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TIME takes you there... unless you get the American version
November 26, 2011 11:46 AM   Subscribe

TIME magazine really dumbs it down for American subscribers.
posted by Renoroc (93 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
What's remarkable isn't just that the US covers are different, less intense or less smart (as the FPP suggests), but that some of them are explicitly about making you feel okay that the world is falling apart. Revolution freaking you out? Anxiety is good for you! About to go over a waterfall? Crises keep America great!
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:50 AM on November 26, 2011 [62 favorites]


This is not that unusual. If you look through their history you'll see example like this. You'll see examples where the cover page in the US is the one that is a greater story/less "dumbing down"
than the rest.

You'll also find that often another issue of the US edition of Time will have the same cover as the rest of the world had, just not on the same week.
posted by 2manyusernames at 11:51 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know when I first saw this on Reddit yesterday, I went and looked at the different covers for the past few weeks and found this and this, where the US cover is more serious and less "dumbed down" that the other covers. It also looks like the covers are frequently the same. You can find a small number of example that seem to indicate almost anything.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:56 AM on November 26, 2011 [58 favorites]


I believe CNN does the same, you'd think they were both owned by the same company...oh wait they are. The only use I have left for cable news and corporate magazines these days is that they save me breath. If anyone tries to begin a conversation with me referencing either I know they are too ill-informed to bother treating seriously.
posted by any major dude at 11:59 AM on November 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Is the content the same? They might be shooting for different audiences.
posted by gjc at 12:00 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


You guys should see the non-US version of Metafilter, my boy is wicked smaht.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:00 PM on November 26, 2011 [62 favorites]


Does Time Asia/Europe/South Pacific serve the same market segment as Time US? I mean, when US products and brands go overseas, sometimes they go through some changes that put them more upmarket than they are in the US.

Think of how Pizza Hut in China is a nice restaurant with pasta, steak, a salad bar while Pizza Hut in the US is what you get for co-workers at the office. Or how Pabst Blue Ribbon is marketed in China vs. the US.
posted by FJT at 12:02 PM on November 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Over the last 30 years,

Time has become People,
People has become Us,
Scientific American has become Psychology Today,
The New Republic has become Commentary.

Oh well, The Nation is still The Nation.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:07 PM on November 26, 2011 [28 favorites]


FJT: "Or how Pabst Blue Ribbon is marketed in China vs. the US."

I so, so, so hope this involves Dennis Hopper.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:09 PM on November 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


You know when I first saw this on Reddit yesterday, I went and looked at the different covers for the past few weeks and found this and this, where the US cover is more serious and less "dumbed down" that the other covers. It also looks like the covers are frequently the same. You can find a small number of example that seem to indicate almost anything.

Your first example links to the issue from 14 November 2011, where the non–US editions have the same cover that the US edition had on 3 October 2011.

Interesting.
posted by Jehan at 12:10 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Obligitory O.N.N video
posted by Godwin Interjection at 12:11 PM on November 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


If I had to say what the general difference is, the US covers don't seem to be "dumbed–down" as much as introspective.
posted by Jehan at 12:12 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is the content the same? They might be shooting for different audiences.

I think it is, and this is probably exactly what they are doing. Among the people who are looking for an American news magazine outside of the US, the percentage of those who are only interested in the boring serious content is going to be much higher than at home. It’s not like European weeklies only ever put actual issues on their covers; quite the contrary.
posted by wachhundfisch at 12:13 PM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know when I first saw this on Reddit yesterday, I went and looked at the different covers for the past few weeks and found this and this, where the US cover is more serious and less "dumbed down" that the other covers. It also looks like the covers are frequently the same. You can find a small number of example that seem to indicate almost anything.
That's really a ridiculous 'defense' though. First of all, there are only two examples rather then several. With the 'can you still move up in America' thing, it's still kind of a fluff piece as well, although it relates to the current economic situation.

(And also, we got the 'why mom liked you best' article while Europe got something about Germany -- and actually what's going on in Germany and the EU is very important for the US economy as well)

The "China Bubble" one comes close to the "seriousness" but doesn't involve war. But here's the thing, rather then raising serious issues about the U.S, it's actually raising serious issues about a country many people in the US see as a competitor, so it's actually more comforting to American readers then concerning.

Oh and by the way the whole "Return of the Silent Majority" article by Joe Kline? Talk about centrist blathering -- people like Joe Klien are convinced that the vast majority of the country is united in... wanting to see basically conservative ideas or whatever is popular with the beltway elites implemented but under the guise of 'bipartisanship'. Perhaps with a centrist hero like Mike Bloomberg. It's ridiculous.

