Before the holidays, AOL products chief Kevin Conroy urged employees to send a form letter to their friends, family members, and business contacts talking up AOL’s new products. “Team, excitement about the work we are doing … starts with each one of us,” Conroy emailed. His topdown directive did not spark any bottom-up fervor, it seems, as he had to forward the message again on Friday, asking employees for examples of get-out-the-users emails they’d sent.
Yick! I’m imagining a parallel memo from my boss, which would go something like:
TO: TIME Magazine staff
FROM: Head honchos
RE: Our continued survival
Team: despite our brave—nay, heroic—efforts, news magazines as a media category continue to struggle. It’s true more young readers are turning to us for political coverage now that Jon Stewart sucks. But many of our shall we say more senior readers are not renewing their subscriptions due to death. And the recession threatens to further hobble our ad-page count. If things go on this way, not only will TimeWarner jettison its magazine division, but Time Inc. could make like Hellga the Gladiator and crush its flagship brand to an ignominious footnote.
Team—it’s time to step up. From now on, every single article in TIME Magazine will end with a cheer—for us. Example: this week’s Tuned In column by James Poniewozik ought to have ended with: “…but enough about Leno and Letterman. Buy TIME Magazine!” Let’s extend our enthusiasm to the cover. Starting next week, Arthur Hochstein will begin incorporating our brand name not just once across the top but all over, in nearly invisible water marks (test marketing shows the subliminal messaging ups newsstand sales by 23%).
Of course, we’ll extend this tactic to our shining star and best weapon, Time.com. From now on, every single click on the site will attract not one but 12 pop-up ads, all insisting on a subscription to TIME Magazine, without which a virus will automatically download and destroy the computer.
…well, you never know. (BTW, here’s the New York magazine article in this week’s issue about our new CEO, Jeff Bewkes, and how he’s going to save our company.) Here’s the full memo at our sister org, again from Valleywag: