THE BLOG

What Time Magazine Can Learn From Facebook

12/15/2010 11:16 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Time Magazine announced Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year for 2010.

Excellent choice in my opinion.

Zuckerberg built a company from scratch that now serves a half billion people worldwide.

But what really got me thinking is how the two media properties -- Time Magazine and Facebook -- are so different.

One has been in decline. The other is on top of the world.

When I was growing up, Time Magazine was relevant. We subscribed at home and I read it every week from the age of about 9. People talked about Time Magazine articles at school and at work. I even cut out the cover of each issue for about a decade and saved them. The magazine was thick and meaty with tons of ads.

Where is Time Magazine now?

As media tied to rigid production cycles decline -- morning papers, evening newscasts, and weekly newsmagazines -- real-time media grow audiences and profits.

What's more, at a time when news outlets across the United States were shrinking dramatically, upstart media companies focused on real-time are growing quickly.

Bloomberg, the Huffington Post, TMZ, and Politico now beat the likes of Time Magazine, People magazine, and the Washington Post.

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter drive news today.

At a time when Americans are consuming unprecedented volumes of news and information online, why did more than 15,000 people across the United States lose their newspaper jobs in 2009?

I would argue that focusing on real time is critical to achieving a sustainable business model in media.

Facebook understands real time.

Zuckerberg built Facebook on instant status updates. You can see what's going on with your friends right now. It's not a weekly update, it's second by second.

So why can't incumbent media companies like Time make an effective jump to real time?

My own view is that these organizations are burdened by cultural habits deeply ingrained by their manufacturing processes, by the news cycles they follow. For newspapers it's the daily print deadline. For TV news, it's the prime time broadcast. For the weeklies like Time, production cycles are even longer.

When the opportunity to move online arose, for these organizations it was an afterthought. And because online was an afterthought it did not force the core culture to reinvent itself.

Huge advantage flows from delivering in real-time content that satisfies intensely focused public curiosity.

Time Magazine and other traditional media companies need to build real-time into their very core.

The answer is to create a real-time media company that happens to also do print.