The Unnecessary Defense of Time Inc’s Laura Lang

There is a story that ran in the New York Post that I have a lot of problems with and as you can imagine, I don’t agree with. The basis of what is written in my opinion doesn’t hold much water at this moment in the redevelopment of Time Inc. and its continued successful future.

Unnamed sources are useful and understandable in any legitimate article, especially when it comes to disgruntled workers, but unnamed workers blaming management is nothing new and usually a situation of unrealistic and uninformed expectations by those not in the know of the details of the big picture.

I have said many times that publishing and our printed products are neither dying nor going away, but there are tremendous changes happening throughout the information distribution system formally known as publishing.

In my opinion it is way too early for a public collection of employee ranting about Time Inc.’s new management. The industry is in a period that I call the great realignment. There are content continental shifts happening on a global basis that is unprecedented for any time period you can name in our industry, including the invention of the original printing press. All businesses in any sector are in this realignment adjustment phase. This is a historic moment never seen before. Employees that do not continue to expect ongoing seismic vibrations whether their business is large or small are at best unenlightened. Change is indeed the only constant we can now rely upon.

The new Time Inc. CEO Laura Lang arrived a year ago to change the complicated course and direction of the largest magazine publisher in the U.S. with at least 130 large circulation titles to manage and adjust. In nautical terms it is the largest battleship by far afloat today. It is my experience that any new management team, in any industry must take the time to take stock of the survivable assets and deploy new strategies that reflect not only current conditions but future market possibilities as well. Since new content substrates and delivery systems now change on a daily basis, making the damned “correct” decisions in our publishing business is complicated beyond our ability to fully understand. Today changes in how we adjust our business practices are fundamentally different from any time in our publishing past. And I would add that successful business experiences of a decade ago are almost irrelevant with the exception of the constant need for a reasonable profit. Our business methodology is no longer based on a process of continuous linier change, but rather about non-linier and discontinuous change. And that is what makes the current market business planning and process so unwieldy and unreliable.

We are in a state and a situation that I call “competition redefined.” While our competitors used to be easily to identify, today almost any company, group or person can become a future competitor. And they can be anywhere on the planet. The low threshold of entry means new competitors will always be in abundance. They will come from well below the radar screen. They will be online, global, fast-moving and smart.

So I suggest to all that we cut Laura Lang a very large swath of corporate slack. She has one of the toughest jobs imaginable ahead of her. Do any of the disgruntled employees think that that they can do better, or that they have the mysterious skill sets necessary to answer where the publishing industry is headed and how Time Inc. should get there?

I wish Time Inc. and Laura the very best luck in answering today’s biggest publishing question – how does an extremely large and successful battleship compete with lightning quick content speed boats loaded with ammo and the flexibility to be anywhere at any time? If she succeeds there is a possibility that we will all succeed and that is what I am rooting for.

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  • Thadcmce

    I contacted Laura when she took over at TIME and told her that the interview in the NYTimes was an exciting look to the future. No one can expect dramatic change in an industry to occur in such as short time. I think she is on target and look forward to the future of publishing.