01 December 2011

Time Magazine

Partial Objects | The Last Psychiatrist | Does Time Magazine Think Americans are stupider than Europeans?

I see one of these comparisons every year or so, and I'm always baffled by the people who are so scandalized by them. These are different products, marketed to different people, in different societies and economies. Just because they have the same umbrella organization and use the same trade dress does not mean we should expect them to cover the same issues.  (Last Psychiatrist addresses some of this; for example the average income of a Time Asia reader is orders of magnitude larger than the income of the Time US reader.)

You know how competition shows often have versions in different countries, so there's an America's Next Top Whatever and Germany's Next Top Whatever and Brzail's Next Top Whatever?* We don't expect the winner of the American, German and Brazilian versions to be the same. We don't expect the judges to look for the same things, or the audiences to respond to the same things, or the producers to emphasize the same things. Even though they're all called Next Top Whatever, we realize they are different products.

(* Sidenote: The Economist did a good piece on global reality television programming last month.  This also explained a lot, like why I'll only get to see 24 episodes of IT Crowd ever:
Alex Mahon, president of Shine Group, points to another reason for British creativity. Many domestic television executives do not prize commercial success. The BBC is funded almost entirely by a licence fee on television-owning households. Channel 4 is funded by advertising but is publicly owned. At such outfits, success is measured largely in terms of creativity and innovation—putting on the show that everyone talks about. In practice, that means they favour short series. British television churns out a lot of ideas.

Time US and Time Europe and Time South Pacific and Time Asia are all different products.

The Coke you get here is not the Coke you get in Argentina or Russia or Korea.

The Milky Way bar you get in America is not the Milky Way bar you get abroad. Mars just re-uses the same name to sell two different things. And that's okay. Why can't Time do the same?

PS To be very clear, I think the American version of Time is a crappy product. Do not read this post as standing up for Time US in particular.


  1. " the average income of a Time Asia reader is orders of magnitude larger than the income of the Time US reader."

    You sure that's not backwards?

  2. Well it's correct based on the figures Last Psychiatrist gives. Time US has a household income of ~$73k, while Time Asia's readers have a *personal* income of ~$190k.

    I think the difference is that Time Asia is more for the demo that something like The Economist covers here, not the kind of thing you find in dentists' waiting rooms and next to pharmacy cash registers like time US.

    (And I was thinking in binary magnitudes.)