Martha Nelson Officially Named Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief

By Steve Cohn

What was expected became reality Tuesday (Dec. 18) when Time Inc. CEO (since Jan. 2012) Laura Lang announced the promotion of Style & Entertainment Group/Lifestyle Group editorial director (since 2010) Martha Nelson to corporate editor-in-chief. Predecessor (since 2006) John Huey is retiring at year-end (he told New York Times "Media Equation" columnist David Carr that he will be at Harvard on a teaching fellowship in 2013), and Nelson’s past success made her the easy choice.

Arguably, Nelson’s biggest magazine achievement was as InStyle founding managing editor in 1994. IS turned out to be Time Inc.’s second most successful launch after People (1974), and that was not a given at the time because earlier attempts of People spinoffs (led by Picture Week in the 1980s) had failed. Nelson moved to People managing editor in 2002, and it was under her watch that spinoffs People StyleWatch and People Country successfully launched and became the top celebrity Web site.

In Jan. 2006, Nelson’s corporate ladder-climb started as People Group editor (her People successor Larry Hackett has always reported to her) followed by Time Inc. Group editor and Style & Entertainment Group editor.

"Editor-in-chief" is unique in the Time Inc. culture in that only one person holds the title. The leaders at individual magazines are typically managing editors. Most will report directly to Nelson when she starts after New Year’s Day.

And Nelson is the first female editor-in-chief in Time Inc.’s nearly 90-year history. Her six male predecessors include Huey, Norman Pearlstine, Jason McManus, and the late Henry A. Grunwald.