Case | HBS Case Collection | January 2007 (Revised May 2008)

Henry Luce and the American Century

by Nitin Nohria, Anthony Mayo and Logan Wilcox

Abstract

Henry Luce, founder of the publishing company which produced Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated, created the largest media company in the world by the mid-20th century. Luce's flagship magazine, Time, was able to gross over $20 million in sales during its first decade of publication and over $400 million by the time Luce retired in 1964. Entering the emerging market of magazine journalism early in the 1930s, Luce was able to cover some of the largest political and social events of the 20th century, including Charles Lindbergh's flight, World War II, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. Combining his unique journalistic ethos and his engaging creative writing style, Luce's magazines often resonated with readers, allowing him to quickly trump competitors such as Newsweek, Forbes, The New Yorker, Esquire, and National Geographic. Yet Luce was also criticized for occasionally using his imaginative style to inject his opinion into stories, going beyond the purview of journalists. Contemporaries complained that Luce was cultivating "middlebrow" cultural tastes instead of striving for journalistic excellence. Nevertheless, Luce's media empire continues to endure into the 21st century, shaping public discourse and influencing public opinion.

Keywords: Business Growth and Maturation; Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Business History; Leadership Style; Emerging Markets; Publishing Industry; United States;

Citation:

Nohria, Nitin, Anthony Mayo, and Logan Wilcox. "Henry Luce and the American Century." Harvard Business School Case 407-076, January 2007. (Revised May 2008.)