NEW YORK — In a bold move into a new publishing sector, Condé Nast will launch a business-focused magazine twinned with a Web site in 2007, Condé Nast president and chief executive officer Charles H. Townsend said Wednesday. The title does not yet have a name or a clear focus, but it does have an editor in chief: The Wall Street Journal’s deputy managing editor, Joanne Lipman. And a publishing head: The New Yorker executive vice president and publisher David Carey will be president of what the company is calling “the new business group.”
“We really have just entered into an agreement with Joanne virtually today,” said Townsend, speaking in a phone interview Wednesday. “She and S.I. [Newhouse Jr., chairman of Advance Publications Inc.] and Tom Wallace [editorial director of Condé Nast] are going to be developing our approach to the category.” When asked if that approach would involve lifestyle coverage of the business world, Townsend said: “I don’t necessarily think that’s the only opportunity in the category. I’m not quite sure how you do lifestyle and business together, but if there’s an opportunity there, we’ll do it.” He added, “A lot of what we do will have to be serious business coverage.”
“The great opportunity here is we get to create it from scratch,” said Lipman. “We don’t need to be defined by what already exists.”
Discussing the timeline for the new magazine, Townsend said: “Our target is to come out full frequency, at whatever frequency we deem necessary, sometime in 2007.” As to whether that might mean a weekly or biweekly title, he said: “For the moment, we see it as a monthly magazine, but we’ve got a year-and-a-half to two years to think that through.” He added that the new business group “won’t be limited to one magazine.…We’re looking at seminars and conferences and a major Web presence, and wherever else this takes us.”
In her tenure at the Journal, Lipman founded the Weekend Journal and Personal Journal sections and oversaw the paper’s 2002 redesign. Most recently, she has been working on the launch of the paper’s Weekend Edition. She will remain at the Journal until the debut of Weekend Edition, on Sept. 17. Assistant managing editor Edward Felsenthal will now oversee all “Business of Life” coverage at the Journal.
A replacement for Carey at The New Yorker has not yet been named. Prior to joining The New Yorker, Carey was founding publisher of SmartMoney, a Hearst Corp. joint venture with The Wall Street Journal. He briefly left Condé Nast in 2001 to be president and ceo of Gruner + Jahr’s Business Information Group.
Townsend mentioned the launch at a publishers’ meeting Aug. 4 at the Modern. More recently, he has been telling editors and publishers within Condé Nast that the forthcoming project would be bigger than — and unlike — anything the company has previously attempted, with a budget surpassing any of its prior launches.
On Wednesday, addressing the start-up costs, Townsend said: “I’m really not in a position to share the budget, but I think that anyone intending to make their mark in this category has to be prepared to fund it properly. We are certainly prepared to fund the launch. God knows what it’s going to be.”
Especially considering the current state of the category. Fortune’s ad pages are down 14.5 percent year-to-date to 1,705.6 pages. Business Week is down 10.1 percent, to 1,618.8. Forbes is down 5.3 percent to 1,771.8, Fast Company fell 12.8 percent to 347.1 pages and Inc. slipped 2.5 percent to 563.9. All figures are according to the Media Industry Newsletter.
“We have faith in the category,” Townsend contended. “We think the category is going to experience recovery.”
“This is an area of the marketplace where we’ve historically underrepresented,” said Carey, pointing out that the new group would finally diversify Condé Nast from its solid base in beauty and fashion. “While [the business] category’s been a tough place to be for the last couple of years, it’s traditionally a very good place to be.”
Which is why Condé Nast has been looking to enter it for some time now. Earlier this summer, talk circulated within Advance that Condé Nast had tried to buy Forbes, but the price tag was too high. Townsend acknowledged that there had been some talks with Forbes, saying: “We have a close relationship with Forbes.” But, he said, “it really was never a serious business discussion.”
The company also was said to have been a soft bidder in the June auction for Gruner + Jahr’s Fast Company and Inc. — the titles ultimately went to Morningstar owner Joe Mansueto for $35 million.
So what else might be on the horizon for Condé Nast? Townsend said: “This is our focal point. This takes us through 2007. We have Cookie coming out [from WWD’s parent company, Fairchild Publications Inc., like Condé Nast, part of Advance Publications Inc.]. We have another issue of Men’s Vogue coming out. Between Cookie and Men’s Vogue and this business publication, I would say our plate is rather full.”