There are a few commenters over at Swampland who, at the slightest provocation, bring up Time‘s Ann Coulter cover story of two years ago as evidence of the perfidy of this here media enterprise. I tend to think that this is nonsense, and that John Cloud did a pretty great job of portraying the staged nature of the rival media enterprise that is Coulter Inc. But who cares what I think about that, eh?
Financial blogger Barry Ritholtz had a far more interesting take on the story when it was published two years ago:
We have looked at the magazine cover indicator in the past as a contrary indicator. Its been a solid tell on politics, technology, currency, even specific stocks (i.e, Apple). And, this is not the first instance of Time Magazine’s displaying exemplary timing. Recall the Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com’s founder and CEO) [cover story] in December 1999 pretty much top ticked both that stock and the entire dotcom bubble.
Since Reagan was elected, the right side of the political ledger has been in ascendence. But for Bill Clinton’s brief reign (initially elected in a 3 way race that included businessman Ross Perot), that’s over 25 years. It would be both fascinating and ironic if Time Magazine, demonstrating once again their wonderful sense of timing, and [sic] top ticked another trend.
I’d find it terribly amusing if Time magazine managed to nail the exact moment — the post-Schiavo/Iraq War/Social Security reform instant — when the zeitgeist swung away from the G.O.P.
On Thursday night, Ritholtz declared victory:
So I guess congrats are in order for the Time magazine editors, whose sense of timing was truly and astonishingly prescient — in a contrary indicator sort of way . . .
I wasn’t at Time two years ago, but my take is that it’s the raison d’etre of a mass market publication to focus on important cultural phenomena just as they peak. If that makes its covers a contrary indicator, so be it. (The magazine’s business/economics column is an entirely different matter, of course.)