THE REASONS WHY: What exactly led to Peter Kaplan’s departure from the New York Observer? Perhaps a multitude of factors. For one, a five-year contract was up June 1. For another, what experienced 55-year-old editor really wants to go work for a 28-year-old real estate scion with no experience in journalism?
Kaplan and Observer owner Jared Kushner had a close relationship — the young charge was, whatever his detractors say, nothing if not hands-on. But he was also at times difficult and immature and inexperienced. He had ideas about the paper (beef up the real estate coverage, shorter articles, etc.) — but they weren’t always the best ones, at least not as Kaplan apparently saw it.
This story first appeared in the April 24, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Last year, sources said, Kushner went on a yacht trip with his girlfriend (and now fiancée) Ivanka Trump and the media baron Rupert Murdoch and came back with what a few sources described as a “big head.” It wasn’t the cause of Kaplan’s departure, but it was one more ripple in an already complicated relationship.
Toward the end of the year, with the economy in free fall, sources said Kushner began to pressure Kaplan to make budget cuts. Kaplan was upset by the situation. While such a thing is happening at prestigious papers all over America, the Observer was about the least well-paying place out there. In the end, Kaplan was able to avoid layoffs, but he did so by taking a 5 percent pay cut and forcing employees making over $45,000 to take it with him. The news of the pay cut prompted one source close to the weekly to say, “Wow! It’s like an Onion headline: ‘Observer Writers to Make Less Money.’”
A few weeks ago, Hachette Filipacchi, which employs Kaplan’s girlfriend Lisa Chase (with whom he has a young child), imposed its own 5 percent cut for all employees. Somewhere around that time, the budget was redone at the Observer yet again, and select employees saw their pay cut another 2 percent. And even though the weekly loses a reported $4 million a year, Kaplan was said by many sources to be deeply dismayed at the prospect of further reductions. The first adjusted paychecks went out last week, and Kaplan worked all the way to the wire to try to avoid having to implement them.
Somewhere in the middle of this were Tom Wallace, the editorial director of Condé Nast, and Klara Glowczewska, the editor of Condé Nast Traveler. Wallace was previously the editor in chief of Traveller while Glowczewska was Kaplan’s colleague there in the early Nineties, before he went on to produce the “Charlie Rose” show, and went from there to the Observer. Both Wallace and Glowczewska remained friends with Kaplan. As it turned out, the number-two slot at the magazine had recently been vacated. By last week, an offer was in place and Kaplan began preparing to make his announcement of his departure to the Observer staff. In the end, he kept the part about Traveler out of the announcement because it may not be a completely done deal, sources said.
The meeting where Kaplan announced his decision to leave to his staff was emotional. Several staffers cried, and others departed the weekly’s FlatIron District headquarters shortly thereafter and began piling it away at Old Town, a local bar. Kaplan joined them there soon after. Kushner, for all of Kaplan’s on-the-record protestations about what a terrific relationship theirs was, wasn’t present. Said Kushner, “It wasn’t Peter’s going-away party. We’ll do something for him when he leaves.”
Meanwhile, staffers began to question what the future holds. According to sources, deputy editor Tom McGeveran is being spoken to as a possible replacement for Kaplan, and stands a strong chance of getting the top job, at least on an interim basis.
Kushner, meanwhile, has told the press the decision for Kaplan to leave was a mutual one reached a month ago. That time frame may not be inaccurate, but the idea that it was a “we” decision was disputed by some sources with knowledge of the situation, who say the choice to leave rested with one man: the outgoing editor. Said Kushner, “Peter’s great. It’s sad the paper’s going on without him but it’s a great opportunity for the paper and for Peter.”
Reached late Thursday afternoon, Kaplan would say only, “I think I’ve said enough the last 24 hours.”
— Jacob Bernstein
THEY DO REMEMBER ADS: It’s only April, but magazine publishers have already begun selling for those highly coveted September issues, and Condé Nast Publications is hoping some new research on the subject will give them a leg up. Together with MRI Starch and Starcom USA, Condé Nast studied September fashion magazines by interviewing nearly 9,000 consumers, with approximately 1,600 ads tested. A few of the questions they wanted answered: How do ads perform in an issue so thick with advertising? Do nonendemic ads suffer from the abundance of endemic advertising? How do consumers feel, in general, about September fashion issues?
The survey found that 23 percent of respondents only pay attention to fashion advertisements in September issues (instead of editorial coverage) and 49 percent believe a magazine such as Vogue specially selected the ads that ran in that issue. And, 35 percent said they look for fall fragrance suggestions from that issue. Despite having twice as many ads as a regular issue, 55 percent of those surveyed recalled all endemic ads and 51 percent of nonendemic ads. Meanwhile, 57 percent recalled ads in regular issues, and 52 percent recalled nonendemic ads.
Moreover, research suggested that those who pick up a September fashion issue, such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar or Elle, are more affluent; the average household income for that issue is $76,556, versus $62,878 in other months. And the study found that upscale shoppers — those who shop at high-end department stores and designer boutiques — have the highest ad recall and are most likely to take action, compared with those who shop at mass or midlevel stores.
As expected, research showed that multipage ads perform better than single-page units, with 82 percent recalling ad spreads of six pages and 50 percent recalling one-page ads. “We have known all of this anecdotally for years, that our readers see these issues as highly anticipated events, but we wanted to see if research supported it,” said Lou Cona, senior vice president of Condé Nast Media Group. Condé Nast has exclusive rights to the data for six months.
— Amy Wicks
NO SMOKING: Posters for Anne Fontaine’s movie “Coco Avant Chanel,” depicting Audrey Tautou as the designer holding her signature cigarette, have been banned from Paris metro and bus stations. A spokeswoman for Metrobus, which controls advertising in the city’s transit system, said under French law it is illegal to display a poster of someone smoking. Instead, adverts showing Tautou as Chanel embracing the big love of her life, Arthur Capel (played by Alessandro Nivola), will greet French commuters. The movie, about Chanel’s early life, was released in French movie theaters this week.
— Ellen Groves