Swing voters in the U.S are mostly people who don't pay attention to politics except during campaigns and don't know much about the issues at all. Other then that, you have people who are disgusted with both parties, but who have strong ideological leanings.
posted by delmoi at 12:13 PM on November 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


Maybe this isn't a dumbing down for American subscribers, but a reflection on Time: the more intelligent person won't buy their magazine, so they cater to a lower denominator.

I don't necessarily believe that is the case, but there's more than one way to interpret the basic data that doesn't make dumb customers the culprit.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:17 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bob Dylan Time magazine interview.
posted by ryanfou at 12:17 PM on November 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Over the last 30 years, Time has become People, ..."

"First there was People. Then there was Us. Then there was Self. Next thing you know, there's going to be a magazine called ME! And it will just be pages and pages of tin foil, so that you can look at yourself."--Noel Paul Stookey
posted by Melismata at 12:18 PM on November 26, 2011 [32 favorites]


But why would this be considered censorship?
posted by insectosaurus at 12:24 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Some movies are "airplane movies". They achieve an adequacy in that environment that they would not achieve in a real theater.

Time magazine is an "airplane magazine". Or, if you prefer, a "waiting room magazine".

I have no recollection of ever seeing anyone read it in any but those two circumstances.
posted by Trurl at 12:27 PM on November 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ah, the favorite hobby of intellectual Americans: whining about how stupid everyone in their country is and railing at media outlets for catering to said stupids. I do it, too. Don't have the energy today, though, really.
posted by mellow seas at 12:35 PM on November 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


If this is representative, this trend is common enough to not be so surprising. American brands frequently go upmarket when they are sold abroad.

McDonalds becomes a trendy hangout, PBR becomes a classy import brew, TIME is now a cosmopolitan news mag that is maybe even something worth reading.

They might be shooting for different audiences.
Exactly. The people reading TIME in Japan are not the same folks who subscribe to it in the US.

Or maybe this is just a misleading sample of covers, I don't know.
posted by Winnemac at 12:36 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


TIME, at one point, was a heavyweight in US journalism, but that moment has passed long ago. As of today, I'm not even sure the newsweekly serves any purpose, as the travails of its onetime head-to-head competitor, Newsweek, show.

Anyway, are these covers aimed at "subscribers" or at "newsstand buyers"? There is a difference. If the content of the magazine is unchanged, one can hardly be said to be "dumbing it down for subscribers". I tend to agree that the explanation is that in the US the magazine is seeking a general audience, but overseas, it is primarily purchased by business travelers from the US.
posted by dhartung at 12:36 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seeing as the content is largely the same between one edition and the next, it's not so much that TIME dumbs it down. It's more like they simply put their dumbest foot first.
posted by bicyclefish at 12:38 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


What these examples show to me is that Time has given up on anyone buying the magazine if there's a foreign policy story on the cover, and I imagine they're right. It might be more accurate to say America has dumbed down Time.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:39 PM on November 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


The Atlantic has become Time.

???? has become The Atlantic.

*weeps*
posted by leotrotsky at 12:39 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


any major dude: "I believe CNN does the same, you'd think they were both owned by the same company...oh wait they are. The only use I have left for cable news and corporate magazines these days is that they save me breath. If anyone tries to begin a conversation with me referencing either I know they are too ill-informed to bother treating seriously."

Yes, because the only news or information that is acceptable is that which is directly observable with the naked eye by personally traveling to the location in question to interrogate politicians, speak with the "person on the street," and rifle through previously-secret documents hidden in a disused lavatory. Naturally, no other publication of any sort could have any bias or fluff pieces.

Is there some sort of "points" system I can use? I get to watch 15 minutes of msnbc if I read two issues of the Christian Science Monitor?
posted by fireoyster at 12:41 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


PBR becomes a classy import brew

Well, it is a totally different beer in that link. An oak aged ale is legitimately upmarket beer, since the brand doesn't have the downmarket image in China they might as well use it instead of selling upmarket beer under a different name. If anyone is a fan of Southampton Publick House beers, their bottled beers are brewed by Pabst.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:42 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have no recollection of ever seeing anyone read it in any but those two circumstances.

It's also used heavily by high school forensics extemporaneous speakers (represent!).
posted by drezdn at 12:47 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


It isn't just TIME. Living close to the US/Canadian border, I notice a remarkable difference in the depth and quality of news reportage between Canadian and American public radio stations. NPR is perhaps the best radio the US can offer, but it pales in comparison to the coverage of world events on CBC. Even when it broadcasts a half-hour of BBC World News. Keeping all Americans fat, dumb and distracted with cheerful US-centric infotainment is good for business.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:52 PM on November 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


You guys should see the non-US version of Metafilter

It's called Metakidney here in Europe. And it's Yves Klein blue.
posted by tigrefacile at 12:56 PM on November 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


The content is the same. (at least in the case of the recent cover that started the whole outrage) Certain stories may be highlighted by a cover photo in certain editions, depending on what the marketing people will play better to that segment.

