January 19, 2017 Last Updated 8:06 am

Time Inc. weeklies: from crown jewels to unwanted orphans

Morning Brief: Trump campaign caught using reception desk as prop; former Texas governor discovers the job description for his new position slightly different than imagined

The saga of Time Inc. continues, like watching a dear friend die of a dreaded disease. Like the Confederacy, Time Inc. is dying of a theory*, one in which the brands mean little, but overall audience means everything.

When Time Warner first tried to sell off Time Inc. whole it ran into a wall when it became apparent that Meredith really had its eyes on certain properties rather than the weeklies for which Time Inc. had become iconic (it likely wasn’t interested in the UK portfolio, either). Now Hearst appears to be coming to the same conclusion, what they really would like to do is pick off a few titles, and leave the rest for someone else.

So, how can Time Inc. sell itself off? There appears to be only one answer, private equity. That would mean the end of Time Inc., of course, but the writing was on the wall the minute Time Warner saddled the publishing company with debt and failed to fill its coffers with cash – the way Rupert Murdoch did with News Corp. (For all the bad things that can be said of the old Aussie, one that should not is that he hates print.)

The really said thing here is that Time Inc. is restructuring itself in such a way that guarantees that if some sales go through to other publishers none of the sales staff will be going along. Time Inc. is embracing category selling, which in turn is diminishing the value of the brands, and the value of the reps. Meredith or Hearst won’t be wanting category sellers, they have that, they want sellers to know the brands and can sell them. They can hire those people, if they want, now that many of them have been let go.

(By the way, the WSJ ran a story yesterday that was like reliving a bad dream, I’m still trying to figure out what is new in it.

NY Post, Keith Kelly:

Hearst not interested in buying all Time Inc. publications

The Time Inc. board last week said it will begin formally listening to pitches from prospective buyers — but one major media company will be sitting it out, at least in the early going: Hearst…

Hearst will sit on the sidelines in the early going, sources tell Media Ink. If a private equity player succeeds in a takeover, Hearst could enter if a secondary market develops. Hearst has little interest in the weeklies or titles aimed at male audiences, sources said.

Meetings to begin to sound out potential suitors for Time Inc. have not been scheduled, but sources said they could start as early as next week.

* “If the Confederacy falls, there should be written on its tombstone: Died of a theory.” Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government

If there was ever a need for proof that Donald Trump and his surrogates think the public are idiots, it is this: the Trump staff releases a silly photo of the man sitting at a desk, with a scowl on his face, supposedly writing his inaugural address.

Of course, it didn’t take long for the press to look into the shot and figure out that the desk was, in fact, the reception desk at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

New York Magazine, Madison Malone Kircher:

Is Donald Trump Writing His Inaugural Address From a Mar-a-Lago Receptionist’s Desk? An Investigation

As tends to be the case with the president-elect’s social-media statements, there is much to discuss. First, there’s the fact that Trump seems to be drafting his first speech as POTUS with a … Sharpie. And second, perhaps more important, there’s the question of Trump’s desk, which, as Twitter user @missdewey points out, appears to be one usually occupied by an administrative or hospitality professional — a receptionist or concierge, maybe — in a public hall at Mar-a-Lago, and not in a private office.

Live by Twitter, die by Twitter! Or, at least, have your photographs picked apart on Twitter.

Of course, there is more money to be made playing people for the fool than actually producing the news. Google, after all, seems to not differentiate in the least between real news sites and ridiculous sites that have proof, proof that the man landing was fake. (The proof is that someone else wrote the same thing, so that proves it.)

One good thing that appears to be happening in the media is a desire to set reporters free to track down the origins of some of these nonsense stories. It turns out that the backstories are fascinating, and often quite funny.

Take this one from Scott Shane, who tracked down the origins of a made-up story that there were “Tens of thousands’ of fraudulent Clinton votes found in Ohio warehouse.” The story was designed to match Donald Trump’s theme that the election was rigged. Should Trump lose, it would fit right into what that candidate said and what his supporters believed. The nation then played a joke on itself and then elected the man, due in large part to winning the state of Ohio.

The New York Times, Scott Shane:

From Headline to Photograph, a Fake News Masterpiece

At his kitchen table that night in September, Mr. Harris wondered: Who might have found these fraudulent Clinton ballots? So he invented “Randall Prince, a Columbus-area electrical worker.” This Everyman, a “Trump supporter” whose name hinted at a sort of nobility, had entered a little-used back room at the warehouse and stumbled upon stacked boxes of ballots pre-marked for Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Harris decided.

“No one really goes in this building. It’s mainly used for short-term storage by a commercial plumber,” Prince said.

In case anyone missed the significance of the find, Mr. Harris made it plain: “What he found could allegedly be evidence of a massive operation designed to deliver Clinton the crucial swing state.”

If the story above doesn’t perfectly exemplify the past election, then this story perfectly exemplifies what is to come.

It seems that Trump needed an energy secretary, he looked around and saw Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas needing a job. Perry, who ran for president, but dropped out quickly, had famously been asked what three government departments he wanted to eliminate. It turns out it was energy:

But why would Perry want to eliminate the Energy Department? Because he thought it was all about promoting energy policies he didn’t like (Perry loves oil, hates renewables). So, he jumped at the chance to be head of Energy, but now is discovering the job is different than he imagined (and, of course, he is totally unqualified to head the department).

The New York Times, Coral Davenport and David E. Sanger:

‘Learning Curve’ as Rick Perry Pursues a Job He Initially Misunderstood

When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.

In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal…

…If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize.

For Mr. Moniz, the future of nuclear science has been a lifelong obsession; he spent his early years working at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Mr. Perry studied animal husbandry and led cheers at Texas A&M University.

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