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Underperformance Plus 5% Often Still Equals Underperformance

Posted by: Jon Fine on March 30, 2007

Time Inc. Shutters Life, Mediaweek, 3/26/07

The iconic title, which will continue to operate online and through its books, had begun to find its footing after a rocky start since its most recent reincarnation.

Ad pages rose 5.4 percent to 395.3 last year through Dec. 25, per the Mediaweek Monitor.

‘Life’ Not Living Up To Expectations, Crain’s New York Business (via Ad Age), 12/6/04

Life expects to carry 500 ad pages in 2005, which would require a roughly 40% increase over its weekly average of seven pages.

The Time Inc. argument for keeping Life going, which I found at least plausible, was that its scale was so huge that if the company got it right, the profit upside was enormous enough to cover a multitude of sins (and prior losses). The prospect of such a turnaround evidently kept the company trying to make Life work for two and a half years, and allowed it to survive rounds of cutbacks within the company.

(Until last Monday, that is.)

Among loudmouth New York media types, this last iteration of Life Magazine, The Newspaper Supplement was often derided for its decidedly soft and lite contents. I didn’t (and don’t) buy this criticism; no one is going to mistake USA Weekend or Parade for the New Yorker and the Economist.

That said, this blame-newspapers-not-us line that showed up in company communiques and press accounts, like this one:

“We hitched our star to an industry that’s not growing,” said managing editor Robert [sic—that should be Bill] Shapiro.

is just nonsense. USA Weekend and Parade both posted ad page gains last year. Life’s downfall was that advertisers never warmed to it—no more, no less.

Reader Comments

Bruce Kostic

March 30, 2007 4:45 PM

Life as a weekly supplement was DOA. Bill Shapiro is a pro and Peter Bauer has been around ad sales and knows Madison Avenue. Life was the third title in a two title field. Both Parade and USA Weekend had put more emphasis on ad sales and circulation for months prior to Life coming out.


April 2, 2007 10:59 AM

Life is a great brand. But seriously, was it and it's massive photo spreads any less iconic than the totally dead Saturday Evening Post and Norman Rockwell? I am of two minds about resurrecting nostalgic brands- Yes, I'd prefer to see ads for a Galaxy 500 than an Ford Focus, but that alone wouldn't make me purchase the car. I was even excited about the Prowler's streamlined looks until it grated on my nerves.

I never saw Life's sunday supplement. I'm frankly surprised that Parade is selling ads that well, but more power to them.

In the 1990s someone once said that web pages will kill the "fake book." As long as people can forward emails there will be no more "Preppy Handbooks" to open on Xmas morning. That doesn't appear to really have changed that much, except perhaps in the pure joke book sense (they seem to be gone). But then, what about junk journalism? How can the celebrity tabloids survive in a TMZ world? are they targetting a market that's underserved by internet journalism? Surely Life would qualify, as would Parade. In a world where I run into friends at Costco on a Sunday morning like another generation did at church, there doesn't seem to be as much time for the laid-back read-the-entire-coupon-section that Parade was best at. Soon, I suspect, a generation of city dwellers will never hear of how an up and coming country music star battled a challenge, because they will never be smiling up, covering the CVS ad that I need to see.

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