Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Here’s Why McKinsey’s Coming to Condé Nast: The Coming Black September

conde-nast-buildingHere’s why Condé Nast is bringing in McKinsey & Co. for an emergency overhaul: The publisher’s lousy year isn’t getting any better. New numbers Condé released today show that its September issues will be miserable across the board, with ad pages down anywhere from 17 percent to 47 percent. And that’s if you interpret the data favorably.

CEO Chuck Townsend said as much in a memo yesterday announcing that he’d hired McKinsey to figure out how to survive “in an emerging economy that is now predicted to be painfully slow in recovering.”

But when you see Condé’s projected numbers for its fall issues, which are traditionally bulging with ads, it’s even more startling. Particularly when you realize that the economy had already been slowing down a year ago (Disclosure: I do some free-lance work for Condé title Vanity Fair).

Take a look for yourself in the table below (click to enlarge): The numbers in the middle (faintly highlighted in blue) represent the year-over-year decline in ad pages, if you factor out the publisher’s special “Fashion Rocks” issues, which it gave up on last year. The more brutal numbers on the right are the “real” numbers. All of them are unpleasant.

Using the more favorable set of numbers, Teen Vogue is Condé’s relative star, down a mere 17 percent. And if Vogue was a publicly traded stock, it would have beaten expectations, since it came in above 400 pages–which is still down 29.7 percent (or more).


Not included the above chart: Totals for The New Yorker, Golf World, Modern Bride or Elegant Bride, since they aren’t monthlies and don’t have comparable September issues.

And here’s a trailer for “The September Issue,” a much-buzzed about documentary about Vogue’s effort to put out…well, you can figure it out.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work