TIME magazine is a weekly news magazine based and printed in New York City. As well as a longstanding print magazine, TIME also runs a very successful online news website. This post explores the complete TIME magazine history, from the publication’s founding to the present day, taking you through the best moments in its history. You can discover many old newspapers and magazines using our search tool, including old copies from TIME magazine from the date of your choice.
Turn the page to:
- Founding and Early History
- Roy Larsen
- Later History
- Meredith Corporation and Catherine Mayer Sues
- Current Ownership and Style
- TIME Magazine Man/Person of the Year
- TIME Magazine Covers
- Other Interesting Facts About TIME Magazine
TIME magazine founder Henry Luce published the first edition of the magazine with co-founder Briton Hadden on March 3, 1923. At the time, it was the first news magazine to be printed weekly in New York City. Luce and Hadden had already worked together when they were the chairman and managing editor of the Yale Daily News, and originally thought about calling TIME magazine Facts. Their goal was to emphasize how the magazine could provide the reader news efficiently, even for those who are really busy, hence the name changed to TIME. Alongside the name was the slogan “Take Time – It’s Brief.”
Hadden was famously considered a carefree founder, taking a liking to teasing his co-founder Luce. While Hadden saw TIME as a serious publication determined to provide the latest factual news, he also believed the magazine should be fun, which led to the magazine’s reporting of celebrities, politicians, pop culture and entertainment.
One of the aims of TIME magazine was to tell news stories through people, which is why the cover of the magazine featured a single person for many decades through the late 1960s. The first ever cover of the magazine featured retired Speaker of the House of Representatives, Joseph G. Cannon. When the magazine celebrated its 15th anniversary, a facsimile reprint of the issue along with the original advertisements and articles was included with the anniversary issue on February 28, 1938.
Hadden passed away in 1929, leaving Luce in charge of the magazine. While he became the dominant figure at TIME, he also became a major figure in the history of 20th-century media.
Winston Churchill on the cover of TIME magazine when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer on May 11, 1925
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Hadden and Luce had hired Roy Edward Larsen at the time they were raising $100,000 from wealthy Yale alumni, and Larsen, although a Harvard graduate, bought 550 shares of the magazine when Hadden passed away. Luce remained to be the stockholder and was an autocratic leader of the media conglomerate.
Roy Larsen was responsible for increasing the circulation of the magazine’s weekly issues, using U.S. radio and movie theatres around the globe. Often these promotions would project both TIME magazine as well as U.S. political and corporate interests. Previously, in 1928, Larsen had even broadcasted a 10-minute programme series of news summaries, which were taken from the current issues of TIME magazine in order to promote it. These programmes were originally broadcast in more than 33 stations across the country.
Following the success of these broadcasts, Larsen organized a 30-minute radio programme called The March of Time to feature on CBS from March 6, 1931. While dramatizing the news of the week to listeners, much of the audience was introduced to TIME for the first time, and had not previously heard of the publication. This led to increased circulation in the 1930s.
Around the time that Luce passed away in 1967, TIME Inc. was reportedly worth around $109 million, providing him with more than a $2.4 million yearly dividend. During the 1960s, Roy Larsen’s family’s stock was worth around $80 million, and Larsen was a TIME director as well as the chairman of its executive committee. He even served as vice chairman of the board until 1979.
In the entirety of the magazine’s history, there has only been one official editorial printed, which came in 1974 and advocated for the resignation of President Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal.
American journalist Jason McManus became the editor-in-chief of TIME in 1987, taking over from Henry Grunwald. TIME inc. and Warner Communications merged in 1989, leading TIME to become a part of TIME Warner, as well as Warner Bros. Norman Pearlstine then took over as editor-in-chief in 1995, and TIME went on to also form part of AOL Time Warner, becoming Time Warner in 2003.
While the magazine first began with an edition on a Friday, in 2007, TIME decided to move from a Monday subscription and newsstand delivery publication, to a more scheduled rota in which the magazine would be sold on Fridays, then delivered to subscribers on the Saturday. Early in the same year, “editorial changes” in the TIME company led to 49 employees being laid off, and delays of the magazine for around a week.
2009 saw TIME released a personalized print magazine for the first time, entitled MINE. This magazine merged content from Time Warner publications depending on the preferences of the reader. While an interesting concept, the magazine was not well received, since it was believed to be too broad to be personal enough to the reader.
