Condé Nast Wastes Money On Everything Except Magazines


Screen shot 2009-11-06 at 11.06.58 AMThe headline in today’s “Media Ink” column: “Condé Nast hires crisis intervention expert” My reaction: Are you freaking KIDDING me?

Hire a consultant, sure. Hire a turnaround expert, someone who can help you maximize the web. That one would have been useful, oh, three years ago. Or two years ago. Or one year ago. But of all the things to spend dwindling resources on besides town cars, they’re going with a PR crisis manager?

I need to calm down for a sec. From the Post:

CONDÉ Nast CEO Charles Townsend and Chairman S.I. Newhouse, Jr. are turning to Washington, DC-based crisis manager and media coach Michael Sheehan to help with PR.

Sheehan has coached Democratic presidential candidates from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama. He handled AIG during its near-death experience and JP Morgan in its acquisition of Chase.

A source said that Newhouse and Townsend were reluctant to make the hire, but did so under prodding from Lucky publisher Gina Sanders, who used Sheehan when she was launching Teen Vogue…morale at Condé has hit an all-time low. This year it has folded an unprecedented six magazines, including Gourmet and Cookie, and fired at least 460 employees. Its glitzy image has also taken a drubbing on Madison Avenue.

Here, let me save them some money: When your company’s “glitzy image” is part of the reason there’s so much schadenfreude about all the cuts you’ve had to make, maybe best PR move would have been to NOT hire the expensive PR manager.

It’s a little late to put a shine on this spin, I think. What is Condé going to do, un-shutter Gourmet ? Un-squander millions on Portfolio? Un-ignore the web from back when everyone was saying, “Why is Condé Nast ignoring the web?”

Un-spending money on frivolous things is a start; the cancellation of the annual Si Newhouse Christmas Luncheon & Seating Plan is a sad sign of the times but certainly appropriate given the jobs that have been cut. But the sad recent history of Condé Nast seems more like bad decisions following more bad decisions. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that there were spending issues at Condé. Maybe those might have been addressed before bringing in McKinsey, which presumably did not perform their services pro bono.

It may, on the other hand, have taken a genius to figure out that the Cookie, Gourmet, Portfolio and even Domino brands were worth something apart from glossy paper — clearly, because no one at Condé Nast seemed to have figured that out. (Domino — there is still nothing to replace it, especially for all those people aging into housing upgrades. Sheesh.) As my colleague Glynnis MacNicol has said, “Parsing the logic of Condé’s decisions is a frustrating game, one which we may not have to play much longer considering the pace at which the company is ridding itself of titles.”

Logic doesn’t matter so much when everyone’s rolling around in money. But things are different now, and Conde Nast has more than just its prestige glossy rep to preserve – there are jobs and people at stake, too. And customer who are already missing their favorite magazines. It may be Si Newhouse’s to screw up but its all of ours to lose.

Condé Nast hires crisis intervention expert [NYPost]


Why Did Time Inc.’s Layoffs Get So Much Less Attention Than Condé’s?[Mediaite]
McKinsey Bell Tolls: Condé To Shutter Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride [Mediaite]
Condé’s Cuts Come to Vogue [All Things D]
Chairman’s focus on glossies cost Gourmet dearly [AdAge]

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