Time-Out

Two things are striking about the just-published double issue of Time.

Titled “The 100 Most Influential People,” it is notable for its focus on people, not coincidentally the name of the other weekly from the same publisher. Cleverly, the cover photo is one of five individual portraits and which cover arrives at your doorstep, one supposes, is random. Unless, of course, one is conspiracy-minded and then the cover one gets is the result of a diabolical, social engineering plot.

That people rather than subjects, issues, problems, events and occurrences is the focus is not necessarily controversial. Indeed, some would argue, it’s only fair since the other 50 or so annual issues focus on all those other, dreary issues in a disproportionate way.

And not all the 100 featured are well-known. Many, arguably, are little-known but deserve wider attention not for the force of their personalities or the attractiveness of their faces. Instead, what they’ve invented, accomplished, thought-up, advocated for and brought to our attention merits exposure.

One striking thing about the issue is its brevity. So-called “essays” about the 100 appear to average, maybe, 250-300 words – about half the length of a typical Blog.

If we accept as true the personality’s significance, shouldn’t we also demand a bit more? More depth. More discussion. More insight. More revelation.

And the writers of the biographies, it’s hard to ignore, are themselves well-known. In many ways, it appears the Mutual Admiration Society.

The other thing that’s striking about The 100 Most Influential People issue is its length. Just over 150 pages, the issue – well, OK, double issue – is fat. Thick. Robust. The, ahem, way single-week issues used to be. To sound old-fashioned.

Magazines, like daily newspapers, seem to get thinner by issue. But for the paper quality, it’s becoming hard to discriminate between them and local penny-savers.

Time’s double richness is accounted for – no surprise here – by advertising. Hardly worth any kind of spoiler alert, the business of media is delivering audiences to advertisers.

But maybe more interesting is the fact that the “ordinary” issues of Time et al. – the ones filled with such tedious topics as economics, politics, science – cannot seem to draw the kind of advertising support that the focus-on-personality can.

Why? What accounts for this? Did Time discount their advertising rates for this issue? Do advertisers prefer the comforting context of inspiration as personified by people in flattering photos to discussion of “ugly” subjects that don’t lend themselves to photo profiles?

The issue is an interesting if rapid read nevertheless. It seems, though, there’s a need to make broccoli and brussels sprouts as attractive as cookies and ice cream.

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