The year 2017 proved to be something of a sea change for legacy publications as longtime, high-profile editors left their posts, ushering in a wave of mostly younger — and, often, cheaper — talent atop magazine mastheads.
Whether it was because they were encouraged to step aside or because they decided to leave before mandates from on high meant that they were on the hook for stretching thin resources even thinner, the departures of so many old school editors has changed the editorial makeup across the industry.
September was an especially busy month as a slew of editors— Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter, Glamour’s Cindi Leive, Elle’s Robbie Myers and Time’s Nancy Gibbs — all revealed within a fortnight their plans to exit.
Carter set the cycle in motion when he revealed his departure from Vanity Fair in a splashy exit interview with The New York Times, which he gave to the paper of record the day before he informed Vanity Fair’s staff and Condé Nast president and chief executive officer Bob Sauerberg.
“I’ve loved every moment of my time here and I’ve pretty much accomplished everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I’m now eager to try out this ‘third act’ thing that my contemporaries have been telling me about, and I figure I’d better get a jump on it,” he said in a formal announcement, set to coincide with the release of story he had given The Times under embargo.
But despite the forward-looking optimism in his statement, sources told WWD that Condé’s corporate restructuring last year had tried Carter’s patience and one insider said that his decision to exit may have been sparked by his being asked to develop another property — a classic case of being given more work with fewer resources. There was chatter that Carter had delayed his exit following the election of Donald Trump — the better to spar with the man Carter had, much to Trump’s consternation, labeled a “short-fingered vulgarian” back in his Spy days.
Regardless of how long it had been brewing, Carter’s announcement left Condé without an heir apparent, forcing months of media speculation as predictable names were bandied about, like Guggenheim Media’s Janice Min, New York magazine’s Adam Moss, GQ’s Jim Nelson and Vanity Fair’s digital director (and Carter’s reported favored candidate) Mike Hogan — as well as long-shot names like Anderson Cooper and Ronan Farrow.
But the ultimate selection came as a complete surprise. Radhika Jones was a very literary choice — she came to Vanity Fair from The New York Times, where she was the editorial director of the books department. Jones, a former top editor of Time magazine, The Paris Review and Artforum, with a PhD. in English and comparative literature from Columbia University was enthusiastically welcomed by the literati, if less so by the magazine’s in-house fashionistas.
Speculation now rages over what type of magazine Vanity Fair will become under Jones, not to mention how much influence Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour will now have at the title, given that Carter adamantly refused to bow to her authority. The changing of the guard already has been a boon to the bottom line, as Jones is reportedly earning a quarter of Carter’s salary — at a time when Condé is asking for a 30 percent budget cut across titles, an axe that no doubt Jones will have to take to Vanity Fair’s bloated masthead as well.
The week after Carter’s announcement, Elle editor in chief Robbie Myers said that she was planning to leave the title. Myers’ exit did not exactly come as a surprise, and Hearst had a replacement all lined up: Nina Garcia was named to the post the following day.
That same week, Time magazine editor in chief Nancy Gibbs said she was leaving, giving the reins to Time Inc. digital director Edward Felsenthal, who was to be tasked with expanding the title’s digital footprint. The move, it turned out, was happening at the same time as Meredith Corporation, with the help of the Koch brothers, finalized its plans to live its Midwestern dream of buying the New York-based Time Inc.
Also that week, Glamour editor in chief Cindi Leive took a page from the Graydon Carter playbook and invited a New York Times reporter over to reveal her departure before telling her colleagues. “I just love, love, love the people I work with,” she told the Times — although apparently not enough to tell them of her departure first.
But unlike with Carter, the reporter made sure to note Leive’s faded toenail polish during her exit interview (“soon she’ll have the time for primping,” the reporter wrote.)
If it took some time to find Carter’s successor, it is taking even longer to find Leive’s — and it now appears the search will stretch into the new year. While one assumes Leive has found time for a pedicure, speculation is raging that she may be asked to stick around a bit longer than originally planned to help with the March issue.
And while names ranging from Teen Vogue editor in chief Elaine Welteroth to Lena Dunham have been floated as possible successors, at the moment there appears to be no front-runner.
Meanwhile, the September stretch, while certainly the most concentrated, was hardly the only changes to mastheads in 2017.
The year began with Scott Dadich leaving Wired to focus on his creative agency, Godfrey Dadich Partners. His successor, Nicholas Thompson, left his post as editor in chief of newyorker.com to become Wired’s editor in chief.
In April, Hanya Yanagihara was named editor in chief of The New York Times’ T Magazine, replacing Deborah Needleman, who left the previous year. And in June, Whitney Robinson was named editor in chief of Elle Decor, succeeding Michael Boodro who left Hearst the month prior.
Nor was the editorial changing of the guard limited to America.
The U.K. bid adieu to a generation of magazine editors who were ousted — or who chose to quit their posts in a mercurial media climate.
