ABOUT THAT MEMO…: When Condé Nast chief executive officer Charles Townsend’s memo hit employees’ in-boxes Tuesday unveiling a corporate “realignment,” the response was a resounding: Huh?

“The consensus was: What was that?” said one Condé Nast insider, while another wondered, “What is centricity?”, referring to the memo’s underscoring of Condé Nast’s “commitment to consumer centricity.”

This story first appeared in the October 28, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

While deciphering Townsend’s memos have long been a parlor game at 4 Times Square, this one took a few rereads to get the gist: Condé Nast Digital’s responsibilities shrink, and publishers now have full control of ad sales for their respective magazine’s digital properties. It also handed out new titles and responsibilities to at least five people.

Townsend said in an interview Tuesday that the realignment was dictated by the marketplace. The popular refrain on the 11th floor at 4 Times Square is this is how a modern media company should work.

Much of the modern media company talk started last year when McKinsey consultants hit Condé Nast. Townsend hasn’t been shy about how he wants the company to look like others in media. But Condé Nast has long prided itself on how it didn’t look, act or spend like any other. Does it really want to start behaving like a more traditional one, like Time Inc.? And what does it lose by doing that?

“The announcement spoke to some internal operational changes,” said a Condé Nast spokeswoman. “But the core qualities that make Condé Nast unique remain the same. We continue to stand for the highest level of quality content, exceptional design and photography and journalistic integrity.”

In interviews with other staffers, there was a feeling that executives were trying a bit too hard to convey that Condé Nast is a media corporation tailor-made for 2010. Naturally, no publishing company has the New Media Landscape figured out. “The reason the memo was impenetrable is because they’re so confused,” said one Condé Nast source.

No matter how oddly the message was communicated, Condé Nast insiders remain pleased with its essence, which gives publishers more power. They feel it’s an important step that’s long overdue.

And even though Condé Nast Digital is being shuffled into another unit at the company, there was a sense of relief among staffers that they remained, well…employed! “The world is moving on and there is still plenty of life left, with Epicurious, and Reddit, for example,” said a Condé Nast Digital staffer.

“There’s a sense of — we still have jobs, let’s move on now,” said another. — John Koblin and Amy Wicks

EXPANDED DUTIES: Vogue senior market editor Meredith Melling Burke is keeping her job at the magazine but has been promoted at vogue.com to fashion market director, a new title. In addition to covering the young designer market for Vogue, her task at the Web site will be to increase its fashion content. Melling Burke has worked at Vogue since 1997. — A.W.


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