It’s shaping up to be another year of change at Condé Nast.
A number of titles at the magazine are being hit with staff reductions, since, as WWD reported last month, editors across the publisher’s magazine brands were tasked with trimming their budgets while ensuring they have staffers focused on digital growth.
This week, Glamour cut a handful of staffers, including its executive beauty director of five years and an assistant editor. Since it’s only been a year since the last round of layoffs at the outlet and about two months since the publication officially decided to end its run in print, staffers are feeling particularly beset as Glamour’s editorial unit was already small at barely over 20 people, not including photo and art. However, editor in chief Samantha Barry is said to be looking at bringing in a few new faces, all focused more on digital content and operations as the title settles into an online-first mentality.
Elsewhere, there have been a small number of cuts at Wired, mainly junior-level staff, and at GQ, where Will Welch formally took over from longtime editor in chief Jim Nelson. Combined cuts for those titles are thought to be less than 10. At GQ at least, there are said to be plans to fill some positions, which will reduce the net loss in head count.
Allure, which is about to roll out its first broad redesign under editor in chief Michelle Lee, is also said to be losing at least a couple of full-time positions, while Vogue is not looking to replace its former style director Edward Barsamian. Barsamian just left to join Victoria Beckham’s fashion company as it looks to expand its own editorial voice and identity. A number of staffers also left W magazine at the end of last year — unsurprising as the title’s future is uncertain since it’s up for sale, along with Brides and Golf. And the founder and longtime editor in chief of Pitchfork also just left the company, after moving to an oversight role last year.
Whether or not Condé fills the gaps left by these changes, the publisher is slowly but surely emerging as a much less baroque version of its former self, focused on digital opportunities (from data collection to e-commerce) and becoming less reliant on print advertising, which still makes up the majority of its annual revenue.
While the company’s fiscal year ends this month, 2018 is thought to have turned out better than anticipated, with quarterly revenue goals met in the first part of the year and exceeded in the second, driven in large part by gains in digital advertising. Since it’s coming off a 2017 loss of about $120 million, which includes the cost of reinvestments and the ongoing internal restructuring, it’s easy to spin anything that isn’t an increased loss as a win for the company, but it’s thought that the reduction of the loss in 2018 was significant. Still not a profit, but the last several years have been undeniably tough at Condé, as it has struggled to play catchup with the industry’s digital shift.
Things could be starting to level off, however. Along with digital and video ad growth, this year’s print ads are said to have started off well, being more than 70 percent of the way toward a first-quarter goal, a period that tends to set expectations for second and third quarters. How Condé is continuing to draw print advertisers could be something to see. The latest issue of its food title Bon Appétit came with a full wraparound ad for Chevy, featuring the front of a truck and an attempt at word play with “grilling.” Some subscribers took to social media with their dislike, one asking “Is it supposed to look like this?” and another quipping “Times are tough.”
Beyond focusing on digital growth and the steadying of its remaining print titles (there will be nine left after the sale of W, Brides and Golf), Condé has been working in earnest to reduce costs.
A number of staffers have been grumbling lately about not only layoffs and tight production and freelance budgets, but a much stricter policy around expenses (like getting pushback on their number of cab and Uber rides, something once unthinkable at a company that all but floated Manhattan’s black Town Car industry). Then there’s the company’s very costly headquarters at One World Trade center. Condé initially took over 23 floors as an anchor tenant when the building opened in 2014, but by this summer it will be down to a total of 15 floors — that’s a 35 percent reduction in its real estate there.
All of this comes amid now formal plans to consolidate into one entity the company’s U.S. and European operations, long operated independently, and to find a new global chief executive officer to run the company as a whole.
There may be a new Condé coming, but it’s still a work in progress.
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