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Condé still has 18 consumer magazine titles, plus two trades — WWD and Footwear News — under its Fairchild Publications arm. But the company had been working hard to streamline it portfolio in the past year. In addition to Cookie, Gourmet, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, which all folded this week, the company has shuttered several titles this year. Men’s Vogue went a year ago, followed by men’s wear trade pub DNR (our former home), Domino and then Portfolio
So what’s left?
In the day following the news that Condé Nast has decided to shutter four magazines, including Gourmet and Cookie, we reached out to some experts in the field to get their reactions. Here’s what we’ve heard:
“It made sense for a company that had two rival magazines to close one of them. It has been a very competitive year for magazines in the epicurean category, and we have had a lot of success. But Gourmet saw newsstand sales fall by 25 percent.”
“Seeing a major media company like Condé Nast blindly shutting down four prominent publications without even trying to first migrate them to digital is a prime example of how out of touch many media companies are. Folding Gourmet, a magazine with over six decades of a strong readership, is the ultimate proof that the management of Condé Nast is very short-sighted when it comes to understanding the opportunities that exist within the digital publishing landscape. This is truly a sad day for magazines. I have this to say to all print publishers: Don’t kill off another publication! We have the opportunity reshape our industry with digital publishing. Major media companies need to have the vision to realize this.”
Koblin, who has been reporting on McKinsey’s work throughout the summer, reports that the consulting company is ready to wrap up its investigation of the state of Condé’s business and will present their findings to the company’s executives soon:
“The Observer has learned that McKinsey consultants are winding down their tour of Condé Nast, and will be ready to submit their final recommendations to chairman Si Newhouse and CEO Chuck Townsend in the coming weeks. One source said that recommendations could begin as early as Sept. 16, but another well-placed source said that the ‘totality of their recommendations’ will be given at all once, and that they would come down in the next two to three weeks.”
Although the consultants have taken a close look at Vogue and Condé Nast Traveler Koblin suggests that the magazines most in danger of being designated by McKinsey as “frequency reductions” are epicurean titles Gourmet and Bon Appetit and men’s mags GQ and Details.
After interviewing anonymous sources on the edit and business side of the company, as well as editors like Glamour‘s Cindi Leive and The New Yorker‘s David Remnick and CEO Chuck Townsend, Koblin has uncovered some disturbing examples that illustrate the recent cutbacks at the magazine giant that may hint at things to come. Most troubling to Condé staffers? Seeing Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter in the cafeteria and having their free Orangina replaced with Poland Spring, and then (gasp) tap water. Reports Koblin:
“When I started, there was this little refrigerator, and it was stocked with amazing drinks,” said one ad-sales source. “Pellegrino, Orangina, Red Bull. And like the water wasn’t Poland Spring, it was like Fiji. I remember when I started working here, I emailed everyone I know and I was like, ‘I have to tell you about the drinks!’”
But then in December, a few months after Condé Nast ordered publishers and editors to cut 5 percent from their budgets, the drink supply emptied out. That Fiji water turned into Poland Spring. Worse, instead of the fridge, the water bottles were stowed in a warm closet.
And then: “I just found out today that we are on our last batch of Poland Spring,” said the source. “We won’t have any more after this. We have to start drinking tap water.”
What’s more, the Monday morning flower deliveries are gone, expensed dinners at Nobu and mani-pedis are out and employees are thinking twice about taking company-provided towncars. Still, Townsend argues that the quirkiness of Condé, not the Orangina, will help the company stand out from its competitors.
“The Red Bulls and Oranginas are maybe no longer there, but what’s the difference?” he asked. “It’s still the quirkiest place on the face of the earth. A lot of that quirkiness makes us special. A lot of that quirkiness makes for interesting observations. But it has absolutely nothing to do with anything, so whereâ€™s the line drawn? I don’t want to lose the speciality or the quirkiness, but a lot of this stuff that has been part and parcel of it is just meaningless.”
Like us, Koblin wondered exactly what Townsend meant by that comment. You should read his story to find out.
We’ve been full of Condé Nast news this week, from the hiring of McKinsey to the revamping of it’s men’s fashion Web sites and declining September ad pages. Put all that news together and Condé is a pretty scary place to work. Well, more scary than usual, that is. (Speaking from experience as a former Condé staffer, 4 Times Square has always had an aura of intimidation, even after you’re hired to work there.)
Today, the New York Observer reports that following all the recent news this week, Condé Nast-ers have finally started to shake in their boots. Apparently, the closures of multiple titles and 5 percent cuts across the board last year were not enough to worry these old media staffers, but the McKinsey threat has pushed them over the edge.
“It’s terrifying! It freaked me out!” one employee told the Observer about the memo sent by CEO Chuck Townsend on Monday. “Is this part of a McKinsey thing to do that? You know, a must-alert-all employees thing? They never do this! This isn’t a company that does a lot of internal communications.”
If you’re a Condé Nast staffer experiencing some fear and doubt, tell us your stories below or send us an email. We’d love to hear from you.
(Photo from Flickr)
One day after telling staff it had hired consulting company McKinsey & Co., Condé Nast announced that is was deconstructing its Men.Style.com Web site and giving the site’s related magazines, Details and GQ their own sites.
This move is long overdue, since one of the magazines encompassed by Men.Style.com — Men’s Vogue — was shuttered last year as part of Condé’s cost cutting measures. There are reports that the Men.Style.com staff will be moved over to GQ.com, but we’re sure this is just the beginning of restructuring to come at the company now that McKinsey is on board.
Since the announcement yesterday, one anonymous tipster let us know what the experience was like when McKinsey was hired by Times Mirror Magazines in the 1980s. Then-president Francis Pandolfi called the staff into a rented out movie theatre and gave a prophetic speech.
“Look to your left, look to your right — your neighbor may not be here after this initiative,” Pandolfi said, according to our source. The company then hired McKinsey and spent a $1 million, which was quite a lot 20 years ago. The result? “Many people lost their jobs and then the company was bought out,” our tipster said.
Read on for a translation of yesterday’s Condé Nast memo.
Condé Nast CEO Chuck Townsend sent a note to staffers today announcing that the company had hired consulting company McKinsey & Co. to help the media company “develop new perspectives on optimizing our approach to business, growing revenues, and enhancing our brand assets.”
“The US economy has contracted at a rate not seen in 80 years, forcing companies across America to adjust to the reality of this major economic setback,” he said. “Our company and our brands have weathered this storm. However, we are not immune to the effects of the substantial revenue losses resulting from the deep and prolonged recession. Consequently, we must realign Condé Nast to be a successful business in an emerging economy that is now predicted to be painfully slow in recovering.”
The memo is pretty much corporate speak, so if you can decipher it for us, send us an email. We think it probably means more magazine closures and more layoffs at Condé are to come. According to Townsend, “All areas of Condé Nast will be included in the study.” Meaning, no one is safe.
Townsend’s full memo, after the jump.
AdAge is reporting that the company is planning cuts, maybe as early as this week, to the Conde Nast Media Group, which apparently handles more than 80% of the company’s revenue. The group takes “the lead on big corporate marketing programs and contracts with advertisers that buy across three or more Conde titles.”
Meanwhile the Observer quotes an insider as saying the cuts Conde made last October were “half-assed.” Furthermore, “Conde Nast publishers and editors have been told by the chairman, Si Newhouse, and the CEO, Chuck Townsend, in the past two weeks to cut yet again, the majority being told to cut 10 percent from their non-salary, discretionary budgets, according to five Conde Nast sources with direct knowledge of the budget cuts.” This to take place by the end of the month.