An example of all 4 covers being different.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:57 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


No like? No read.
posted by Postroad at 1:08 PM on November 26, 2011


No like? No read.

That's actually the problem. In a nutshell.
posted by blucevalo at 1:13 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


NPR is perhaps the best radio the US can offer, but it pales in comparison to the coverage of world events on CBC.

You'll be pleased to know some things are quite similar, that the right holds up the CBC as an example of left wing propaganda and demands funding cuts at every opportunity.
posted by Hoopo at 1:18 PM on November 26, 2011


I have no recollection of ever seeing anyone read it in any but those two circumstances.

I used to have a subscription which I read solely to infuriate myself. Then I realized it was extraordinarily dumb to pay to be enraged, so I cancelled it. Ah, the folly of youth!
posted by winna at 1:23 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The American cover might sell a few more pharmaceuticals, which seems to be the primary purpose for magazines south of the border.
posted by scruss at 1:26 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


To be fair, duh dur doy hurf durf
posted by klangklangston at 1:27 PM on November 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Disclaimer: I write for TIME.com. From what I can tell, the difference is that Americans are basically uninterested in international news. This does not appear to be the fault of the media.

Are the British media smarter? [they're the only ones I have enough experience to compare with ours]. Well, their broadsheets, TV and magazines appear to be — but their tabloids are also meaner and oddly, despite the libel laws, more prone to making things up entirely.

I've spent a lot of time in the UK and the main thing I notice over there about the media (aside from a larger vocabulary and an assumption of a better-educated reader) is that there truly is much more interest in international affairs. But that could be a result of the fact that Britain is nowhere near as large as the U.S. — and of its connections with its former empire.

I can guarantee you that if foreign news covers sold more copies, TIME would do more of them on its U.S. editions. I can also tell you that aside from the "dumbing down" or "lowering of standards" of which people are complaining, there is also an inclusion of a wider variety of voices and points of view (not as good as it could be, but better than it used to be). For example, I imagine I'm not the type of person most people would think of as someone who writes for TIME.

In fact, my drug coverage frequently gets linked with introductions like "even TIME magazine" or "surprisingly for TIME" because it is not what people expect from mainstream media.
posted by Maias at 1:41 PM on November 26, 2011 [42 favorites]


it is not what people the mainstream media expect from mainstream media.

Honestly guys. If you wanted to know about the outside world we'd tell you. You just don't want to. It's purely a market thing. We swear.
posted by clarknova at 1:57 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Americans don't care about international news" is probably true, outside of Mexican immigration. Canada is similar enough to the United States that people don't even think of it as foreign; people care deeply about Mexico (those damn immigrants!). It's 2300 miles from Madison, Wisconsin to the nearest non-Mexicanadian international city, Havana. The radius of that distance includes the US, Canada, and Mexico. The same radius in Paris includes 90% of the EU, parts of North Africa, and is knocking on Moscow's door.
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:06 PM on November 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


The content appears to be different as well -- here is this week's US edition, and here is the international edition. The main difference seems to be, as Maias stated, that there is far more international coverage in the non-US version.

It's not just TIME magazine, either. I remember when I was a Peace Corps volunteer, they gave us all subscriptions to Newsweek (I think it was), primarily so we could have something to read while off in our little villages. Of course, it was the non-US edition, and I was stunned at the difference in coverage. Many fewer "fluff" culture pieces, many more actual reportage from spots in the world that weren't restricted to the major hotspots.

I do sometimes wonder how much this all creates a bad cycle. How many times has TIME tried to see how well the international version does domestically? How much worse would it do? I know I am glad to now be in Australia where I can read the international version of US publications, and I would like the option of getting those were I in the US. But mostly there is no way to do that, and most Americans don't even know this distinction even exists, so it wouldn't occur to them to complain to magazine publishers about it. At this point, then, is it just a self-fulfilling prophecy?
posted by forza at 2:20 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, the title of this FPP is probably the best encapsulation of what the contrast is. The international versions focus on foreign issues (i.e. it "takes you there"), while the US version focuses on US or unmarkedly-general issues. It reflects a pattern that I certainly experienced as a foreigner moving to the US, living there for a long, long time, and then moving away again. Sure, there's some international coverage to be found, but the level of detail and the proportion of international vs. domestic coverage is vastly different.
posted by LMGM at 2:26 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


- Americans sure are ignorant.
- The mainstream media wants to make sure Americans remain facile sheep.

