ANDERSON TO EXIT: With presidential politics and Hurricane Sandy news dominating the day’s headlines, Friday could have scarcely been a better day to bury bombshell media announcements. So it was that Condé Nast chief executive officer Charles Townsend said Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson, one of Condé’s longest-serving editors, would leave the magazine by the end of the year.
Anderson, quoted in a statement sent company-wide, said the reason was to focus on other projects.
This story first appeared in the November 5, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“This is an opportunity for me to pursue an entrepreneurial dream,” he said.
Entrepreneurial was always his trademark.
After stints at several science journals and the Economist, Anderson became the editor in chief of Wired in 2001, and during the next decade became one of a handful of editors intimately linked to their magazines. Just like Anna is Vogue and Graydon is Vanity Fair, Anderson was Wired and vice versa. Wired took the top prize from the National Magazine Awards in 2005, 2007 and 2009.
With the Wired brand in his title, Anderson expanded his horizons to become a science and technology pundit, called on to prophesize about the future on television and on the lecture circuit. His first book came out in 2006 and was followed by two similar tomes. He made a lucrative living as a signature member of the Leigh Speakers’ Bureau, which describes him as “Leading the New Industrial Revolution.”
There were problems along the way. He was caught plagiarizing from Wikipedia in his book “Free,” an episode that would be echoed this year when the Wired contributor Jonah Lehrer, himself a pop science pundit, was caught making up quotes in one of his books. Anderson was a big fan of Lehrer’s and had personally recruited him, New York magazine reported recently.
As Lehrer was getting vivisected by the national media, Wired initially chose to keep his contract, only to later backtrack on the face of widespread criticism.
Lehrer was not Wired’s only disappointment this year — the magazine is down 6 percent through November, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Anderson’s many extracurricular activities had led to speculation about his interest in the magazine and management’s waning patience with falling ad pages.
A spokesman noted Wired will finish the year with “significant increases in online traffic, as well as total revenue.” The magazine recently said it would raise its rate base to 825,000 thanks to an increase in digital subscriptions. Though Anderson integrated the print and digital teams in 2011, wired.com’s editor Evan Hansen is widely credited with the Web site’s success, and most likely will be in the running to succeed Anderson.
So what is Anderson without Wired?
He is leaving to become the ceo of 3D Robotics, a robotics manufacturing company he cofounded. Townsend said a search for his successor is under way. Anderson did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.