Digital Publishing
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Condé Nast merges US and international businesses under one umbrella

“We are in a state of transformation,” said Wolfgang Blau, the president of Condé Nast International, earlier this year.

Yesterday, when the publisher announced that Condé Nast and Condé Nast International will be integrated, we got to witness the significance of that statement, with a glimpse into the extent of the transformation that’s been initiated.

“Our brands have worldwide influence and impact, and our business is increasingly becoming more global, and we are organizing the company to reflect that,” said Zoe Garland, Communications Officer of Condé Nast International, in an email statement.

To realize the full potential of Conde Nast – for our audiences and our business partners – the time is right for the US and International companies to truly function as one company.

The two entities have historically operated as separate sister companies, independently with their own CEOs, management teams and publications, including Vanity Fair, Vogue and the New Yorker in the US, and Vogue Paris and British GQ internationally.

Chief Executive Bob Sauerberg to depart

Condé Nast said CEO Bob Sauerberg is stepping down, just months after he outlined an ambitious plan to return the magazine publisher to profitability by 2020.

Last year, Condé Nast lost more than $120 million. The publisher addressed declines in circulation and advertising by closing magazines (or reducing their frequency), laying off employees and leasing office space at its headquarters in Lower Manhattan.

According to an internal memo sent by Jonathan Newhouse and Steve Newhouse, on behalf of the Condé Nast board of directors, this leadership change was made to combine the US and international companies, both of which have been undergoing major changes in the past year, in an effort to refine their “growth strategies, accelerating innovation and developing the right organizational structures.”

Search for a new CEO

“We’ve launched a search for a CEO with global experience to run Conde Nast,” mentioned Garland. “Once this CEO is hired, Jonathan Newhouse will become Chairman of the Board of Directors and will relinquish his position as CEO of CNI. Bob Sauerberg will continue as CEO of Conde Nast/US until the transition is completed.”

Condé Nast’s new global chief executive will operate from New York, but Condé Nast will maintain a major hub in London, the company clarified.

Incidentally, other members of the senior operating management teams, including Wolfgang Blau as President of the international division, will remain in their positions.

“This isn’t about layoffs,” said Jonathan Newhouse, CEO of Condé Nast International. “It’s about investing with a more intelligent approach.” He also confirmed that there were no plans to merge staffs of other magazines beyond Condé Nast Traveler at this point.

“Business as usual”

In spite of the consolidation and big changes at the top, Condé Nast is confident of a smooth changeover, stating, “During the transition, it will be business as usual and we will continue to pursue our strategic plans and growth initiatives.”

Operating as one global company will only help us realize our ambition to deliver the highest quality journalism, experiences and value to our audiences, advertisers and partners. It will also create new opportunities to enhance the collaboration among colleagues around the world.

The plan to combine the two publishing arms fits into the company’s broader objective to cut costs and unify its advertising and content strategies.

What’s next?

This has been a challenging time for most major publishers, who are grappling with shifts in consumer habits and ongoing digital disruption, leading to declining circulation and increasing competition for ad dollars. New initiatives like subscription paywalls, television licensing and online video have yet to deliver significant growth.

It’s been a tumultuous year for Condé Nast too, including layoffs and magazine sell-offs, dramatic changes to some brands in its wide-ranging portfolio, reorganizing its ad sales team, and a wave of top talent leaving.

The shakeup shows how the rise of Google and Facebook as international platforms has forced traditional media companies to adapt.

Lucia Moses, Deputy Editor at Business Insider

But the company wants to leave all that behind and “look forward,” as they emphasized in a staff memo on behalf of the Condé Nast Board of Directors:

“Looking forward, the shift to one global company will help us realize our ambition to deliver the highest quality journalism, experiences and value to our audiences, advertisers and partners on all platforms by allowing us to more quickly transform ourselves to address their evolving needs and by enhancing the collaboration between colleagues around the world.”

Download WNIP’s new Media Moments 2018 report, which dives deeper into this year’s developments in publishing, and looks at what opportunities 2019 could usher in. The report is free and can be downloaded here.