Are those the two responses you were looking for with this post? Did I miss anything?

How about, instead:

- Who gives a shit?
- There are approximately a bazillion news outlets people can turn to these days (of varying quality). You can't both argue that traditional publishing is doomed and bitch about what Time magazine has on their cover in a given week.
posted by chasing at 2:29 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Meh. If we're going to cherry pick Time Magazine covers, one could easily come up with a handful of contrary examples.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 2:30 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


chasing, you really had the start of a point there with your first two questions. Unfortunately you completely cocked it up with your alternatives.

Who gives a shit?
You mean you don't? You accept the claim, and then you think it doesn't matter? What?

It doesn't matter anyway? So why are you commenting? Why is anyone? Of course it matters. And this isn't isolated to TIME.
posted by wilful at 2:38 PM on November 26, 2011


Facile sheep? Docile, perhaps?
posted by Splunge at 2:38 PM on November 26, 2011


The "China Bubble" one comes close to the "seriousness" but doesn't involve war. But here's the thing, rather then raising serious issues about the U.S, it's actually raising serious issues about a country many people in the US see as a competitor, so it's actually more comforting to American readers then concerning.

It "doesn't involve war" is a fairly bizarre defense; is a cover about war some how less dumbed down or serious than a cover that isn't? Maybe you believe this, but I have no idea why. Also, since the competing international cover was about Tintin, I think a US cover about pretty much anything else wins the seriousness prize.

The US cover, by the way, is sometimes, about war when other covers aren't. The covers are also, as I said, very often exactly identical to each other. Those identical covers include plenty of fluff, as well as harder stuff including covers pessimistic about America.

This is confirmation bias that Metafilter is jumping on full speed because it confirms the stereotypes and preconceptions of many users.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:39 PM on November 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


Stay with People Magazine and you will know that is worth knowing.
posted by Postroad at 2:43 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you only read Time, you get a very one-dimensional view of the world. Complement that by reading Space.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:44 PM on November 26, 2011 [31 favorites]


@wilful

Yeah, I guess I've seen this course through Reddit and other sites and I'm a little tired of seeing it. And I'm being grumpy. :-)

I do think that "this matter much less than people are making it out to" is a reasonable response -- and it's what I think. Mountains are being made out of mole-hills.

Americans aren't perfect, as a group, but I think we're a lot smarter, more curious, and more well-meaning than we often give ourselves credit for. Which is why I get frustrated with things like this which seem to want to paint some buffoonish picture of Americans via some relatively minor thing like what Time magazine puts on their covers.
posted by chasing at 2:56 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


@Splunge

Nope: Facile. "Having a superficial or simplistic knowledge or approach." So sayeth the Googles. Which is what I meant.
posted by chasing at 2:58 PM on November 26, 2011


it is probably fair to generalize and say that the majority of Americans appear to be less interested in International news .. (anecdotally - I find CNN International much better in India than I find CNN to be here. On the other hand, the quality of international coverage of Indian news papers is terrible. But in USA, I typically dont need to read anything other than NYT to keep up)

I suspect though, you are likely to find more examples of best-of-class media outlets in America than in Europe or elsewhere. NYT is possibly the best newspaper in the world today; I dont know of anything comparable anywhere else. New Yorker is pretty much in a league of its own. There are several niche publications like The Atlantic Monthly or The Harper's magazine that'll hold up well in any other country. They are certainly not mainstream enough.

Time (I suspect) is not a mainstream publication in Europe of APJ the way it is in USA. We should also consider the fact that the majority of people in UK are not reading The Guardian or The Spectator either, they are probably reading crappy tabloids.
posted by justlooking at 3:00 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Last comment:

Can I throw out another alternative that I haven't seen in this conversation... Maybe it's an issue of how Time markets itself in the States vs the rest of the world? Like: If Time sells most of their US edition in supermarket check-out lines and most of their international edition in airports, it would make sense that they would put different stuff on the covers. And would only really mean that people who travel internationally are more interested in international affairs than people doing their grocery shopping somewhere in middle America.
posted by chasing at 3:01 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who the fuck reads Time?
posted by 3FLryan at 3:24 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can guarantee you that if foreign news covers sold more copies, TIME would do more of them on its U.S. editions.

This sort of thinking is so transparently self-serving that I'm always a little bit shocked when professionals would offer it up. It's the equivalent of the military's "just following orders." And it really can be used to justify most everything from the media's obsession with the Clintons to the blatant pro-war propaganda American journalists have been pumping out for a decade plus. (Thanks to TIME and its ilk, Europeans and other foreigners are exposed much more to the reality of American's wars than Americans ever will be.)

