Monday, September 01, 2008

Time Out publisher considers going controlled, moving listings onto web

Forty years ago, Tony Elliott launched a weekly magazine in London called Time Out, chock full of alternative news and information and brimming with music and events listings, some counter-culture and some not.

It has spawned many imitators, including its own branded versions around the world (23 magazines alone or in partnership) and dozens, if not hundreds of imitators. It could be said that NOW and Eye weekly and similar publications sprang from the same era. Time Out has spun off travel guides to 120 cities around the world and runs major websites in London, New York and Chicago.

Now, according to a story in the Guardian, Elliott is seriously considering a move to shift the listings onto the web and publish the heretofore paid magazine for free in a slimmed-down version.This is an idea that may not be a million miles from the minds of other listings publishers; after all, the internet seems made for such searchable information and the downturn in advertising means that such listings mags need to seriously consider ways of cutting costs.
"We are in quite an intensive period of thinking and researching, certainly until Christmas, to re-plan for the future," he said. "If you've got a situation in two to three years where the main role that we play is online ... the question is what shape does the print magazine take?"
The Time Out UK website has almost 2 million unique visitors a month and perhaps 4 million across on online properties.

Elliott reckons there may also be a chance to make the magazine what he calls "controlled free", giving it free to people in specific demographic groups. Time Out New York Kids, for instance, is distributed free to the friends of the Museum of Childhood. "We are just thinking of all the options," he said.

Getting the cash together for his grand plan, however, may not be easy. "The mission today is still to remain completely, genuinely independent but it is absolutely true that every aspect of the business would benefit from having more working capital and it would make - I don't like using the word strategic because it sounds pretentious - but it would make strategic sense to widen the ownership of the business," he said.

"In a perfect world I would like this business to remain independent long, long, long term."

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