For a while, it appeared that the mounting casualties of extinct magazines would mean the end of that medium as the whole. While titles still cease publication, that scene has stabilized somewhat. As I survey the survivors on our current issue display, one in particular catches my eye: TIME Magazine.
TIME is not the oldest magazine in publication (The Nation traces its beginnings to the Civil War) but it certainly counts among the greats. TIME was a novel concept when it was founded in 1923 by Henry Luce and Briton Hadden, who wanted to produce a weekly news magazine that could be read in an hour.
Luce went on to be a towering presence in 20th century media, and his wife, Clare Booth Luce, was a well-known figure as a politician, author and ambassador. It was she who quipped, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you’re being miserable.”
The Luces would be happy to see TIME hurtling toward its 100th year in print, and even more so if they knew that it has the world’s largest circulation for a weekly news magazine. And in weekly circulation of any magazine, it is second only to People.
TIME was not without competition. Both Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report were founded 10 years later in 1933. For almost 80 years, the magazines represented a news magazine trinity which was well-known to both students and general readers. U.S. News ceased print publication in 2010. Newsweek followed suit two years later – though the background of their Facebook page is, ironically, a video of issues rolling off their printing press.
Why was TIME the survivor? From the beginning, their objective was to report the news through people. While its first-rate reporting and analysis, classic cover design, and attention-getting photographs and graphics undoubtedly have been factors in its longevity (I think that Newsweek was always a bit lighter and U.S. News a bit newsy), what won TIME their readership was the continuing focus on the people who made the news.
Nowhere was this emphasis on people more successful than with their Person of the Year. Starting with Charles Lindbergh (1927), the annual designation has included a variety of people from Adolf Hitler (1938) and Joseph Stalin (1939 & 1942) to Queen Elizabeth II (1952) and Pope Francis (2013).
While the circulation numbers for TIME are greatly reduced from their glory days, as is the number of pages – reading it in an hour isn’t a very tall order now – I hope this magazine’s print edition makes it to the century mark. And if you haven’t taken a look at an issue lately, perhaps it’s time.