But everybody knows TIME is shit. The problem here isn't any one publication, the problem is the absolute lack of diversity in the media landscape. TIME sucks but the tragedy is that there are so few well-established alternatives.
posted by nixerman at 3:24 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


How does this difference in editions affect citations in scholarly writing? Student A in country X cites Newsweek with date and page number. But reader or review B in country Y finds something completely different for that issue/page number. There is no apparent definitive reference.
posted by yesster at 3:37 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Geez, I've been away for much too long. Nice to be reminded that most of today's comments are a pretty good reason to get out of bed in the morning.
I may not exactly be representative (after all, isn't it the choir that actually shows up here and vents?), because I fancy my news from far too many sources to even strain a brain cell over the last time I even set eyes on Time magazine, let alone took the time to analyze the layout in context.
I suppose it might be of some use to some of you to review "Manufacturing Consent", but I'll be damned if I'll mention it. Come to think of it, I think I'll re-read it, myself.
posted by girdyerloins at 3:45 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


These are English-language versions, aimed at Americans and the odd Brit or Canadian that picks it up in different locations. It makes perfect sense, then, that they are different.

Moreover, don't forget about the enormous size of the U.S. market, relative to the size of the market for these non-standard readers. You're talking 300 million vs., say, 10 million. *Of course* the mass-market version will be mass market in orientation.

There are about 70 million people in the UK. That's about the population of California, New York and Florida by themselves. Toss in Texas and 1-2 other states, and you have the combined populations of the UK, Canada and Australia.

The U.S. is the third most populous country on the planet. If you're in media and don't get that and understand what that means, congrats, you're out of business.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:58 PM on November 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


We should also consider the fact that the majority of people in UK are not reading The Guardian or The Spectator either, they are probably reading crappy tabloids.

Correct. The most popular newspaper in this country is The Sun, for two reasons.

I guess we can stop acting as though we're in any way superior then.
posted by fearnothing at 4:09 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Exactly. The people reading TIME in Japan are not the same folks who subscribe to it in the US.

For instance, the former are in Japan, while the latter are in the US.
posted by kenko at 4:27 PM on November 26, 2011


Is this where I mention The Economist does the same thing?
posted by dw at 4:41 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Life is for people who can't read; Time is for people who can't think

Evidently criticizing Mr. Luce's magazines is nothing new.
posted by TedW at 5:53 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Boy, does that visual tell the complex story of American media. It's clear they know what the most important stories are and it's clear they don't want to tell Americans those stories. And it's clear Americans won't buy magazines that tell those stories.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:56 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


The real news here: Time magazine is still being published.
posted by ecourbanist at 7:24 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


How pathetic. America, land of the bubble people.
posted by chance at 8:12 PM on November 26, 2011


Do people actually subscribe to Time? I've only ever seen the snot-crinkled issues in waiting rooms.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:28 PM on November 26, 2011


ShutterBun: "The content is the same. (at least in the case of the recent cover that started the whole outrage)"

This is not usually the case though. The Canadian edition of Time is much shorter (probably due to the smaller ad market) and the big stories that make both editions frequently seem to be scaled back for us north of the border.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:52 PM on November 26, 2011


I don't understand what having a large land mass or a large population has to do with it? Australia is also quite far away from other nations (and New Zealand is approximately equal to Canada, and Indonesia approximately equal to Mexico in this rough analogy which won't hold up to too much scrutiny), but we still take an interest in foreign issues at a rate I'd think somewhere in-between the UK and the US.

Especially now that international communications and travel are so much more accessible than they used to be. I suspect that it's more to do with the "we're number one!" attitude which claims that the USA has the best of everything - why bother reading about other places? I prefer The Guardian to the New York Times when I'm looking for international reporting.

The marketing angle becomes a circular argument - people aren't interested in foreign affairs, so foreign affairs covers don't sell, so there's no information to get interested in, so no-one will buy covers about stuff they don't care about... What would it take to break that cycle?
posted by harriet vane at 9:10 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can someone do this for Highlights, please?
posted by LiteOpera at 9:20 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Disclaimer: I write for TIME.com. From what I can tell, the difference is that Americans are basically uninterested in international news. This does not appear to be the fault of the media.

No, but shamelessly pandering to them definitely is their fault, hyuck!

i_have_a_computer's contrary examples: that's one. You used a plural.

