Time Inc. rated writers on ad value, leaked spreadsheet shows

BY Corinne Segal  August 18, 2014 at 5:49 PM EST

The_Logo_of_Sports_Illustrated

A leaked internal spreadsheet from Time, Inc. shows that the company assigned writers different scores for various criteria, including their value to advertisers.

Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan published the spreadsheet today with a statement from Anthony Napoli, who represents The Newspaper Guild, a union for media employees.

The Guild has filed an arbitration demand to contest the ranking system, which Time Inc. used to lay off Sports Illustrated writers, Napoli said.

“Writers who may have high assessments for their writing ability, which is their job, were in fact terminated based on the fact the company believed their stories did not ‘produce content that is beneficial to advertiser relationships,’” he said.

Sports Illustrated spokesman Scott Novak released a statement on the spreadsheet.

“The Guild’s interpretation is misleading and takes one category out of context. The SI.com evaluation was conducted in response to the Guild’s requirement for our rationale for out of seniority layoffs. As such, it encompasses all of the natural considerations for digital media. It starts and ends with journalistic expertise, while including reach across all platforms and appeal to the marketplace. SI’s editorial content is uncompromised and speaks for itself.”

The revelation comes at a time when the traditional media-advertiser relationship is changing. As media companies adopt an online-based business model, many have increased the use of native ads and sponsored content, posting articles and videos that are backed by ad revenue.

Buzzfeed, whose business model is heavily supported by sponsored content, announced $50 million in new funding earlier this month. The New York Times ran a native ad in June for Netflix show “Orange Is The New Black,” a move that received praise from fellow journalists. Magazine giant Hearst recently created a team to produce sponsored content across a variety of brands.