THE STORY of print magazines revolves around the rise of digital new media.

Michael Wolff explains the other side of the reality, beyond the inevitable, which is the people who helped orchestrate Time, Inc.’s demise.

Let it be recorded before the company enters oblivion: Time Inc launched the web as a publishing and advertising platform, wholly failing to appreciate what it had done, and what it should do next.

[…] Time Warner, with its powerful magazines, its dominance in the growing cable business, its acquisition of CNN and Turner in the mid-1990s, and its preeminence in Hollywood and the music industry, was as central to liberal-establishment America as News Corp and Fox came to be to conservative America. It was a hubris moment.

[…] At Time Inc, expansion included hundreds of new magazine titles, from Southern Living to Golf Magazine to many magazines the company still probably does not know it owns in the UK (where it acquired IPC), which seemed to create a publishing juggernaut, but which had the effect of turning the most prestigious magazine publisher into, largely, a schlock house.

Then, in 2000, Levin engineered a deal, possibly the most infamous ever engineered in corporate America, in which AOL bought Time Warner, destroying billions of dollars in value, breaking the spirits of tens of thousands of employees, and ending the growth as well as the dominance of the company.

Time Warner (briefly AOL Time Warner) froze. Its vast public humiliation, the exhaustion of the internecine wars that followed the combination … ..meant that for half a decade, as the media business transformed, it did essentially nothing, except, arguably, produce the Sopranos.