How Well Is Time Inc Managing The Transition To Digital?

Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore spoke yesterday at a Magazine Publishers of America event and gave evidence that Time Inc. is having some success in digital media — but she gave no evidence (at least none cited in the Ad Age coverage) that this success is compensating for challenges faced by the legacy print business:

“You know, everybody stay calm,” she suggested. “This is a great business we’re in.”

As proof, Ms. Moore described growing revenue at Sports Illustrated, for example, after “a decade of was pretty much flat.” That’s partly due to SI’s success online, she said, pointing out that the brand’s revenue contribution from digital has grown from 5% in 2005 to 13% last year to a projected 18% in 2007. People magazine’s website, only recently reclaimed from AOL, is growing wildly as well and now draws more unique visitors than any other entertainment site except TMZ, she said.

“Trust me,” she added, “there is a profitable business here.”

It would fascinating and instructive to see the trend for top line print and digital revenue at Sports Illustrated and at People — and even more interesting, how they do cost allocations for print and online to determine the bottom line accounting.

If Time Warner really wants to dismiss the rampant speculation that Time Inc. will be sold off, it should open the kimono for shareholders so that they can understand how well the business transformation is going and where it is headed. Moore, following on comments by Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons, said:

“Despite what you read, we are not for sale,” she said. In any case, she argued, the Bear Stearns report that has recently kept the subject alive undervalues Time Inc.

“If you’re going to spin me off, you better get a good price,” she said.

The first question any prospective buyer should as is — how well is the print/digital transition going?