It has been three years since Time Inc. spun off from parent company Time Warner, and in that period, chairman and chief executive officer Joe Ripp has talked about the company’s evolution from traditional publisher to “digital brand.” In that period, the company has not only restructured its staff and slashed costs, but it has also invested in smaller digital firms and launched new native-advertising-friendly editorial sites.
On Wednesday, Ripp rolled out the company’s latest chapter to “drive transformation,” as he called it, which included another shake-up of its executive team.
On the editorial side, this included the promotion of Fortune editor Alan Murray to chief content officer, a role previously held by Norman Pearlstine. Pearlstine will become vice chairman, focusing on international growth.
When Pearlstine held the role, he had a dotted line to Ripp, and was charged with tending to the balance between editorial and business. Murray, who reports to Ripp on editorial matters and executive vice president, and newly minted president of brands, Rich Battista on operations, appears to be charged with closing the gap, or at least aligning the two.
Touting Murray’s experience working at The Wall Street Journal as the journalist and digital guru who developed its live events and digital business, Ripp noted that his promotion will “make sure editors are more commercially minded.”
He added that Murray’s expansive role will likely mean he will have to step down as editor of Fortune. “He wants to keep that role. I’m not sure he can,” Ripp said of Murray’s job.
On the business side, executive vice president Evelyn Webster departs the company after two decades. She was one of two women on the company’s leadership team. (Recently appointed president and chief digital officer Jen Wong is the other. Wong expanded her role Wednesday to include oversight of Time Inc.’s creative services division, The Foundry).
Asked if promoting diversity is a priority for the company in light of Webster’s departure, Ripp said: “We believe in diversity in background, experience, skills and perspectives. Our board as a whole incorporates highly diverse professional backgrounds and experiences, as well as diversity in gender and ethnicity. And we strive for diversity across our employee base. We are proud of our diverse representation throughout the company and in our leadership pipeline. We feel good about our overall representation and trends.”
A former ceo of Time Inc. UK, Webster had, at one point, managed the bulk of the company’s U.S.-based titles, which insiders buzzed was too much to juggle. Her power slowly began to slip after fellow executive vice president Battista came in to “balance” Webster’s workload. Battista ultimately nabbed Webster’s job, and the executive now oversees all Time Inc. brands.
In order to juggle his expanded workload, Battista will begin hiring a team to support the new structure.
On the advertising side, the U.S. ad sales team will now report to chief revenue officer of global advertising Mark Ford. The team will be divided into three subgroups — category sales, brand sales and digital. Category sales includes Time Inc.’s largest ad partners, allowing them to buy across its portfolio of titles. This includes “360-degree” solutions such as native, targeting and live media.
Brand sales will comprise a go-to market strategy that serves endemic/brand advertisers, while the digital team will support brand and category sales in the online channel.
Ford will also oversee the U.S. sales planning, sales marketing and development teams.
The new configuration means that Time Inc. will group some of its sales force by category. For instance, some staffers will only sell beauty or autos, as opposed to being part of the InStyle team that sells beauty, or the Sports Illustrated team that sells autos. The reconfiguration has caused some Time Inc. staffers to complain and criticize the new structure.
Ripp balked at the criticism, noting that he wasn’t going to partake by offering “a negative quote,” and instead added that the reorganization would meet market needs. “I think what’s happening is more advertisers are looking for broader solutions,” the ceo said. “It’s become a much more complicated sale. It’s more comprehensive, not brand-centric.”
Despite that, Ripp denied that part of the reorganization was linked to the need to slash jobs and cut costs. “This realignment isn’t about cost reduction. It’s a move to be more efficient and to more effectively share resources and best practices across the organization,” he said. “The normal course of business is to always look at cost structure and the proper allocation of resources.”
Either way, Wall Street seemed unswayed, as shares of Time Inc. fell 10 cents Wednesday to $16.53.