Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Condé Nast Reshuffles Digital; No Layoffs Planned

Condé Nast’s famously Byzantine digital strategy may be getting a little bit easier to understand: The company’s Web operations, which had been splintered into two groups, are getting melded into one, which will be run by Condé digital exec Sarah Chubb.

The company plans on announcing the details of the reorg tomorrow, but here’s the most important one: The reshuffling won’t result in any layoffs, a person familiar with the situation tells me.

That’s nice for Condé’s employees, who already went through cuts last fall. But it’s also puzzling: If merging all of Condé’s Web operations into one group doesn’t eliminate a single redundancy, then what does it do?

Perhaps not that much. AdAge’s Nat Ives, whom Condé briefed on the move, explains the upshot:

Some things also stay the same. Condé Nast Digital will handle day-to-day contact with digital advertisers, but the Condé Nast Media Group retains the lead on most relationships. The magazines’ high-powered publishers aren’t getting any new incentives to sell digital. And everyone remembers that print still brings in almost all the revenue; digital absorbed at least its fair share of staff cuts that concluded 2008.

But Condé Nast executives point to the recession to explain why it’s finally found religion. ‘This economic experience that we are going through has sobered us up considerably,’ [Condé Nast CEO Charles] Townsend said. ‘To get back to double-digit growth, we have to put our digital assets to work hard. I am hoping that the print business will recover to double-digit growth, but I am convinced that the digital business will grow exponentially.’”

The problem here is that unlike Time Warner’s (TWX) Time Inc, Condé only has a few properties, liked Wired.com, that have enough scale to attract digital advertisers. Most of the ones associated with magazine titles, like Gourmet.com, VanityFair.com, etc., are simply too small to register.

And as long as Condé remains a magazine publisher that happens to have some Web properties, it’s hard to see how that will change.


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