Time magazine was created in 1923 by Briton Hadden and Henry Luce, making it the first weekly news magazine in the United States. The two had previously worked together as chairman and managing editor, respectively, of the Yale Daily News. They first called the proposed magazine Facts. They wanted to emphasize brevity, so that a busy man could read it in an hour. They changed the name to Time and used the slogan "Take Time–It's Brief". Hadden was considered carefree and liked to tease Luce. He saw Time as important, but also fun, which accounted for its heavy coverage of celebrities (including politicians), the entertainment industry, and pop culture—criticized as too light for serious news.
It set out to tell the news through people, and for many decades, the magazine's cover depicted a single person. More recently, Time has incorporated "People of the Year" issues which grew in popularity over the years. Notable mentions of them were Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, etc. The first issue of Time was published on March 3, 1923, featuring Joseph G. Cannon, the retired Speaker of the House of Representatives, on its cover; a facsimile reprint of Issue No. 1, including all of the articles and advertisements contained in the original, was included with copies of the February 28, 1938 issue as a commemoration of the magazine's 15th anniversary. The cover price was 15¢ (equivalent to $2.21 in 2018) On Hadden's death in 1929, Luce became the dominant man at Time and a major figure in the history of 20th-century media. According to Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise 1972–2004 by Robert Elson, "Roy Edward Larsen [...] was to play a role second only to Luce's in the development of Time Inc". In his book, The March of Time, 1935–1951, Raymond Fielding also noted that Larsen was "originally circulation manager and then general manager of Time, later publisher of Life, for many years president of Time Inc., and in the long history of the corporation the most influential and important figure after Luce".
Around the time they were raising $100,000 from wealthy Yale alumni such as Henry P. Davison, partner of J.P. Morgan & Co., publicity man Martin Egan and J.P. Morgan & Co. banker Dwight Morrow, Henry Luce, and Briton Hadden hired Larsen in 1922 – although Larsen was a Harvard graduate and Luce and Hadden were Yale graduates. After Hadden died in 1929, Larsen purchased 550 shares of Time Inc., using money he obtained from selling RKO stock which he had inherited from his father, who was the head of the Benjamin Franklin Keith theatre chain in New England. However, after Briton Hadden's death, the largest Time, Inc. stockholder was Henry Luce, who ruled the media conglomerate in an autocratic fashion, "at his right hand was Larsen", Time's second-largest stockholder, according to Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise 1923–1941. In 1929, Roy Larsen was also named a Time Inc. director and vice president. J. P. Morgan retained a certain control through two directorates and a share of stocks, both over Time and Fortune. Other shareholders were Brown Brothers W. A. Harriman & Co., and the New York Trust Company (Standard Oil).
The Time Inc. stock owned by Luce at the time of his death was worth about $109 million, and it had been yielding him a yearly dividend of more than $2.4 million, according to Curtis Prendergast's The World of Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Changing Enterprise 1957–1983. The Larsen family's Time stock was worth around $80 million during the 1960s, and Roy Larsen was both a Time Inc. director and the chairman of its executive committee, later serving as Time's vice chairman of the board until the middle of 1979. According to the September 10, 1979, issue of The New York Times, "Mr. Larsen was the only employee in the company's history given an exemption from its policy of mandatory retirement at age 65."
After Time magazine began publishing its weekly issues in March 1923, Roy Larsen was able to increase its circulation by using U.S. radio and movie theaters around the world. It often promoted both Time magazine and U.S. political and corporate interests. According to The March of Time, as early as 1924, Larsen had brought Time into the infant radio business with the broadcast of a 15-minute sustaining quiz show entitled Pop Question which survived until 1925". Then, in 1928, Larsen "undertook the weekly broadcast of a 10-minute programme series of brief news summaries, drawn from current issues of Time magazine [...] which was originally broadcast over 33 stations throughout the United States".
Larsen next arranged for a 30-minute radio program, The March of Time, to be broadcast over CBS, beginning on March 6, 1931. Each week, the program presented a dramatisation of the week's news for its listeners, thus Time magazine itself was brought "to the attention of millions previously unaware of its existence", according to Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise 1923–1941, leading to an increased circulation of the magazine during the 1930s. Between 1931 and 1937, Larsen's The March of Time radio program was broadcast over CBS radio and between 1937 and 1945 it was broadcast over NBC radio – except for the 1939 to 1941 period when it was not aired. People Magazine was based on Time's People page.
In 1989, when Time, Inc. and Warner Communications merged, Time became part of Time Warner, along with Warner Bros.
In 1988, Jason McManus succeeded Henry Grunwald as editor-in-chief and oversaw the transition before Norman Pearlstine succeeded him in 1995.
In 2000, Time became part of AOL Time Warner, which reverted to the name Time Warner in 2003.
In 2007, Time moved from a Monday subscription/newsstand delivery to a schedule where the magazine goes on sale Fridays, and is delivered to subscribers on Saturday. The magazine actually began in 1923 with Friday publication.
During early 2007, the year's first issue was delayed for roughly a week due to "editorial changes", including the layoff of 49 employees.
In 2009, Time announced that they were introducing a personalized print magazine, Mine, mixing content from a range of Time Warner publications based on the reader's preferences. The new magazine met with a poor reception, with criticism that its focus was too broad to be truly personal.
The magazine has an online archive with the unformatted text for every article published. The articles are indexed and were converted from scanned images using optical character recognition technology. The minor errors in the text are remnants of the conversion into digital format.
Time Inc. and Apple have come to an agreement wherein U.S. subscribers to Time will be able to read the iPad versions for free, at least until the two companies sort out a viable digital subscription model.
In January 2013, Time Inc. announced that it would cut nearly 500 jobs – roughly 6% of its 8,000 staff worldwide. Although Time magazine has maintained high sales, its ad pages have declined significantly over time.
Also in January 2013, Time Inc. named Martha Nelson as the first female editor-in-chief of its magazine division. In September 2013, Nancy Gibbs was named as the first female managing editor of Time magazine.
In November 2017, Meredith Corporation announced its acquisition of Time, Inc., backed by Koch Equity Development. In March 2018, only six weeks after the closure of the sale, Meredith announced that it would explore the sale of Time and sister magazines Fortune, Money, Sports Illustrated, since they did not align with the company's lifestyle brands.
In September 2018, Meredith announced that it would re-sell Time to Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne for $190 million, which was completed on October 31, 2018. Although Benioff is the chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce.com, Time will remain separate from the company, and Benioff will not be involved in its daily operations.