quite frankly, is just can we change fast enough? I don’t think we’re moving fast enough. I’m impatient on that. And yet, when I look back everyone tells me that we’ve made a whole lot of changes in a year. But it’s just not fast enough. We have to keep on going and stop clinging to the past and wishing that it was like it was before. I wish it was like it was. When I left here we were having a great run. We had 8 straight years of solid growth. So I wish it was like that again too, but it’s not. So what? So what, it’s not.

The reality is I’m impatient about the pace of change and I think that impatience is what’s making us grow faster. And what I really want is to encourage my own organization; if I can teach a $3.4 million operation to think like a start-up, to have the paranoia of a start-up, to have the paranoia of a private equity shop, trying to figure out the value; we’d be in great shape.

Everyone is thinking about how do we grow, what can we do, what new ideas do we have…the problem right now is I probably have more great ideas than I have the time or the people to do them. But I’d rather have that problem, whereas before people did tell me, you should just leave that thing, you probably can’t grow it, and so you should just leave it.

Samir Husni: I hear that people are just waiting in the wings to see if Joe Ripp is going to sell the Southern Progress part or when is he going to sell Sunset so they can jump in and buy it.

Joe Ripp: They’ll be waiting for a while. (Laughs) Everyone is thinking about what pieces they want; they all want to carve out my empire. It’s what I’ve always said, and others warn me that I shouldn’t say this; if someone asked would you ever sell Southern Progress? I always said if someone walks in with a billion dollar check, it’s theirs. No problem, I will sell it.

When I was the CFO of Time Inc. and Time Warner, I asked the question every year in our budget meetings; are you worth more to someone else than you are to me? And if so, why? And if so, what would they do that I can’t do? And why aren’t we doing it?

And if it turned out that we really can’t do it, you really are worth a lot more to someone else; I should probably sell you to them, because we should be generating value. We should be generating value, because if we do we’ll get the funds to invest and create more value, create new businesses.

My biggest problem right now is I’m a brand new entrant into the marketplace; we’ve only been out a couple of months; Wall Street has been behind us, we’ve raised over $4 billion in cash, between debt and equity, it’s all there, but they’re saying where are you going with this business. Can you generate returns for me? If I don’t generate returns for them, people will say, oh, that’s pandering to Wall Street; I don’t own this company, the shareholders do. And if we don’t generate good returns for them, that they get excited about our growth prospects, they’re going to want their money back. So they’re going to say to me, you know all that cash flow you got. The $300 million cash flow that you have at the end of the year? I want that back. I want bigger dividends and buy-backs; I don’t want you to have it, because you don’t seem to know what to do with it.

I have to find a way to reinvest in this business. It’s been starved for cash for years. I think it has great opportunity for growth and the only way I get to keep their money is by proving to them that this management team, this company is wise enough to invest it and provide growth that they will get excited about. That’s how I get the money and that’s how capitalism works. I know that very clearly and I have to demonstrate very clearly what I can do with it. And if I can do that, then I get to keep the cash to invest back into this company.

Samir Husni: I love what you said once, “Show me a single person who would not like to work for Time Inc.”…

Joe Ripp: You know when I became the CEO some people called me up and said, “Why did you do that? That’s crazy.” And I said, really; it’s crazy to be the CEO of Time Inc.? It’s the greatest honor of my life. This is a great company and it has really defined my life. It’s one of the best institutions that I can imagine in journalism and in media. Look what it did; it created cable television. It used to be you couldn’t do anything in Pennsylvania because the mountain got in the way. When it launched HBO, cable television became an entertainment medium and then we wired the country as a result of that.

Before cable became entertainment it was just something for signals. This company has done incredibly great things and it has the opportunity to keep doing that.

I think it’s a great company and it needs to be successful. And I think that we have the greatest shot in the industry to pull it off. It’s just a matter of how fast you can get ahead of the secular trends. And it’s a fun job. Trying to sort through this problem, it’s complicated and there have been lots of opinions, as I’m sure, you’ve read in the press. (Laughs) Lots of opinions of what we’re doing right or wrong. But quite frankly, I’ve just learned not to listen to those things, because if I’m trying to do the right thing; I don’t really care what a couple of pundits on the side have to say. We have got to make the right decisions and we have got to find a way to make this company great again. And we’re going to do that, we’re going to make some changes and as I keep telling everyone, if we make a mistake, we’ll do the other thing. Just stop worrying about the mistakes. The company, I think, was paralyzed by: it may not work. Who cares? It definitely will not work if you don’t try.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Joe Ripp: I sleep very well. I think about this company; I come in every morning on most days between 6:00 a.m. and 7. I try not to do dinners because I’m too fat. (Laughs)

The reality is that I work very, very hard and think about where this company is going. You worry about if you can move it fast enough with the decline so that the investors will leave the cash. And that’s what I’ve been working toward; trying to make sure the capital structure is right, trying to make sure the investment base is correct, make sure that we’re talking to them correctly, because I have to make sure that the investment base goes along with us. I don’t own this company, the investors do.

We have to make sure that we’re generating the right kind of story and we’re attracting the right kind of talent to make it work, so far, so good. But we’re only one year into the marriage, right? We’re attracting really great talent; we just brought in Mark Ellis, who was practically the head of sales for Yahoo. He was really a great hire for us.

We just brought in a new editor for Fortune magazine and its doing great. We’ve got really good people saying, “There is something going on and I’d like to work there.” And the more we can bring in great talent with different kinds of experiences, who can contribute to what we’re doing and believe in our brands and what we can do, then we should be just fine.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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2 comments

  1. […] Once called the Ministry of Magazines, IPC is probably managing the transistion from print to digital better than most. Newly rebranded as Time, this is a good interview with the man now running the business globally. […]


  2. […] Exclusive Mr. Magazine™ One-Hour Conversation With Joe Ripp, CEO and Chairman, Time Inc. Mr. Magazine – September 12, 2014 […]



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