Bulgaroktonos: I linked the page to an English college professor friend of mine who lived for a while in Japan, and who reads Time. She confirmed the difference in the magazine between markets. This is anecdotal evidence sure, but it is more than nothing.
posted by JHarris at 9:49 PM on November 26, 2011


The U.S. is the third most populous country on the planet. If you're in media and don't get that and understand what that means, congrats, you're out of business.
that doesn't make any sense. The fact that the U.S is huge means there are correspondingly large numbers of people interested in things even when the percentages are low. So if 10% of the population is interested in foreign news compared to 40% of brits, it's still more people in total.
posted by delmoi at 9:59 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Australia is also quite far away from other nations but we still take an interest in foreign issues.

The USA has a population 14 times the size of Australia spread out across various regions and over 50 metro areas of over a million people. In terms of the sheer amount of newsworthy stuff taking place, its really not comparable. In this regard it's more like Russia or China in that there's generally less reason for people to take interest in international news because it's already functionally impossible to keep up-to-date on local news.
posted by Winnemac at 10:01 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, I know the population is different, but distance was offered as a reason earlier on. I don't bother with much interstate news because it's pretty much the same as in my state. I prefer to use my limited time for news-reading to catch up on national and global issues.

Do we know that Russian and Chinese news readers don't bother much with international news? Or are we just guessing?
posted by harriet vane at 10:10 PM on November 26, 2011


The fact that the U.S is huge means there are correspondingly large numbers of people interested in things even when the percentages are low. So if 10% of the population is interested in foreign news compared to 40% of brits, it's still more people in total.

You're forgetting the part where you have only one Time magazine cover to fill each week, and it has to appeal to the widest portion of the audience. Every. Single. Week.

In fact, your advertisers are only interested in you precisely because you can deliver upon that mass audience with your one monolithic magazine that lots of people will read and talk about via a shared experience. If they weren't, they'd advertise elsewhere.

So, again, congrats -- you missed the point and now you're bankrupt.

Or rather, you're just not in mass media. See, there's a word you missed. Mass. Not niche. Mass.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:24 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


The USA has a population 14 times the size of Australia spread out across various regions and over 50 metro areas of over a million people. In terms of the sheer amount of newsworthy stuff taking place, its really not comparable....there's generally less reason for people to take interest in international news because it's already functionally impossible to keep up-to-date on local news.

This is a much better way to say what I mean.

California -- alone -- is capable of generating as much "news" as Australia, on every level. Name it. Human interest. Business. Entertainment. Sports.

I mean, just take a look at sports media, to isolate something as an example. I had to point this out to a business colleague the other day, who was thinking about sports video games. He was talking about the popularity of Rugby League in Australia ... and I had to point out that there are more die-hard American football fans in the U.S. ... than there are people in Australia.

No offense. It's not a "we're number 1" thing. It's just a numbers game.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:36 PM on November 26, 2011


"This sort of thinking is so transparently self-serving that I'm always a little bit shocked when professionals would offer it up. It's the equivalent of the military's "just following orders." And it really can be used to justify most everything from the media's obsession with the Clintons to the blatant pro-war propaganda American journalists have been pumping out for a decade plus. (Thanks to TIME and its ilk, Europeans and other foreigners are exposed much more to the reality of American's wars than Americans ever will be.)

But everybody knows TIME is shit. The problem here isn't any one publication, the problem is the absolute lack of diversity in the media landscape. TIME sucks but the tragedy is that there are so few well-established alternatives.
"

This is kinda a weird take, and comparing it to "only following orders" is distractingly hyperbolic. Pointing out that TIME, perhaps more than most other magazines, reflects the broad interests of their audience is realistic, and demanding suicidal altruism from magazines on the theory that they'll somehow lead opinion through wisdom is a fantasy that's crashed many fine rags.

I mean, c'mon, how many magazines do you subscribe to? Do you even pay out enough to keep that diversity — of which there's a huge amount, actually — in the marketplace?
posted by klangklangston at 10:47 PM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do we know that Russian and Chinese news readers don't bother much with international news? Or are we just guessing?

That's been my personal experience at least, though I know more of China than Russia. There are plenty of internationally interested readers in China and Russia, but it's usually a topic of secondary importance compared to Denmark or some place like that. China didn't really even have a strong international reporting service until fairly recently. That provided a niche for the Global Times for a while, but Xinhua has been sending out a lot more reporters these days (one of the few beareaus that is I'm told).
posted by Winnemac at 10:49 PM on November 26, 2011


Wouldn't it be better to say that of TIME is advertising to American TIME readers, not Americans, because how many new TIME readers are there these days? I imagine most people get their news, international or otherwise, online now. I certainly do. Who the hell reads magazines anymore?

