Think about the several Time Inc. brands you read weekly, with their glossy photography, eye-popping stories and app-friendly infographics, and look at them against the newsstand sales of titles you’d put on your 2017 most-wanted list. Of the three, Vogue has racked up the most black leather, big hips and motorcycle jackets of late, but, despite Time Inc.’s “total transformation” of the business, the magazine appears to be fumbling in every way of getting millennials excited about the high-gloss magazines they read.
Is it deliberate strategy? Portfolio.com recently reported that the publisher is planning a 10 percent cut in staff, another layer of cuts across magazine brands, and shuttering a handful of magazines, including the glossy advertising glossies Portfolio and Fortune, so as to focus on titles that appeal to younger readers: Sports Illustrated, Teen Vogue, and Wired. And of the other magazines it’s closing, two of them would be ridiculously unnecessary: On Oct. 18, Condé Nast shuttered teen magazine Teen Vogue, ending what has been a lively, full-time project without any apparent steps in preparation. Today, The New York Times reported that Wired will soon be going up for sale.
At least part of this was on Condé Nast boss and former CEO Bob Sauerberg. The 45-year-old former magazine publisher took over the top job at Condé Nast in March, just weeks after the company lost another executive — editorial director Anna Wintour, famously upset that her title’s revenue was going down on Time Warner’s dime, eventually resigned as CEO in August. Insiders may have been worried about a management reshuffle that would put power in the hands of a man who, while not a journalist by trade, was a fan of big bright photographs and American fast-food. It might help explain Condé Nast’s decision to strip traditional divisions out of its name and to eliminate “Atelier” from its logo, a sign of defensiveness toward an advertising client that could potentially resist losing control of the services it pays for.
The changes were hastily made. Wintour spent one day in Condé Nast before departing in August, and the company’s new game plan was implemented a mere two weeks later. It might not have been enough time to get its publishing business back on track, and it might not be enough time to build that business into something people want to purchase when the economic cycle turns south. It might, however, help position Condé Nast for a final moment of reckoning. With Vogue and People now represented at Milan’s Fashion Week and with some video titles in the millennial-focused, Apple-powered Condé Nast Daily, people are learning what they love about the four old-media companies that went to the bathroom in the last year: vivaciousness, over-promotion, and an even stronger urge to buy what you know.