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Time Inc's CEO on eradicating 15-foot offices to shift the publisher's culture


By Katie Deighton | Senior Reporter

May 26, 2016 | 3 min read

Joseph Ripp, the chief executive of Time Inc, has said his company's leap into the digital space was only made possible after "an awful lot" of culture changes in the organisation.

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The chief executive, who originally left parent company Time Warner in 2001 and arrived back in 2014, is now leading a legacy print company that has seen its digital audience increase 83 per cent over the last two years.

Speaking at the Festival of Media Global, Ripp also highlighted the brand's dedication to video content, producing more than 40,000 films last year alone. This focus was amplified earlier this month with the launch of Instant – an all video platform covering the lives of the new breed of digital celebrities.

"The changes that we've made are really to embrace other forms of distribution for our content," he told The Drum. "I think that print mags have been declining for ten years and will keep declining. That doesn't mean that there's no lack of interest in the things that we write about, there's just going to be fewer people distributing on print."

It wasn't an easy change for the publishing house, which grew its first roots in 1920s New York City. Ripp explained: "The biggest problem you have in large organisations is changing the culture. Sometimes fundamental beliefs get embedded, like: 'We're the magazine company' and you have to change that."

He said basic changes, such as swapping the company's C-suite executives' offices for something less ostentatious, were key to leading this culture change. "It has to start at the top. When I came back from Time Inc I had a suite; my office was half a floor with a private bathroom that was bigger than my office is right now.

"You have to say that that stuff isn't important – the success of the company is. Our New York headquarters went from 1,642 offices to 100: we had people in 10 by 15-foot private offices who went to a five foot desk.

"They couldn't be happier because the place feels more vibrant, it feels more alive and there's more energy."

When asked if he believed Piers Morgan's claims that print has a terminal illness, Ripp was realistic. "I think that print mags have been declining for 10 years and will keep declining. You can distribute on all platforms, so why limit your distribution to a form of distribution that’s slowly and steadily going down?"

He added: "The quality of the content, the compelling stories, the access we have: that hasn't changed. We're finding growth by recognising that, not crying that print is declining. Understanding that it is and going so what? There's plenty of forms of distribution for us that we're going to do quite well in."

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