In other words, they're not really appealing to a broad audience so much as the audience of faithful readers they may already have. I don't know who else would pick up a magazine with covers like those. A couple of them look like a pharmaceutical ad magazine.
posted by Malice at 10:50 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Malice said it better than I was going to, but let me add this:

Let's say Time significantly increases the writer's budget to bring in more high-end writers and reporting, makes deals with the best freelancers, and brings in heavy hitting, rock solid, only-the best staff writers, drops most entertainment and lifestyle articles, except for the most socially relevant in a serious tone.

How long would it take to turn current critics and the regular news-seeking readers back into paying subscribers? 6 months? A year? 5 years? When does it pay off for them? Will this harder format turn off their current subscribers, which is what keeps the lights on? Going 'Full Newscore' is not a golden ticket to success; acclaim, respect, and awards, perhaps, but only those don't pay the bills, sales do.

Time has really good articles now and then, but most are just OK, and some just seem irrelevant. Maybe they aren't as respected as they were 30-40 years ago, and maybe they are sometimes running more on their reputation than content sometimes, but I don't see a way for them to get a worthwhile return on a all 'hard news' format investment.
posted by chambers at 11:31 PM on November 26, 2011


If I could turn back Time/
If I could find a way/
I'd take back all the things that hurt you/
and you'd stay
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:40 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


demanding suicidal altruism ... on the theory that they'll somehow lead opinion

I don't know about Time, but this certainly was the traditional role of the press, specifically the NY Times and Washington Post. Would the post-9/11 years have gone very differently if not for the former "paper of record" taking the Yellowcake Uranium route? We'll never know, but the press as a whole, and the Times in particular, failed in a tragic way.

If the press isn't going to "lead opinion," I don't know why we should have a press at all. Much like the idea that a liberal "can't win" at the national level, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it leads to an inexorable slide rightward.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:47 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to see how interested Americans are in International politics, then go to the last MeFi post about Tahir Square. Even US mefites tend towards parochialism. Not that this isn't expected. I suspect I'm the same.
posted by seanyboy at 2:20 AM on November 27, 2011


How does this difference in editions affect citations in scholarly writing?

You should *always* mention the edition from which you are quoting; this is true not just for Time, but also for Newsweek, Economist and even the India-focused Infia Today, which has different Indian, British and North American editions. I know this the hard way; got into some trouble in college for not citing the right edition.
posted by the cydonian at 4:00 AM on November 27, 2011


You're forgetting the part where you have only one Time magazine cover to fill each week, and it has to appeal to the widest portion of the audience. Every. Single. Week.

It doesn't have to be the best possible Every. Single. Week. It just has to be enough to attract attention. To pretend that Time does this is a fairly large assumption, and even if they somehow do, there actually are more important goals than immediate this-week sales. Like retaining some amount of prestige, and keeping up reader confidence in your ability to present factual, insightful, relevant information.

Or rather, you're just not in mass media. See, there's a word you missed. Mass. Not niche. Mass.

There's a word that you missed and it's Smarm.
posted by JHarris at 4:16 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not merely a question of having a large population. Living in India, there were definitely more people interested in international happenings around the world than I find here (and granted, this was a skewed sample of Indian people, but I'm in a PhD program in a top-20 school so this is probably a pretty skewed sample of Americans too). TV news here devotes far more attention to extremely local happenings and far less time to happenings in other countries than in India.
posted by peacheater at 5:34 AM on November 27, 2011


but their tabloids are also meaner and oddly, despite the libel laws, more prone to making things up entirely.

Nothing in British journalism is as mean as US talk radio, and even The Sun -- the scummiest of our tabloids -- is far, far to the left and more generous and compassionate than Fox News.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:44 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


For example, I imagine I'm not the type of person most people would think of as someone who writes for TIME.

Maia, you're an Ivy-League educated New York Jew. You're exactly the type of person most people think of as writing for Time.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:48 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pointing out that TIME, perhaps more than most other magazines, reflects the broad interests of their audience is realistic, and demanding suicidal altruism from magazines on the theory that they'll somehow lead opinion through wisdom is a fantasy that's crashed many fine rags.

I'm glad that's settled. Journalists are always going on about the importance of a free press to democracy. I now think "fantasy" is a wonderfully precise term for this song and dance.

When does it pay off for them? Will this harder format turn off their current subscribers, which is what keeps the lights on? Going 'Full Newscore' is not a golden ticket to success; acclaim, respect, and awards, perhaps, but only those don't pay the bills, sales do.

