Martha Nelson, group editor, Time Inc was in the country recently. She spoke to Campaign India on the print versus digital challenge, readership trends during recessionary times and why People is not a gossip magazine. Read excerpts from the interview.
How would you define People?
People is the premier magazine of celebrity journalism. It’s certainly so in the US, where it’s not just the dominant player but the leader in terms of the quality of stories and the standard of its journalism. People is not just a magazine about celebrities. The secret to People magazine is that there are stories about extraordinary people and extraordinary lives, and that can range from ordinary people to celebrities who are just doing something remarkable in their own lives. It’s not gossip, its journalism and there is a big difference. Our news is accurate, it’s news and it’s a high quality publication. Gossip would be the opposite of what we believe in. It’s still fascinating nevertheless but in our case, the story happens to be true.
In light of the current global recession taking place in USA, are you considering expansion plans?
What do you do during a time of recession? Given the kind of advertising recession that we have right now, we haven’t seen a decline in consumer demand. I don’t really know if we expect it to. Given that there will be some cut backs, we will be adjusting our cost basis accordingly.
Historically, we know that during times of recession the most powerful brands and the ones with the greatest leadership can surge forward and come out even stronger. I think of it as running up a hill. The strong ones will (eventually) make it to the top. It will be the weak ones who will fall out.
Given the recessionary scenario in your dominant market that’s USA, how do you expect that to impact readership trends in that market?
With less discretionary income that’s witnessed during a recession, pressure is certainly greater on editorial to create even more compelling products, because everyone is going to be holding on a little tighter to the money in their pocket. But again, having some historical perspective is good. We know that with People in the USA, we have not really faltered during the recession. When there are amazing, compelling, absolutely must read stories, people buy the magazine, in good times and in bad. Good times don’t necessarily mean that you can sell magazines easily and bad times don’t mean that you can’t sell magazines. The fundamentals remain the same but it has to be a really great story, or a really great cover and that’s what will get people to buy it.
To read the entire interview with Martha Nelson, group editor, Time Inc read the issue of Campaign India dated November 7, 2008.