LONDON--Conde Nast International is champing at the bit. The European operations of the U.S.-based publishing giant are coming off several difficult years of recession, falling circulation and ad pages, and management and editorial problems at some of its titles. This turmoil, however, hasn't dimmed the beginnings of a 1994 rebound that is paving the way for growth next year, according to Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Conde Nast International. In a recent interview, Newhouse, newly installed in London after five years in Paris, was bullish about 1995's prospects for the company's 28 European titles. It would follow what he called "dramatic increases in revenue and profitability in Europe in 1994, even excluding launches." But the biggest and most visible of the company's recent troubles were at the French arm of the publishing giant, where most of its titles had circulation and ad declines during the last two years. There have been a slew of recent personnel changes there, including the appointment of Joan Juliet Buck as editor and Helene Bourgeois-Luquin as the publisher of French Vogue, and Gardner Bellanger as managing director. At the same time, several of the French production and marketing directors were laid off. Most recently, Brigitte Langevin, French Vogue's new fashion director, left after only six months due to conflicts with Buck. And finally, although it's got big expansion plans for some of its titles, some planned European versions of the cash cow Glamour and the perennially hot Allure are either falling behind, or have stalled at the starting gate. While he declined to reveal details, Newhouse said almost all of the company's European titles registered increases this year, with the U.K., Italy and Germany leading the pack, and France lagging. The U.K. titles had perhaps the most successful year in their history, with a 17 percent rise in overall ad volumes, he said. Newhouse admitted some of Condé Nast's problems in France were related to its management but said Bellanger is getting things back on track. He also said Buck has rejuvenated French Vogue. "The Christmas issue based on film is a tour de force," Newhouse said. "We are getting positive reaction from advertisers and readers, and we are without question looking for strong gains in 1995. We believe all our French titles will be up in advertising next year." Newhouse dismissed reports that French Glamour is having problems and might close down. Its circulation, he said, exceeds 100,000 and its ad pages are steady. "It's a unique title in the young women's market in France," he said, adding Italian Glamour is performing well. "Vogue, Tatler, GQ and House & Garden all set record circulation levels in the second half," Newhouse said, predicting the trend will continue into 1995. Italian Vogue had 2,100 ad pages this year, a 23 percent gain, Newhouse said. German Vogue also performed well, adding about 100 ad pages during 1994. Even the German men's title Manner Vogue increased ad pages, to 625 from 600, in a difficult men's market. Expansion plans include the launch of at least one major title in Europe next year and a test of another. But not all launches are going smoothly. Condé Nast is understood to have considered launching Glamour in other European markets. Another major title it is believed to be studying is Allure for one or more European markets. Newhouse would not say which title will be launched in 1995, or in which market. But industry sources said the company has been interviewing for an editorial staff for a French Allure and has held talks with several of the major cosmetics companies about it. And the sources added that Condé Nast has scotched plans for British versions of Glamour and Allure. The company, however, will definitely do a one-shot test of an upscale food magazine along the lines of Gourmet, although Newhouse would not reveal where. It's an unusual tactic for the company, which usually prefers a full-scale launch or a long-term test as a supplement for its titles. This is what it did with Spanish GQ, which this year was introduced as a bimonthly title following several years as a banded supplement to Spanish Vogue. Newhouse admitted there are limits to the number of U.S. titles the company can export, because it already has similar titles in many European markets. But he singled out Details and Architectural Digest as potential European titles. "There is certainly room for more titles in Europe, some of which could be based on U.S. titles and some of which could be new," he said. Also high on Newhouse's list is the Far East, which Condé Nast is targeting for big growth over the next decade, and an ongoing examination of new media opportunities, such as interactive services, with a possible trial in late 1995 or 1996. Condé Nast plans to launch Singapore Vogue in 1995 after several years of doing it as a special edition of Australian Vogue, with 50 editorial pages produced in Singapore and the rest in Australia. The magazine will be the first Vogue in the Pacific Rim. The company's only other title in the Far East is Japanese GQ, which is produced under license by Chuokoron-Sha. "We will certainly launch new titles in Asia in the next few years, either by ourselves or under license," Newhouse said."Japan and China are priority areas for us. There certainly will be a Japanese Vogue by the year 2000, and I wouldn't rule out a China Vogue." And, as the sparkling new CD-ROM player on his desk attests, Newhouse is keeping abreast of new media possibilities in Europe. He said the company will try out some new media services within two or three years, although it doesn't have a specific project in mind. "We are looking at it, as every publisher is. It is a major cultural change." --Fairchild News Service
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