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As Condé Nast Restructures Business Side, What's Next?

Newly installed chief business officer Jim Norton makes sweeping changes to the company's business side as rumours swirl that the Condé Nast business is being readied for a sale.
Condé Nast headquarters, New York | Source: Shutterstock
By
  • Lauren Sherman

NEW YORK, United States — In a widely anticipated move, Condé Nast chief business officer and president of revenue Jim Norton has announced a sweeping restructuring of the company's business side to align more closely with the model favoured by rival publisher Time Inc. as rumours continue to swirl that the business is being prepared for a sale.

The moves come on the heels of several major changes made at Condé Nast in late 2016, which included layoffs, a reorganisation of the creative, research and technology departments, as well as the closure of Self magazine's print edition and Teen Vogue's switch to four print issues a year.

On the business side, Norton, who joined the publisher in October 2016 from Verizon's AOL where he was global head of media sales, has re-arranged his team into two camps: brand leaders, known as "chief business officers", and category leaders, referred to as "chief industry officers". Chief business officers will represent and sell specific titles. Chief industry officers will sell categories across titles.

The redesign, if you will, was inspired by the success of the Food Innovation Group, which was led on the business side by chief revenue officer Pamela Drucker Mann, who has been promoted to chief marketing officer of the entire company.

"When we clustered Bon Appétit and Epicurious, and established the Food Innovation Group, we created a division that immediately had scale and drove product development and creativity, dramatically increasing revenue," Norton wrote in an email to the company on Thursday. "Following that same model of success, we’re combining our businesses in strategic ways to create new brand collections. Our brands will continue to be at the center of our company, and by organizing them this way, we can be faster to market and more responsive to our clients."

As a result of the reorganisation, three brand leaders — Glamour and Self's Connie Anne Phillips, Brides' Michelle Myers and Allure's Agnes B. Chapski — are exiting the company.

Others, including Drucker Mann, were promoted. Josh Stinchcomb, the executive behind the company's branded content studio, 23 Stories, has been named chief experience officer in charge of overseeing "integrated marketing solutions," as well as licensing, art and archive departments. Lisa Valentino, current chief revenue officer of Condé Nast Entertainment, has been named chief revenue officer, industry and agency. Category leads, or chief industry officers, will report to Valentino.

Other publishers and sales leads have been assigned to the following roles:

Chief Business Officers:

  • Architectural Digest, Condé Nast Traveler and the Food Innovation Group: Giulio Capua
  • Glamour, Allure, Brides, Teen Vogue and Self: Kim Kelleher
  • Vanity Fair and W: Chris Mitchell
  • GQ, GQ Style, Golf Digest and Golf World, the Wired Media Group (Wired, Ars Technica and Backchannel) and Pitchfork: Howard Mittman

Chief Industry Officers:

  • Auto: Tracey Baldwin
  • Media and Entertainment: Retail and Travel – Mike Fisher
  • Telco, Tech, Business and Finance: Chris Gibbons
  • Beauty: Lucy Kriz
  • Fashion/Luxury: Brendan Monaghan
  • Pharma: Jen Mormile
  • Food and Beverage and Spirits: To Be Announced

Tellingly, Vogue and the New Yorker — the company's leading brands in terms of both prestige and cultural reach, if not revenue — will remain "standalones", with current leaders Susan Plagemann and Lisa Hughes staying put.

The set up is not dissimilar to what was implemented just last week at Time Inc., where brands — other than the marquee, InStyle — are clustered together in groups, and selling is done across both titles and categories. Both businesses have done away with the title "publisher", although that is, to be sure, in part cosmetic. Legacy media companies are now distancing themselves from the word, which connotes print, even though the majority of their revenue is still derived from print advertising.

For now, Condé Nast Entertainment, which is run by television industry veteran Dawn Ostroff, will be unaffected by the changes, and "Editorial teams will continue to operate independently and the brands will retain their unique and differentiated voices," Norton underscored.

Whether these silo-free business structures — which more closely resemble an advertising agency than a traditional media business — will allow legacy publishers to better serve advertisers remains to be seen. But it certainly helps with cost-cutting.

Condé Nast's editorial employees were not directly affected by the latest round of restructuring. However, it's likely that underperforming publications will go digital-only in the coming year as the business side works to figure out how to increase revenue.

Today's moves come amidst rumours that the Condé Nast business is being readied for a sale from parent company Advance Publications. Potential suitors reportedly include arch rival Hearst — but also Google, Vice Media and Apple. Hearst has also evaluated acquisitions of certain titles at Time Inc., which has struggled to generate shareholder value since spinning off from its parent company in 2014.

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