Condé-Nast Gets Real – and Reality Bites

Conde-Nast logoThis week, magazine publisher Condé-Nast announced the closure of four magazines, including two bridal publications plus the prestigious and well-known Gourmet Magazine title.

It’s an indignity for a publishing firm that has fallen pretty far pretty fast. For years, the company seemed by-and-large unaffected by the winds of change in the publishing industry. Even as other firms were belt-tightening and divesting themselves of low-performing magazine titles, the storied “in-your-face” Condé-Nast business style – replete with jet-setting executives and seemingly endless clothing and expense accounts – appeared to remain intact.

It didn’t hurt that parent company, Advance Publications, also owns cable TV properties that could help prop up the print publication segment of the business – at least for a time.

But with plunging ad page revenues from its luxury goods advertisers on the order of 30%+ throughout 2009, it was only a matter of time before the day of reckoning would arrive. And the sense of impending doom was only heightened when McKinsey & Co. consultants started roaming the halls, poking around the company’s headquarters like a nosy relative, asking all sorts of questions and taking notes.

And now, a few short months later, we have this announcement.

Accompanying the news of magazine closures and personnel layoffs, Condé-Nast reported that it is shifting its priorities to digital properties even while focusing on a fewer number of “core” magazine titles.

Will it be enough? One unnamed company executive was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying, “We’re going to make a go of everything else.” But I think that’s doubtful. McKinsey has recommended that nearly all of the remaining publications cut their budgets by upwards of 25%. Whether or not that happens – or whether it will be enough to save the remaining titles – is something we’ll be able to judge pretty quickly.

UPDATE (11/7/09)The New York Post is reporting that Condé-Nast has now hired Michael Sheehan, the famous crisis manager and media coach, to help the company with PR. Sheehan has coached presidential candidates from Clinton to Obama, as well as handling AIG Insurance’s PR during its financial meltdown in late 2008. Reportedly, Gina Sanders, publisher of Lucky magazine, prodded top brass to bring Sheehan in, citing deep morale problems at the company. Considering the dramatic events at the publishing house over the past year, this news is not at all surprising.

One thought on “Condé-Nast Gets Real – and Reality Bites

  1. I’ve been buying space in Condé-Nast books for two decades. They are all great titles, and all provide a terrific environment for ads, BUT…

    Condé Nast has always refused to deal off the rate card. At least for small advertisers like me. And as great as their readerships are, there’s no way advertisers who require ad-spend accountability can afford the space. There’s just no ROI. It’s a negative number. If you’re looking for “image,” The New Yorker or Gourmet or Vogue might make sense. But if you’re looking to make a profit on your advertising, forget it. Meanwhile, their competition has been cutting great deals for years.

    I understand they want rate card integrity. Fine. I want a big house in Provence with a pool.

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