Peter Kafka

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Condé Nast Shuttering Portfolio

portfolioCondé Nast is shuttering its troubled Portfolio title and accompanying Web site. The publisher informed its staff of the decision at a meeting this morning. “The company is deeply grateful to Portfolio’s readers and for the broad support of marketers and executives all around the country,” says Condé Nast group president David Carey.

The magazine’s May issue, which is out now, will be its last. The Web site will be shuttered “in the second quarter,” the company says.

Portfolio has had its doubters even prior to its launch in 2007. Long before the advertising market cratered, critics worried that the market couldn’t support a fourth business magazine to compete with Forbes, Time Warner’s (TWX ) Fortune and McGraw-Hill’s (MHP) BusinessWeek; they also marveled at the reported $100 million budget that Condé Nast had committed to the launch.

No telling whether that bet would have paid off in a healthier market for the high-end advertising that business magazines thrive on. (But likely not: “Condé Nast made a classic mistake of spotting a consumer magazine ‘opportunity’ based on advertising and demographic considerations, not actual reader demand,” as BusinessWeek’s Jon Fine puts it). But the current market is as bad as it could get: In the first three months of 2009, magazine ad pages declined more than 25 percent, according to an industry trade group, and Portfolio’s pages dropped by more than 60 percent. Some of that drop stems from the magazine’s move to a 10-issue-a-year schedule, down from 12 a year.

But Portfolio has been suffering for quite some time. Last fall, the magazine laid off a good portion of its staff and turned its Web site into a skeleton operation. And parent Condé Nast, which also made a round of layoffs last fall, has continued to cut back this year, eliminating perks, staff and titles throughout the company. In March CEO Chuck Townsend sent out a memo warning that “as the downturn extends, we have to make additional difficult decisions to manage costs and ensure our financial well-being.”

Here’s the full statement from Carey:

Earlier today, Condé Nast announced, quite regrettably, that it is pulling back from its investment in Portfolio.

For this high-profile, 21-issue launch, the recession has helped and hurt the brand. While the unprecedented nature of these times has made business and the economy the main topic of conversation, it has also led to high levels of uncertainty and a tremendous reduction in ad spend in the five key sectors Portfolio’s business model depends on.

The company is deeply grateful to Portfolio’s readers and for the broad support of marketers and executives all around the country.

And here’s the beginning of the magazine’s obituary from soon-to-be-unemployed Portfolio.com media writer Jeff Bercovici:

For nearly two years I’ve been covering the media industry’s bad news on this blog, including some that’s hit very close to home. Now it hits closer still: Condé Nast Portfolio is closing.

Our editor in chief, Joanne Lipman, just broke the news to staff, saying the decision had been made “because of financial reasons at Advance,” Condé Nast’s parent company. “It’s not anything that the company wanted to do.” She said she was informed by Condé Nast chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. this morning of the decision.

And here’s the press release:

Condé Nast will cease publication of Portfolio effective with its May issue and Portfolio.com will close in the second quarter of the year, it was announced today by Charles H. Townsend, President and CEO of Condé Nast.

“The pressures and realities of the continuous deep economic slump have lowered Portfolio’s revenue projections below what is needed to continue publication,” Mr. Townsend said. “Portfolio was an ambitious and innovative magazine and website, and we were proud to publish them. The challenges facing this launch however proved too great. Joanne Lipman is an extraordinarily skillful editor and William Li is a very talented publisher. We thank them and their staffs for their tremendous efforts. It is unfortunate we were unable to give Portfolio the time needed to fully mature.”

Portfolio and Portfolio.com were launched in May 2007. The magazine has published 21 issues since its launch. The magazine received a National Magazine Award in 2008 and has been nominated for multiple awards since.

Condé Nast Publications, a unit of Advance Publications, includes consumer magazines, Condé Nast Digital, the Fairchild Fashion Group, the Condé Nast Media Group, and the Shared Services Centers.


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