Condé Nast gets the jitters as consultants come through
Consultants are returning to Condé Nast amid rumors that more cost-cutting is in store at the storied magazine publisher.
At the behest of chief financial officer David Geithner, starting this Wednesday, sources familiar with the matter told POLITICO, the global business advisory firm FTI Consulting will begin meeting with Condé Nast employees to help assess things like editorial workflow, processes and productivity across the company's nearly two dozen titles, which include standard-bearers like The New Yorker, Vogue and Vanity Fair.
While the precise nature of the meetings is yet to be seen, the presence of business-efficiency consultants will no doubt send a ripple of anxiety through Condé's 1 World Trade Center headquarters. When the management consulting monolith McKinsey & Company did a three-week tour of Condé Nast during the post-recession downswing of 2009, the culling that followed claimed four magazines and delivered the final blow to the publishers' halcyon days of big fat budgets and outsized expense accounts.
"There's definitely some handwringing going on," said one well-placed insider who spoke anonymously, because Condé Nast employees may not do so on the record without authorization from company brass.
This summer, Condé shuttered Lucky magazine's print edition, and there have been reports that further consolidation or closures, either in print or altogether, may be in store. Internally, speculation has centered on Self, Details and Teen Vogue, a source confirmed.
Newspapers and magazines across the board continue to grapple with the loss of readers and revenues to digital platforms that lack the legacy bedrock of print-advertising.
For its part, Condé Nast has been burnishing its digital credentials for the past several years, first with iPad editions that began rolling out in 2010, and more recently with an expanding video department and online audience growth that reached a record 87.3 million unique users across Condé's digital network in July, up 47 percent from the previous year, according to the web measurement firm Comscore.
(Employee bonus: "As a small way of celebrating these awesome results," president Bob Sauerberg wrote in an August 19 email to staffers, "we are making coffees from the Coffee Bar and cafeteria on the 35th floor complimentary today.")
In a related development, POLITICO has learned Condé Nast's four most powerful editors—Anna Wintour (Vogue); David Remnick (The New Yorker); Graydon Carter (Vanity Fair) and Jim Nelson (GQ)—have established a sort of working group in which fancy figures from the tech and digital world are brought in to meet with different editorial factions to talk about the company's approach to digital content.
One source familiar with the process said some insiders saw it as Condé's equivalent of the 2014 "Innovation Report" that famously lavished a heap of self-criticism on The New York Times.
A Condé Nast spokesman declined to comment.