Along with their print magazine, TIME also runs an online archive in which the unformatted text for every single article is preserved. In the archive, the articles are converted from scanned images using optical character recognition technology, creating just a few minor errors from remnants of the conversion to digital copies.
January 2013 was a particularly rough month for the magazine, since almost 500 jobs had to be cut. This made up around 6% of its 8,000 staff around the world. The magazine was maintaining high sales, but ad pages had been in significant decline. In the same month, however, Martha Nelson became editor-in-chief, making her the first female in the company to hold this position. In September 2013, Nancy Gibbs became the first female managing editor.
Meredith Corporation acquired TIME inc. in November 2017, supported by Koch Equity Development. Meredith Corporation then announced, just 6 months after the sale had been made, that it would explore the sale of TIME along with Fortune, Money, and Sports Illustrated, the publication’s sister magazines, since they did not match up with the company’s lifestyle brands. 2017 also saw the editor and journalist Catherine Mayer sue TIME for sex and age discrimination through attorney Ann Olivarius. Mayer also founded the Women’s Equality Party in the UK and the suit was resolved in 2018.
On October 31, 2018, Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne purchased TIME for $190 million, with the magazine remaining separate from Benioff’s existing company Salesforce.com and Benioff remaining uninvolved in daily operations.
In terms of who publishes TIME magazine today, Marc Benioff is the current owner after purchasing the magazine from Meredith Corporation. On October 31, 2018, Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne purchased TIME for $190 million, with the magazine remaining separating from Benioff’s existing company Salesforce.com and Benioff remaining uninvolved in daily operations.
While TIME was initially focused on an American audience, the magazine has now expanded its circulation worldwide and publishes a few different international editions of the magazine. The TIME website is immensely popular and the magazine also published a TIME for Kids issue.
TIME magazine has consistently embodied its own style of writing and is known for its signature red border on the cover of the magazine. This border has only changed once in TIME history, when the issue printed just after the September 11, 2001 attacks featured a black border to portray mourning for the country.
The TIME format is similar to that of other news publications, in which there are a huge number of short articles which summarize information of general interest, as well as newsworthy significance about current events. Photographs are widely used throughout the magazine, and TIME is split up into different sections based on topic, including education, business, law, book reviews, the arts, science, sports, religion and medicine.
American internet entrepreneur Marc Benioff, who purchased TIME in 2018
Image: Wikimedia Commons
In recent years, TIME has incorporated issues with a “Person of the Year” cover story, widely regarded as the most famous aspect of the magazine throughout its history. The feature aims to make awareness of an individual or a group of people who have had a big impact on news headlines in the past year.
“Person of the Year” was incorporated in 1927 when editors were deciding what to write about when news one week was particularly slow. They decided to reminisce on an editorial embarrassment, in which the magazine failed to put Charles Lindbergh, the aviator, on the cover after he completed his trans-Atlantic flight. They decided to create a cover story about Lindbergh, making him “Man of the Year.” Ever since 1927, each U.S. president has been a “Person of the Year” at least one time, with the exception of Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Gerald Ford.
“Person of the Year” is not regarded as an award or celebration, since there may be negative reasons why an individual or group of people have been chosen. The feature simply goes to the person or group who has had a big effect on the course of the past year. For example, even Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler have been featured as “Man of the Year,” purely because of their impact over the past 12 months. Some other memorable people from these issues include Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, among many others.
The 2006 Person of the Year was chosen as “You,” which was met with varied reviews. Some readers thought the concept was very creative, but others were hoping for an actual named Person of the Year. The editors of the time, Pepper and Timmer, claimed that if this was a mistake, “we’re only going to make it once.”
2017 was an interesting year for the feature, since The Silence Breakers was named Person of the Year. The Silence Breakers were a group of people who opened up about personal experiences of sexual harassment.
One of the main controversies of the cover feature is that many readers have misinterpreted the allocation as an award or achievement for doing good. Naturally, the title makes it seem like it would be an honor, however, the magazine states that it’s simply an individual who has impacted the news. This misunderstanding also comes from the fact that many of the people TIME have claimed to be “Person of the Year” have actually been recognized for positive achievements, with it being less known that Adolf Hitler was once granted the title.
