Is Condé Nast planning a surprise September?

Rumors at One World Trade Center are swirling that the company is planning to further cut costs and is focusing on Self and Details.

According to sources, Self could merge with Allure, or the fitness-centric magazine could fold altogether. The same rumor has been floated about Details merging with fellow men’s title GQ. Others speculated that Details may shutter, but that’s been longstanding speculation in the halls of Condé that seems to be lore at this point.

Self, however, has been generating more buzz than usual, after Condé Nast tried shopping the magazine around earlier in the year, according to multiple sources. There weren’t any takers, and instead of closing the magazine, the company pushed forward with a redesign under editor in chief Joyce Chang, who was brought in last year. Like most new editors, Chang reshuffled the masthead and has focused on tweaking the ethos of the magazine.

Self’s new identity, which sidestepped its fitness-centric roots to include more fashion and self-improvement, hasn’t found much favor with readers or advertisers, sources have indicated. Covers depicting fashion models posing in athletic apparel, which were chosen by Chang and Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour, didn’t grab new dollars at the newsstand.

Although most magazines are struggling at the newsstand, the fitness-centric magazine has been steadily losing sales. Self started the year with 104,186 in newsstand sales in January, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, but that number slid to almost 74,000 in February and March. Sales fell further in April and slumped to 58,788 in May.

While declining to comment on the speculation or give exact figures, a Self spokesman said that ad pages in the September issue are up 108 percent year-on-year, although they were flat in July and in August. Year-to-date, the spokesman said, Self has 31 new advertisers in print and digital ad revenue was up in the second quarter and significantly in the third. According to ComScore data the spokesman quoted, Self’s score in June was up 38 percent over June 2014 and 20 percent in May over May 2014. The May Magazine 360 audience is up 5 percent year over year and the year-to-date figure is up 1.2 percent, he said.

The timing of any potential shakeup is likely linked to the timing around last year’s cost cuts. In June, word of budget cuts began to trickle out at the beginning of the summer. Condé Nast began its budget slashing in August when it spun off Lucky in a joint-venture with Beachmint, and combined Bon Appétit and Epicurious. That same month, it sold Fairchild Fashion Group, parent of WWD, to Penske Media Corp.

This year, sources pointed to budgetary meetings for 2016, and indicated that the company’s business is down over 2014.

Asked about the speculation over magazine closures and budgetary concerns, a company spokesman said: “Our audience of 120 million consumers is bigger than ever. Sounds to me like we’re doing something right.”

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