When British Vogue’s long-standing editor Alexandra Shulman said she was stepping down earlier this year, she opened the floodgates to change, with deputy editor Emily Sheffield and fashion editor Lucinda Chambers among the highest-profile departures.
Vogue’s new editor Edward Enninful brought in his own team, including a slew of celebrity contributors such as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Adwoa Aboah. He marked a new era at the glossy, picking Aboah for the cover of his first December issue, a multiracial, multicultural mosaic.
On the publishing side, Vanessa Kingori became publishing director of British Vogue, replacing Stephen Quinn, who had earlier revealed his retirement after serving for 26 years in the role. Kingori is the first black woman in the magazine’s 30-year history to fill the role.
British Glamour also saw its share of changes morphing not once, but twice, in the course of a year. Once a jewel of the Condé Nast Britain stable, the magazine fell on hard times after it failed to keep up with its Instagram- and Twitter-loving audience. It now lives as an online beauty publication that plans to have a print edition twice a year.
Its launch editor Jo Elvin stepped down in October after Glamour’s editorial and commercial teams were consolidated into one.
Earlier this month Tatler’s editor Kate Reardon, who had brought a saucy, irreverent edge to the society magazine stepped down after seven years. Before her resignation, rumors were rife that Tatler was set to be sold or to become an online-only publication only, but a Condé Nast Britain spokeswoman said it was business as usual and that the title would continue both in print and online.
The U.K. arm of Time Inc., meanwhile, is set to be sold later this month — probably to a private equity firm — after the parent company’s sale to Meredith in November. Time Inc. U.K. is home to more than 60 consumer and specialist titles including Wallpaper, InStyle, Marie Claire U.K., Woman and Home, and Horse & Hound.
The company said it plans to announce a transaction before the end of the year, and the front-runner is said to be the private equity firm Epiris. An Epiris spokesman has repeatedly declined to comment.
The value of the deal is likely to be in the region of 200 million pounds, although a substantial pension deficit could hamper a sale, according to reports. Epiris’ portfolio includes TGI Fridays restaurants, the Hollywood Bowl Group of bowling alleys and the manufacturer and retailer Hotter Shoes.
According to its web site, Epiris is seeking investment opportunities for Epiris Fund II, which has the capacity to commit 200 million pounds to any new investment.
The new course of Vogue Italia under Emanuele Farneti’s watch was clearly revealed with the July issue. Farneti, who previously helmed GQ Italia, was appointed editor in chief of Vogue Italia in January, following the death of his predecessor Franca Sozzani a month earlier. While he stayed true to Sozzani’s legacy, continuing in the direction she gave to the magazine, channeling controversial and unconventional themes and aesthetics, Farneti completely restyled the magazine, supported by new creative director Giovanni Bianco, introducing a new, bigger format and heavier, glossier paper, dedicating more space to written content, although photos still play a major role. The cover of the July issue, called First Chapter, was photographed by longtime collaborator Steven Meisel, and articles included Naomi Campbell talking about Gianni Versace on the 20th anniversary of his murder, and art critic and curator Francesco Bonami’s interview with Alber Elbaz, for example. Coinciding with the issue, Condé Nast Italia appointed Alan Prada and Sara Maino deputy directors of Vogue Italia.
Farneti continued to break ground with the September issue, which for the first time was dedicated entirely to Italy with three theme-related covers photographed by Inez & Vinoodh, Mert & Marcus and Willy Vanderperre. Mariacarla Boscono fronted each cover — a celebration of her 20 years as a model. One of the covers, dedicated to the kiss, sparked positive and strong reactions on Instagram. The image by photographers Mert & Marcus reflected the magazine’s stance against all forms of sexual orientation and gender discrimination, as three couples were seen kissing: Boscono with Italian model Federico Spinas; Lily Aldridge and Vittoria Ceretti, and Pablo Rousson with Edoardo Velickskov.
For its October issue, and in another first, Vogue Italia dedicated an entire issue to women over 60, with three covers fronted by Lauren Hutton and photographed by Steven Klein, and dubbed the “Timeless Issue.”
The decision of Condé Nast Italia, which also publishes GQ, Glamour, Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest and La Cucina Italiana, to focus on top brands and digital development, and despite growing sales in 2016 that totaled 127.3 million euros, led to news of layoffs. In July, the group said it was closing L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Bambini, Vogue Sposa and Vogue Accessories. The magazines’ closures are expected to result in 35 cuts in staff members.
Taking steps to further boost digital performances, the group introduced new social-oriented initiatives, launching in November the first national social academy aimed at training a new generation of professional influencers, for example.
Also new in the group’s content supplying activity, it inked a partnership with Thailand-based Central Retail Corp. Condé Nast Italia will oversee all the communication, edited in eight languages and internal advertising of the company’s department stores, which include La Rinascente in Italy, KaDeWe in Germany and Illum in Denmark, among others.