The problem is systemic. Nobody gives a shit about TIME. If TIME went out of business tomorrow it would have zero impact on the lives of most Americans and less on the rest of the world. Another cookie-cutter, navel gazing, mass-market publication could probably be thrown together overnight to replace it. Nobody would notice. The image link raises some good questions but the danger of focusing on a single magazine is that it suggests that the problem lies in a single magazine. With industrial production the problem is never a single unit or even a single factory.
posted by nixerman at 5:51 AM on November 27, 2011


"I don't know about Time, but this certainly was the traditional role of the press, specifically the NY Times and Washington Post. Would the post-9/11 years have gone very differently if not for the former "paper of record" taking the Yellowcake Uranium route? We'll never know, but the press as a whole, and the Times in particular, failed in a tragic way."

It's the role of some of the press. Time magazine was famously conservative for the vast majority of its history, only making its break with dogmatic Republicanism when it finally joined the call for Nixon to resign.

But even now, Time has a very different role from the New York Times or Washington Post, both papers of record, and all of them have a much different place in the media world than they did when they formed or had their heyday.

(As a side note, while Judith Miller was an administration stooge and her editors failed significantly in not properly vetting her articles, the "Iraq seeks yellowcake from Niger" came from Bush's State of the Union address, and was rebutted in the pages of the New York Times by Joseph Wilson. Further, Iraq did have a significant amount of yellowcake uranium, even as the allegation that they sought more from Niger was dubious.)

"I'm glad that's settled. Journalists are always going on about the importance of a free press to democracy. I now think "fantasy" is a wonderfully precise term for this song and dance. "

Well, that's not at all what I said. That weekly newsmagazines aren't thought leaders doesn't mean that the free press (inclusive of all media) isn't important to democracy; you might as well complain that because Republicans sometimes win, voting isn't important to democracy.

"The problem is systemic. Nobody gives a shit about TIME. If TIME went out of business tomorrow it would have zero impact on the lives of most Americans and less on the rest of the world. Another cookie-cutter, navel gazing, mass-market publication could probably be thrown together overnight to replace it. Nobody would notice. The image link raises some good questions but the danger of focusing on a single magazine is that it suggests that the problem lies in a single magazine. With industrial production the problem is never a single unit or even a single factory."

Sorry, this is more empty bitching from someone who has no idea how media companies actually function in the world.

The image link uses selection bias to make a case that's not accurate, and because it conforms to your biases, you're trumpeting it.

This whole argument just echoes the ones we see in cultural criticism (and have indeed linked to a couple times this month): Art house movies may be important, but the public often sees them as boring; mainstream Americans have only a mild interest in non-entertaining media and have a lot of entertainment to turn to at any given moment.

Magazines as a whole, and even news journalism as a whole, has lost influence within the fracturing of the public into myriad niches, making the mission of general interest rags like Time quixotic and anachronistic, but instead of realizing that there's a real trade off there, you're instead conflating Time with all media and doing a merry little jig on Time's grave. Time's actually been shifting more liberal over the last managing ed's tenure, even as media like evening news (the competing source for most of Time's readership's news consumption) has been shifting more rightward.

You ignored my question about how many magazines you support, instead making vague sweeping statements about systemic problems — ignoring again that this link is scant evidence of such — in total ignorance of the causes of those systemic problems and while offering no solutions.

It's extra annoying because you're usually one of the smarter commenters here, and yet you're off on some weird nihilist jag because, what, Time kicked over your sandcastle once? It is what it is, but sometimes the reason why you don't like something is that it's not meant for you.
posted by klangklangston at 11:24 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


PBS Introduces New Television Channel in Britain

PBS has moved into Britain long after other U.S. channels made the leap, and it has entered a crowded market. In the category that analysts refer to as factual programming, U.S. imports like the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and National Geographic have long been available in Britain, alongside myriad offerings from local broadcasters.

“That’s the question that you have to ask, really — is there a market for it or for channels like it,” said Tim Westcott, a senior analyst at Screen Digest in London. “What will set PBS apart is that it has a different perspective. It is maybe slightly more in tune with European tastes than some U.S. programming.”

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:54 AM on November 27, 2011


Time has become People,
People has become Us,
Scientific American has become Psychology Today,
The New Republic has become Commentary.

Oh well, The Nation is still The Nation.


Harper's is still Harper's.

I swear we've had this post before, but I'm not looking for it. I'll just flag anyway.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:45 AM on November 28, 2011


Melismata: " "First there was People. Then there was Us. Then there was Self. Next thing you know, there's going to be a magazine called ME! And it will just be pages and pages of tin foil, so that you can look at yourself."--Noel Paul Stookey"

*cough*
posted by Rhaomi at 2:03 AM on November 29, 2011


Melismata: " "First there was People. Then there was Us. Then there was Self. Next thing you know, there's going to be a magazine called ME! And it will just be pages and pages of tin foil, so that you can look at yourself."--Noel Paul Stookey"

*cough*


*cough, cough*
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:49 AM on November 29, 2011


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