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Conde Nast Like ‘A Buggy Company’ on the Web

conde11.14.08.jpgOn Big Money, Slate’s brilliantly timed financial site, Lesley M. M. Blume penned an article about Conde Nast‘s strategy, or lack thereof, on the Internet. The company recently cut its CondeNet team and axed almost the entire staff of Portfolio.com, saying it was a magazine company first.

A Conde editor — speaking anonymously — believes maybe that’s, um, not the way to go.

“Any rational person would say that’s crazy. To say that we’re just a magazine company in this day and age is like saying that we’re a buggy company.”

From Blume’s reporting it sounds like being on the digital side at the company is horrible. Can you say second-class citizens?

In most cases, the company insists that new site technologies be developed by nail-bitingly slow internal IT teams rather than using high-quality, inexpensive technologies widely available on the market. It took one editor a whole year just to obtain a flash audio player.

Why won’t Conde invest in the Web? And how can we solve the online money problem? After the jump, we stumble around in the dark, searching for solutions…


For one thing, Conde is clearly afraid to lose valuable magazine ad pages that bring in far more money than Web ads.

One media expert estimates that online CPM is worth between one-seventh and one-tenth of a print CPM. This means that swapping out online-for-print publication right now literally amounts to trading in dollars for pennies — which is hardly an alluring prospect for publishing companies used to commanding lavish ad revenues.

But how does anyone make money on the Web. Well, here’s the world according to Jimmy Jellinek, who is overseeing Playboy.com‘s redesign:

“Branded entertainment is the new advertising. You sit down, figure out the brand values, create a program; it can be a viral video, a written piece, anything in your imagination. You have to be as flexible as possible.”

The fact remains that Conde had a viable business with Portfolio.com — it got 3 million uniques per month — but choose to sacrifice it on the altar of, well, we’re not really sure what. Declining print revenues, perhaps? Nice work, Si.

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