DANZIGER DEPARTS: At 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Self magazine’s editorial staff met their new editor in chief, Joyce Chang, who made the trek from her airy office in Hearst Tower to Condé Nast. Chang, who currently serves as Cosmopolitan magazine’s executive editor until April 18, entered the crowded conference room flanked by Condé Nast’s top brass: chief executive officer Charles Townsend, president Robert Sauerberg and artistic director Anna Wintour.
Although Chang doesn’t officially start until May 1, she addressed Self’s editorial staff, who only hours earlier learned that Lucy Danziger had been let go after 13 years as editor in chief.
This story first appeared in the April 4, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
According to sources inside, Townsend led off the meeting, which was described as “somber” and “shell-shocked.” He called Danziger’s departure “very sad,” but added that it’s “time to move forward.” Sauerberg underscored the importance of Self and the fitness category to the company. Wintour thanked Danziger — who wasn’t at the meeting, but instead on her way to Miami to compete in a triathlon — as well as the editorial team for its hard work. She then introduced Chang, citing her résumé, which includes stints at Marie Claire, People StyleWatch, People Magazine, Lucky, The New York Times Magazine and Allure.
Wintour said those magazines “gave her a great foundation” and taught Chang the “power of a strong and intelligent woman.”
Next up was Chang, who tried to “rally the troops,” a source said. Staffers were nodding in agreement — especially when the new editor expressed her excitement about the fitness category and offered a familiar battle cry to staff: “This is our time.”
While it’s too early to speculate exactly what Chang will bring to Self, it may be safe to assume that under Wintour’s gaze she’ll up the title’s luxury and fashion content — just as the other magazines that have been made over under Wintour’s watch, Lucky, Condé Nast Traveler and Glamour, have done. That seems to be a departure from Self’s recent strategy, which included a launch of healthy frozen food meals.
Following the remarks, which ran about 20 minutes, Wintour and Chang stayed behind for another 20 minutes to answer questions from the staff. They both urged the team to feel free to make contact going forward.
The tone of the meeting was very different from the one that transpired in the same Self conference room at 11:15 a.m. that morning, when Danziger bid farewell to her team. Although she admitted the meeting wasn’t easy, the ever-upbeat Danziger told WWD that she kept things positive and that she’s ready to “move forward.”
“I’ve been at Condé Nast for 18-plus years, and I only have positive things to say. Obviously, I think that timingwise, you’re never thinking it’s time,” Danziger said, adding that she will likely remain in the “well-being” space across digital and print platforms.
Rumors about Danziger’s future have swirled since Wintour began consulting on the brand last year. But trouble was looming even before Wintour stepped in. According to the Alliance for Audited Media, Self’s newsstand sales fell 13.7 percent to 163,406 in 2013 from 189,247 the previous year, the latest in a string of declines. Sales in 2009 totaled 270,125, a 39.5 percent dip from 2013. To put it in perspective, rival Shape magazine logged newsstand sales of 208,006, a 6.9 percent increase over 2012.
The picture wasn’t much rosier on the advertising side, which explained Thursday’s firing of Self vice president and publisher Laura McEwen equally less-than-surprising. Last year, ad pages fell 5.7 percent to 853.37 from 905.43 in 2012, according to data from the Publishers Information Bureau. Year-to-date, pages have dropped 21 percent through May. A successor for McEwen has yet to be named.
A source said Chang has been interviewing at Self since January. Still, other sources familiar with the situation said Danziger’s dismissal came as a surprise to her. “It came out of left field,” said a source with knowledge of the relationship between Danziger and Wintour. “There was no friction.”
The source pointed to a “friendly meeting” that took place with Wintour just last week. Such meetings had taken place on a monthly basis without any indication of the sweeping changes.
But even Danziger noted that under Wintour’s guidance, a new chapter was emerging at Self, and that her exit was part of a “changing out.”
“I’m looking forward to the next chapter,” an upbeat Danziger said.
Chang wasn’t available for comment, but Joanna Coles, editor in chief of Cosmo and her former boss, said, “Joyce is an absolutely brilliant editor. I think Self is a starter magazine for her,” adding the other editors at Condé Nast “should be afraid,” since Chang is destined to get even bigger titles.