DUMPING CARGO: Cargo magazine left the world the way it entered it: with much scratching of heads. On Monday, as word emerged that Condé Nast Publications Inc. was shutting down the men’s shopping title after two years of setbacks and reversals, many were wondering why the company (which also owns WWD) hadn’t given another editor a chance to make Cargo work. Although a Condé Nast spokeswoman said there had been no consideration given to replacing editor in chief Ariel Foxman, recent months have been filled with rumors of a quiet search under way, possibly undertaken by publisher Lance Ford, who replaced founding publisher Alan Katz in August after Katz moved over to Vanity Fair. Insiders compared the situation with GQ editor Art Cooper’s 2003 ouster, conducted at the urging of then-publisher Ron Galotti. Since coming onboard, Ford — an old buddy of Richard Beckman‘s — has been telling advertisers they could expect to see Cargo move in a more up-market, fashion-centric direction, according to sources in the men’s market. Ford recently met with Greg Williams, editorial direct of Giant and former editor in chief of the British title Arena, but when asked about it, both men described the meeting as a social get-together. Still, Condé Nast editorial director Tom Wallace and his deputy, Rick Levine, are known to have solicited critiques of Cargo from a range of editors in the latter half of 2005.
The question of to what extent a different editor might have changed Cargo’s fate will be asked long after the title’s final installment, the upcoming May issue, departs newsstands. Certainly Foxman was far from a safe bet; plucked from a senior editor position at In Style on the strength of a promising memo, he had never been an editor in chief before. Perhaps because he was unproven, Foxman was entrusted with relatively little autonomy and had little input into its early form. According to another Condé Nast editor, Foxman was hired only after a prototype existed and a creative director, Donald Robertson, had been engaged. Moreover, he received plenty of hand-holding from then-editorial director James Truman, and later from Wallace and Levine. It was Truman, one may recall, who pioneered the shopping magalogue with the successful Lucky and proceeded to overextend the concept by insisting men liked to trawl the aisles as much as women. However, neither Cargo nor its competitive sibling, Vitals, lived to toddler-hood.
But Foxman was not always receptive to guidance. Sources at the company say he shrugged off advice aimed at improving Cargo’s performance at the newsstand — even though the magazine was selling, on average, 30,000 to 40,000 fewer copies per issue than it was expected to — and resisted efforts by Robertson to emulate the design of other magazines, particularly the lad titles.
It may be that Foxman (who did not respond to calls for comment) simply didn’t realize how precarious his, and Cargo’s, position was. According to one insider, in December, Foxman showed up late to a holiday cocktail party Condé Nast chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. held for the company’s editors — a faux pas no employee who felt himself to be on the hot seat would presumably make. If that’s the case, Foxman’s blissful ignorance persisted right up to the end, said the source: Wallace notified Foxman of the shutdown only a few minutes before telling the rest of the magazine’s editorial staff.
While the rest of the magazine’s employees will be considered for open positions at other titles, Foxman and Ford are both leaving the company.
— Jeff Bercovici and Sara James