Life After "Life"

For many of us, Life magazine is a familiar name, given its once-widespread availability at every newsstand, but it looks like it's been on life support in recent years. Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) Time Inc. division has finally decided to pull the plug on the magazine in what seems to be yet another sign of the times.

News reports point out that Life magazine originally launched in a weekly format in 1936 and that it's been shut down three times over the course of its long history. It was discontinued in 1972 and then relaunched in 1978 as a monthly magazine. More recently, it was discontinued in 2000 and then reanimated in 2004 as a newspaper supplement, distributed by 103 papers.

One might imagine that the third time's the charm -- at least in terms of Life not being brought back from the dead yet again. The Internet has made things difficult for paper-based newspapers and magazines, and Time Warner has made it clear that it's taking a tough look at its publishing business, focusing on the brands that seem to have the greatest chance at enjoying popularity both in print and on the Internet. After all, Internet advertising is where it's at, with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , and Time Warner's own AOL vying for the big financial opportunities there as paper-based advertising expenditures decrease. While blaming Internet advertising for magazines' decreasing page counts may be a simplistic view, as my Foolish colleague David Lee Smith contended recently, it's one element among many factors that seem to make it more difficult for physical magazines to command attention (or purchase).

These strategies were clear last fall when Time Warner put some of its titles on the block, including Popular Science, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, and Parenting. It said at the time that it meant to focus on its bigger brands with a better chance of online success. Think of titles like People, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated.

As a case in point, take Time's People magazine. At a recent Wall Street conference, Time Warner said the People magazine brand is doing well, given that its website has 5 million to 6 million unique visitors per month, with 350 million to 375 million page views. Considering that 41 million subscribers get the print version and aren't in the digital system yet, it appears that opportunities abound for that brand.

It may be sad to see old names like Life go, but a half-life as a weekly newspaper supplement sounds like it was on its last legs anyway. As far as Time Warner's publishing business goes, it makes sense that the company is taking a tough look at its properties and figuring out which ones make the most strategic sense as profitable, money-generating ventures that should garner plenty of interest online as well as off.

Turn to some related Foolishness:

Time Warner and Yahoo! areMotley Fool Stock Advisorrecommendations. To see what other stocks have been selected, take a free 30-day trial today.

Microsoft is aMotley Fool Inside Valuepick.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.


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