NEW YORK — If you’re looking for the new president of Conde Nast Publications at the CFDA awards gala Monday night, you may not find him.
“I wasn’t invited,” said Steven T. Florio. “But I bet I will be next year.”
In separate interviews, Florio, who officially begins his new job on Feb. 18, and James Truman, whose appointment last week as Conde Nast’s new editorial director stunned the publishing world, talked about their plans for carrying out two of the most coveted assignments in magazine publishing.
“I think the way I’ll start is slowly,” said Truman, 35, the former editor of Details, who assumes his new post on April 1. “My involvement will vary from magazine to magazine — the degree to which I’m wanted and needed. It’s contingent upon building relationships with the editors. Many I know very well already, some I don’t.”
Some observers have questioned Truman’s relatively young age and experience, but that doesn’t seem to bother him.
“When you look at Paramount, Barry Diller was running the studio at 32 years old,” he said. “Guys are doing million-dollar deals and they’re not even 30. It’s something people react to, but I don’t.”
The 44-year-old Florio said he’ll spend the first few months of his regime “trying to familiarize myself with the operations.” He’ll start by working with his predecessor, Bernard Leser, who will become chairman of Far East operations.
For almost 10 years, Florio has been president and chief executive officer of The New Yorker during perhaps its most tumultuous period. In an institution noted for stability, he’s worked as part of three different editorial regimes: William Shawn, Robert Gottlieb and Tina Brown.
Florio said he’ll be running the business side, but he’ll also be talking to editors every day.
“If I can get along with Tina [Brown] and support her efforts, I can get along with any editor,” he said with a laugh. When he got his promotion, he said, “I thanked Tina Brown for my job.”
As any good editor would do, Truman pointed out that he and Florio would be working on different sides of the street.
“Steve’s business and I’m editorial,” he said. “Traditionally they’re kept very separate. It’s the philosophy of church and state.”
And, as any publisher worth his rate card would do, Florio spoke not of separateness, but of togetherness.
“I’ve invited James to get to know the publishers,” he said. “They should feel the editorial is their partner.”
Asked what Conde Nast magazines he thought might require his special attention, Truman was diplomatic enough not to name them, even though insiders say he will focus on Vanity Fair, which has suffered a precipitous drop in ad pages, and on Mademoiselle, which has been going through editorial angst since Truman’s best friend, Gabe Doppelt, was removed as editor four months ago.
Truman indicated he would not spend much time on Vogue or Glamour.
“I think Anna has an amazing handle on what Vogue is and should be, and I think Glamour is an amazing tour-de-force,” he said. “I’ll work closely with those editors Si [S.I. Newhouse] wants me to work closely with.”
Despite recent published reports to the contrary, Florio said most of the Conde Nast magazines are making money and “some are right on the cusp.”
“Even the ones that aren’t [profitable] are close,” he said. He identified Glamour as the company’s biggest money maker, and said that Vogue, while not as big as Glamour, “has always been the preeminent magazine at Conde Nast.”
Florio also wanted to set the record straight about an interview with Inside Media that appeared last week, in which he appeared to be ducking an opportunity to give a boost to Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair.
“I think Graydon Carter is a terrific editor, and he’s done a great job,” Florio told WWD. “He’s responsible for making [Vanity Fair] grow on the circulation side and creating a buzz.”
Florio said he has no plans to switch editors or publishers, and said Vanity Fair should start showing “some lift” at the end of the second quarter.
“Graydon’s [position] is secure,” he said.
Truman, like his predecessor, the legendary Alexander Liberman, will have overall responsibility for what the magazines look like.
“I don’t have Alex’s background in art. I come from a writing background,” said Truman. But, he pointed out, he has been involved in several redesigns, including those at magazines such as The Face and Arena. And, he said, he was at Vogue during the period of Anna Wintour’s takeover.
“I don’t honestly think you can separate [the visuals and editorial],” he said. “To some degree, they’re so much of a package.”
Explaining his working relationship with Liberman, Truman recalled, “We didn’t work closely in the beginning. When we launched Details, it was a disaster. It was much hated by readers and advertisers. Then Alex started getting involved and we started working together. He started turning the magazine around. It wasn’t like he said you should put REM on the cover, but he has a great understanding of the emotional language magazines speak, which transcends the contents.”
Truman says he’d like to inject more humor into the magazines. “Humor is absolutely vital. Magazines have to entertain you,” he said. “I love to see humor in fashion. Obviously, you don’t turn it into a circus, [but] a page in a magazine should lift your spirits.”
Even though Florio doesn’t plan to become a regular on the Park Avenue party circuit, he said it was exciting to get a hand-written note of congratulations from Giorgio Armani and lunch invitations from Ralph Lauren and Leonard Lauder. He even got a note from General Motors ad biggie Philip Guarascio, who said, “Let’s just treat this as a new beginning for Conde Nast.”
Since General Motors hasn’t advertised very much in Conde Nast magazines for the last five years because of a dispute over rates, Florio hopes it’s a new beginning that fuels a happy ending.”2.X>