The magazine’s choices have previously been considered too “American” as well, failing to incorporate more international figures and foreign political leaders when the magazine previously recognized them. TIME had also attempted to stay away from controversial figures when Ayatollah Khomeini, Iranian politician, revolutionary, and cleric, being chosen as “Man of the Year” in 1979 caused significant backlash.
TIME magazine being displayed on a library stand
The TIME magazine audience, over the course of the magazine’s history, have become acquainted with many notable individuals appearing on the front cover. TIME has consistently featured individuals on their cover in order to make awareness of them and their significance, relating back to their aim of telling news stories through the eyes of people.
Some recognizable individuals who have made the cover of TIME include:
- Winston Churchill
- Charlie Chaplin
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
- Ernest Hemingway
- King George VI of England
- Joe DiMaggio
- Walt Disney
- Ho Chi Minh
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- John F. Kennedy
- The Beatles
- Jimmy Carter
- Princess Diana
- O. J Simpson
- Greta Thunberg
To this day, Richard Nixon has appeared the most times on the cover, with 55 different features between 1952 and his death in 1994.
On just five covers in the magazine’s history, TIME has drawn big red ‘X’s on the faces of men or national symbols. The first issue with this cover was released on May 7, 1945, showing a red ‘X’ over the face of Adolf Hitler, followed by another red ‘X’ on a cover 3 months later over the flag of Japan. The latter cover symbolized the surrender of Japan and the end of the Second World War.
The fourth Red X cover was shown on April 21, 2003, across the face of Saddam Hussein, following the start of the Invasion of Iraq. After the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006, the June 13 issue of TIME featured his face on the cover with a red ‘X’. The fifth and latest Red X cover features Osama Bin Laden, following his death on May 2, 2011.
More recently, TIME have featured essential workers on their covers in April 2020, so these workers can share their own stories about the coronavirus outbreak and their continued work throughout the pandemic. This was an opportunity to represent ordinary people, rather than well-known figures.
Barack Obama on the cover of TIME magazine
TIME magazine circulation, as of 2018, was at 2.3 million. In 2017, TIME magazine was the 13th highest magazine in the United States in terms of circulation. However, between 2012 and 2017, the magazine’s circulation had dropped by 1.3 million. It was also in 2017 that Bloomberg columnist Joe Nocera wrote about the demise of TIME, claiming that “Once the internet bubble burst in the spring of 2000, the company was ill-equipped to cope with the decline of print advertising and the growing importance of digital publishing.”
The Internet boom has affected nearly all publications, since newspaper and magazine companies have had to adapt to demands for online services. A common trend among most publications is the decline in circulation, due to more and more readers getting their news from their devices and online websites. Between May and October 2020, TIME magazine had 26.92 million visitors, showing that the magazine’s content is still popular among readers, just in a different format.
Throughout its existence, TIME has been associated with some controversies. Even though the magazine portrays a rather carefree and entertained-focused outlook, it has still been caught up in some scandals. The summer of 1994 brought about a controversy regarding O.J. Simpson.
TIME printed, after Simpson had been arrested for the supposed murder of his wife and her friend, an image of Simpson’s mugshot which had been altered. The mugshot reduced his prison number in size and darkened his skin, and was easily picked up by the public since it was being displayed next to unaltered versions of the picture printed by other publications. With resentment from minority groups, the illustrator responsible, Matt Mahurin, simply claimed that he was attempting to make the image appear more “artful” and “compelling.”
There are many other interesting facts about TIME magazine, including some fascinating demographics about its readership. Back in 2016, Brandon Gaille discovered that the magazine is more likely to be read by American men, with their percentage coming in at 52%. 75% of TIME readers have attended college or graduated with a degree, and 1 in 4 readers are in a professional or managerial work position. In addition, the average age of readers of TIME is 50 years old.
In one issue of TIME, they released a list called “100 Most Read Female Writers in College Classes,” featuring prominent female authors. However, Evelyn Waugh was included on the list in 97th place, when Waugh was actually a man, and TIME apologized later for the mistake.
While initially intended to be a list showcasing the most influential people throughout the 20th century, the TIME 100 List has become an annual feature of the magazine. On the front cover, 100 people are displayed who have significantly influenced the past year, and the cover images are coupled with a unique story about each person.