Condé Nast, the company behind Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, became one of the world’s most successful magazine publishers with a formula built on a heady mix of old-world glamour and all-American pizazz. But now, even after having taken measures to cut spending and make itself more digitally savvy, the company is expected to adopt a more radical strategy to ensure that it does not slowly fade away into obscurity.
This year alone, nearly 20 media websites and magazines have been put up for sale, with no official sale deals as yet. Freshly added to this group are Condé Nast titles W, Brides and Golf Digest, according to reports last week from both the New York Times and New York Post. A source told the Post that W has already been presented to potential buyers, including Jay Penske, whose company, PMC, owns fashion trade publication Women’s Wear Daily and luxury magazine The Robb Report.
Late last year, Condé decreased W’s frequency from 10 to eight issues a year, upped its newsstand price to $9.99 a month and said it would reposition the magazine as a “luxury collectible” with its issues tied to “tent-pole” events and seasons rather than months — often an indication of revenue problems. Indeed, insiders have complained that budgets are ‘extremely lean’ at the magazine and that top talent has been scrambling for the door since its fashion and style director Edward Enninful got plucked for the editor-in-chief job at British Vogue a year ago.
According to the aforementioned reports, Condé Nast lost more than $120 million last year alone, chiefly as a result of a sharp decline in print ad revenue. Gains in digital publishing helped offset the loss, but not enough to make the company profitable.
Robert A. Sauerberg Jr., the chief executive of Condé Nast, plans to address senior staff members on Aug. 8. The meeting will come in the wake of an extended visit from Boston Consulting Group, which recently concluded a month-long examination.
Have magazines become a thing of the past?
While the company’s troubles are not as severe as those hitting many other media organizations, they are unsettling to veterans at a company where top editors once had roomy offices designed to their own specifications, the everyday use of chauffeured cars and, for a favored few, no-interest loans to ease the purchases of Manhattan brownstones and even second homes.
But the decades-long magazine boom that made such trappings possible is now a thing of the past. Ad buying firm Magna projects print ad sales will fall by another double-digits this year – a clear indication that the bottom for print magazines still hasn’t been reached.
Things can always change, but it seems probable that come this autumn’s fashion week season, Condé Nast could look decidedly different.