New Time Inc. CEO Focuses on Mobile Opportunities, Customized Ads

Laura Lang wants to transform Time Warner's magazine arm into a branded news and entertainment company.


New Time Inc. CEO Laura Lang wants to transform Time Warner's magazine unit into a branded news and entertainment company with a focus on its mobile opportunities and customized ads, the New York Times reported.

Although she has not made public any detailed plans for the biggest U.S. magazine business, Lang told the paper that she has homed in on the transition to mobile devices and the customizing of ads for marketers based on reader data the company collects.

But she doesn't eye a move to all-digital magazines as of now. Barry Diller, chairman of IAC, last week signaled that Newsweek could eventually become a mostly digital magazine. "That's not my focus right now," Lang told the Times when asked about his comments. "A year from now, come back and we can talk about it."

But she does want to tailor Time's magazines to the needs of digital consumers. Lang has looked at research about readers' daily news cycle, which shows that morning news should focus on bite-size headlines and news updates, afternoons are ideal for slide shows and videos, and the evenings provide time for more in-depth reading, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, personal information has helped tech companies to target audiences, and traditional media companies can benefit the same way, Lang said. "We'll be building lots of new products for advertisers," she told the Times.

For example, marketers hoping to reach new mothers can get their messages into an issue of Time's People magazine, as well as its online edition and apps when Peoplefeatures photos of Jessica Simpson's baby or Sandra Bullock's adoption announcement, the Timesexplained.

In her first couple months as the new head of Time Inc., the former Digitas CEO has held town hall meetings and questioned many of the company's 9,000 employees.

According to the Times, her questions included "Do you think print is dead?"and "Will magazines survive?"

Said Lang, a marketer who now leads a company full of journalists: "In the beginning, the questions were crazy."

She also met senior executives in New York to review each Time Inc. magazine and assess what it needed to thrive in the digital age.

"The point of the process was to say we're not going away in a room and shutting the door and whispering," Lang said.

Lang, known as affable and a self-described pragmatist, used the word "consumer" more than 25 times in a roughly 90-minute interview, the Times said. And it mentioned that she has a Time magazinecover featuring billionaire investor Warren Buffett framed in her office. The headline: "The Optimist."

Said Lang: "That was the cover the Monday I arrived here. I had to put it up on my wall."

Twitter: @georgszalai

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