When we launch a new magazine, many advertisers (and sometimes our own staff) don’t know what to make of it. That’s because it’s disruptive, with a unique editorial vision and no clear place within existing categories.
Time Inc. History: Notable Magazine Launches
Here’s a look at how some of our groundbreaking and inventive brands got their start:
Former Yale classmates Henry Luce and Briton Hadden identified a problem in 1922: People wanted and needed to stay informed but faced ever-busier lives. Their solution? The weekly Time magazine, which launched a year later with strong but concise language and a mission typed out in all caps: a focus not on the quantity of material, but on “HOW MUCH IT GETS OFF ITS PAGES INTO THE MINDS OF ITS READERS.”
After a rocky start — a reviewer compared Time’s early photos to engraved bread slices, while the circulation manager brought in error-prone debutante friends for initial mailing help — the team persevered. By 1930, subscriptions reached 250,000 readers, and the growing company’s ambitions were well established.
Before Fortune debuted in 1930, Time co-founder Henry Luce found reporters who could write compelling business stories and tasked them with investigating corporations — a radical mission for the era. The magazine flourished, despite the Great Depression’s crush.
The professional sports world of 1954 still featured a parochial landscape: Baseball didn’t yet extend from coast to coast, while hockey took place in just four American cities and football and basketball teams largely played east of the Mississippi.
But Henry Luce was looking for a new challenge, and saw an opportunity to capitalize on the leagues’ growing popularity while bringing together local fans. Sports Illustrated proved an immediate and overwhelming success, selling quickly off the newsstands.
Luce’s team also chose wisely when it came to the magazine’s name: early contenders included Twang, Muscles and MNORX.
When People launched in 1974, it represented a new approach: applying Time Inc.’s journalistic rigor to personality reporting — a far cry from the era’s supermarket tabloids. People is now the nation’s best-selling magazine, an outcome forecasted by Luce’s wife, Clare Boothe Luce. The septuagenarian likened it to “eating peanuts — you can’t stop once you begin.” She showed a mockup at her salon, then jotted down the excited reaction of her manicurist and hairdresser.
While we didn’t purchase Sunset magazine until 1990, it came with a pedigree worthy of Time Inc.: In 1928, proprietor L.W. (Larry) Lane used travel, home, food and garden stories to transform a circa-1898 railroad publication into a “lifestyle” magazine — 50 years before the term became popular.
Time Inc. code-named it Project X before its 1994 debut: a monthly spinoff of People that brought together coverage of celebrities, style and shelter for the first time. The team for the soon-to-be-christened InStyle magazine created a mock periodic table of elements for potential topics: makeup, offbeat hobbies, wine, fluffy white dogs and good causes among them.
They also described a different approach to awards like the Oscars: not just news-style headshots of nominees, but full-length photos of the celebrities and their dresses, shoes and purses — plus where to buy them. The magazine turned a profit within three years, neared 1.8 million readers within a decade and inspired a number of Time Inc. spinoffs, both here and abroad.
When Real Simple came out in 2000, it featured a deceptively basic yet groundbreaking concept: help busy women by focusing on what they really care about, rather than sex and celebrities. It merged a concise, clean design with substantive advice on health, beauty, food, finance and other key topics. Its enormous success has led to radio and TV shows and even a line of products sold at Target.