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Time Inc. Names Nelson as First Female Editor-in-Chief

Time Inc., the publisher of People, Sports Illustrated and other magazines, named Martha Nelson as the first female editor-in-chief in its 90-year history.

Nelson will take the new job in January, the New York-based company said yesterday in a statement. The 60-year-old has spent two decades at Time Inc., working most recently as editorial director for the 17 brands in the Style and Entertainment Group.

“We’re in a challenging time, but also I think this is the most exciting time for everyone in media,” she said in an interview. Nelson, who was the founding editor of InStyle, said she would be looking for editors to take more risks and be creative about delivering their content to readers online.

Time Inc. Chief Executive Officer Laura Lang, who took the reins last year, is working to merge print and Web ad operations, aiming to reinvigorate what has become Time Warner Inc.’s worst-performing division. It has struggled to shift from print to the Internet, where advertising commands lower rates than with traditional magazine campaigns.

The division’s sales fell 6.2 percent to $2.47 billion in the first nine months of 2012 from the year-earlier period. One of the challenges: Readers aren’t buying as many magazines at newsstands.

Single-copy sales of People, the company’s most profitable title, fell 19 percent in the first half of 2012 from the year-earlier period, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.

Still, Time Inc. is making gains in subscriptions, Nelson said. “We’ve had a better second half,” she said.

Nelson also is counting on the company’s high-profile features, including Time magazine’s “Person of the Year,” which will be announced this morning on NBC’s “Today” show.

“These moments show both our power to declare and to engage millions and millions of people in the conversation around the choices,” Nelson said. “They may not always agree with our choices, but they’ll still talk about them -- it shows our relevance.”

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