In a move rivaling the Pathfinder gaffe, AOL Time Warner execs are discussing how to transfer the content of Time Inc.’s free magazine Web sites to AOL’s proprietary service.
A Wall Street Journal article explains: “The discussions so far have looked at core subject areas such as lifestyle, teens and celebrities. That means chunks, if not all, of Time Inc.’s Entertainment Weekly, People and Teen People magazines could be taken off the Web and reserved exclusively for America Online’s 35 million subscribers. Over time, more categories are likely to be added and within a year, executives say, much of Time Inc.’s current Web publishing might be exclusive to America Online.”
Time Inc. is admitting that they don’t have a clue about how to make their magazine sites work. A defensive strategy like this gets them out of their costly web game, while trying to save AOL’s 35 million subs. To AOL/TW, it seems that the only worth of their online magazine assets is to buoy another floundering asset. But how many AOL subs are they going to keep just because a customer can exclusively access Teen People or InStyle content? Not many. Where’s the long-term vision in this move?
According to the corporate site, Time Inc. publishes about 140 regular-frequency titles with 298 million readers, as well as numerous special issues. Completely removing a large number nodes from the web is not a good way to position yourself on the Web for the future. But clearly the legacy mindset has won over this business decision. The result: Most likely, fewer people will be talking about their stories. And if you buy into the Attention Economy, the absence of their content on the network equals significantly less mind share on the Web.
If we were at competing media company, such as Condé Nast or Hachette Filipacchi, we be jumping for joy at this news.
Updates: 11.26.02 – Discussion on Poynter’s E-media Tidbits
12.02.02 – Thoughts on MediaSavvy.com