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History of Time Out, the global media and entertainment brand that inspires people to make the most of the city

History of Time Out

From a self-published magazine in 1968 to a global media and leisure brand inspiring millions, this is the story of Time Out

It all started in 1968…

Fascinated with the culture of 1960s London and a need for reliable information about what was going on, Tony Elliott founded Time Out in 1968 during his summer vacation from Keele University. He produced the first edition on the kitchen table in his mother's house in Kensington with £70, part of a recent twenty-first birthday present from his aunt.

A magazine with a distinctive voice packed with the best things to do in the city – art, film, gigs, theatre, restaurants and more – Time Out was something never seen before. It was an insider’s guide to getting the best out of London and it was set to change city life.

Tony Elliott, photographed in 1970 by Jeremy Beadle and 2018 by Andy ParsonsTony Elliott, photographed in 1970 by Jeremy Beadle and 2018 by Andy Parsons

The 1970s

Joined by art director Pearce Marchbank, who created the iconic Time Out logo used ever since, Tony Elliott took the magazine weekly in 1971. Time Out quickly became the essential guide to city life, giving Londoners comprehensive information and inspiration on the best things to do in their city every single week, as well as interviewing stars like Andy Warhol, David Bowie and Jack Nicholson, campaigning for political causes such as LGBT+ rights and contributing to the rapid growth of Notting Hill Carnival. Legendary British comic troupe Monty Python even guest edited the magazine in 1973.

Time Out covers, 1968 to 1974Time Out covers, 1968 to 1974. Warhol: Pearce Marchbank/Peter Brookes. Churchill: Pearce Marchbank/Roger Perry

The 1980s

After a union strike in 1981, Time Out relaunched with a new emphasis on lifestyle, adding dedicated ‘Gay & Lesbian’ and nightlife sections. The company campaigned to deregulate TV listings, had scrapes with Hunter S Thompson and George Michael, and closed the decade planning world domination.

The 1990s

Throughout the ’90s, Time Out cemented itself as a crucial part of London’s life and culture. It ran the first interviews with Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and the Spice Girls, sponsored the controversial ‘Sensation’ exhibition of Young British Artists, and championed Britpop and ‘Trainspotting’. In 1995, Time Out New York launched – an overnight success that proved that the brand could travel. That year not only kicked off the brand’s global expansion but saw the launch of the first Time Out website, with the brand’s expert recommendations pointing the way forward into the online era.

Time Out covers, 1980 to 1996Time Out covers from 1980 to 1996. Video games: Pearce Marchbank. Weird Sex: Kirk Teasdale. New York: Troy Word

The 2000s

A new wave of cities joined the Time Out family as franchise partners, with Istanbul leading the way and Dubai, St Petersburg, Tel Aviv, Beijing and Sydney following soon after – all run by local experts who wanted to bring the Time Out brand to their own cities. Time Out New York launched a Kids magazine, later successfully replicated in London, and Time Out London launched an iPhone app, paving the way to grow the brand via mobile channels.

The 2010s

At the start of the new decade, Time Out’s e-commerce platform launched, allowing users to not just read about but book the best city experiences. In 2012, Time Out London became a free weekly magazine, distributed at Underground and rail stations: a move that made it London’s most widely read free magazine, and prompted New York, Chicago, Miami, Barcelona, Hong Kong and more Time Out cities to adopt the free distribution model.

In 2014, Time Out Market Lisbon opened – a physical representation of Time Out, bringing the best of the city’s restaurants, bars and cultural experiences together under one roof, and pointing the way forward for a new era of expert curation. Time Out Group was listed on London's AIM stock exchange in 2016, trading under the ticker symbol ‘TMO’, to raise investment for future growth – a move led by Julio Bruno, Time Out Group CEO. Further global expansion followed, with the acquisition or addition of Time Out franchisees in Australia, Spain, Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul into the company’s owned-and-operated network of cities.

Time Out covers from Chicago, Barcelona and Hong KongTime Out covers from around the world. Chicago: Stephen Meierding. Barcelona: Diego Piccininno. Hong Kong: Phoebe Cheng

The future

Over fifty years on, Time Out is a global media and leisure brand influencing how tens of millions of people go out around the world, with content covering 328 cities in 58 countries.

While the majority of Time Out’s revenue is now digital, print continues to be important to reach a highly engaged audience. Time Out magazines are available in over 40 cities, demonstrating the success the brand enjoys in both the print and digital arenas. Every month its magazines around the world have 7.4 million readers and there are over 300,000 pages of online content attracting millions of visitors.

Time Out Market LisbonTime Out Market Lisbon

Time Out’s high-quality content, curated by expert journalists, now spans a global network of websites, mobile apps, social media channels, magazines, live events and Time Out Market. Since its opening in May 2014, Time Out Market Lisbon has quickly turned into a huge success and is now arguably the most popular attraction in the city, which is no small feat in a place with hundreds of years of history. Following this success, five new Time Out Markets opened in North America in 2019 in Miami, New York, Boston, Montréal and Chicago. A further pipeline of other global locations includes Dubai, London and Prague. – all featuring the cities’ best and most celebrated chefs, restaurateurs, drinks and cultural experiences. 

A lot has changed, but Time Out’s mission remains the same today as when it first started: to help people around the world go out better. 

Tony Elliott, photographed in 2018 by Andy Parsons
Photograph: Andy Parsons

Tony Elliott, late founder of Time Out

Mr Elliott founded Time Out in 1968 with £70 during a summer break from Keele University. The Time Out magazine was initially a folded down poster equivalent to eight pages of today’s printed format that Mr Elliott handed out himself.