Writers beware: Conde Nast looks to cash in on content

Yes, it is still about content.

Condé Nast CEO Charles Townsend talked this week about the company going in to 2013. He mentioned a rate-base increase for several brands; making more money from subscriptions, and forecasted the success of the Condé Nast Entertainment division (CNE.)

“Our print business, even in the worst moment, continues to grow and the margins are sharper and the gross profit margins are mouthwatering,” he said, according to wwd.com. “When this economy recovers, the print business is going to be on fire.”

But then, he said the same thing at the beginning of 2012, which was going to be “exceptionally sunny.” We now know that it wasn’t so with layoffs and most everybody taking budget cuts, and the web business coming in at about half the rate the company expected (15% growth versus 30%.)

And he’s hot on CNE, which develops, creates, produces and distributes original television, film and digital initiatives based on the company’s brands. Articles in Conde Nast magazines have already been turned into movies (“Brokeback Mountain,” “Eat, Pray Love” and the just released “Argo”) – but not by Conde Nast. That will change now with the creation of CNE.

CNE President Dawn Ostroff has said her division intends to take “some of the great stories from our magazines and do them for the screen ourselves.” She also has pointed out that there are some 80,000 articles in the Condé Nast archive as well as new content every week in their various magazines. All of which are now being read and considered for new endeavors.

But, Townsend said, there are still questions about who owns these stories, the company or the writer? According to wwd.com, “many contracts are expected to come up for review by the end of the year. Townsend said Condé is still working through the intricacies of those questions and clarified it’s trying to propose a partnership, not outright ownership. That means ‘more income for contributors but also ourselves,’ he said.”

Do we really believe he’ll be that charitable?

Writers, check your contracts.

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Friday News Round-Up for October 19th

Hey, we’re all for seasonal favorites when it comes to food, but some ideas are just a bridge too far.  Comes word that Japanese Burger King restaurants currently are serving pumpkin burgers.  Think bacon burgers, but with lots of Jack-o-lantern slices added for good measure.  “Have it your way,” right?  Hmmm.   Before you go in search of that perfect snack, catch up on the industry news.  When you see an asterisk*, that indicates a title you’ll find in our Wooden Horse Database.

NEWSWEEK* magazine, in print since 1933, will cease its print edition and go all-digital at year’s end, Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown announced this week.  The final print issue is scheduled for December 31.  Cuts in editorial and business staffs are expected as a result of the changes…

NEWSWEEK* will relaunch in 2013 as a tablet-only magazine, titled NEWSWEEK GLOBAL…

L STYLE G STYLE, an Austin, Texas-based magazine targeting the LGBT community, will suspend publication while seeking investment to go national.  The publication only recently went from serving Austin, to covering the entire state…

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED* Editor-in-Chief and Time Inc Sports Group editor Terry McDonell stepped down from his post…

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED* tapped Chris Stone, chris_stone@simail.com, as the new managing editor.  Stone has been with the magazine for 20 years…

Time Inc named Paul Fichtenbaum as editor for the Sports Group, replacing the recently departed Terry McDonell…

REDBOOK* welcomed Leslie Robarge, lrobarge@hearst.com, as a deputy editor…

REDBOOK* welcomed Tiffany Blackstone, tblackstone@hearst.com, as a deputy editor…

REDBOOK* tapped Sarah Smith, no email available, as a deputy editor…

MAXIM* magazine brought in new assistant editor Cameron Berkman, cberkman@maxim.com and @camonrye…

CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS* promoted Jeremy Smerd, jsmerd@crainsnewyork.com and @smerd, to managing editor…

BOSTON MAGAZINE* welcomed associate digital editor for health Melissa Malamut, mmalamut@bostonmagazine.com and @melissamalamut…

From grim outlook to grim reaper: Magazine staffers have reason to fear

Is it the return of the Grim Reaper, just in time for Halloween?

News came this week that the folks from management consulting firm McKinsey & Company are back at Time Inc., called in by CEO Laura Lang.

Despite Lang’s assurances that the consultants are there to work on consumer marketing issues, McKinsey’s presence creates some justifiable jumpiness among employees.  After all, the last time they made an appearance, in 2007, roughly 800 people were shown the door.

This also comes on the heels of an earlier visit this year from Bain & Co, which was hired by Lang in March to help right the ship at Time.

As if that wasn’t enough to make a staffer nervous, Conde Nast this week went on a two-day blood letting, axing an estimated 60 positions.  The move was the result of a recent company edict, directing all titles to cut an additional 5% from next year’s budget.  This in addition to the 10% they were asked to cut for 2012.

SELF* took the biggest blow, losing eight editorial staffers and three on the business side.  BRIDES* suffered too, cutting five from its editorial department and six in business.  It seemed there was nowhere to hide, with dismissals extending to most titles and up to the top floor, including two casualties in corporate communications.

So you can hardly blame those who remain at Time Inc, or any other magazine publisher, for feeling a bit like characters in a Halloween slasher movie, waiting to be picked off.

It seems the Grim Reaper shows up much more often these days.

The new normal for magazines: Clean cuts and messy workloads

In the past week, we’ve seen several publishers use these clean-sounding euphemisms to describe their editorial plans going forward.

But editors know that the messy translation of these words means two things:

(a) They are going to make painful staff cuts, and

(b) Those who survive the winnowing will be taking on more work.

Hearst Magazines began the week by announcing they would combine the editorial departments for its design group, which includes shelter titles HOUSE BEAUTIFUL*, VERANDA* and ELLE DÉCOR*.  House Beautiful Editor-in-Chief Newell Turner was plucked from his post to fill the newly created position of Design Group Editor-in-Chief.

Hearst president David Carey said that “integration” would begin immediately, with the new group structure in place by mid-October.  True to his word, by the end of the week the job cuts had begun, with Elle Décor executive editor Vicky Lowry one of the first casualties as her position was eliminated.  It’s estimated a dozen jobs in the group will disappear by year’s end.

CONSUMER REPORTS* also started the week by putting out the news that they would be undergoing “restructuring.”  That same day, editorial director Kevin McKean was let go after seven years, and his position cut.

Publisher Conde Nast (VOGUE*, WIRED*, BON APPETIT*) this week asked all of its magazine titles to cut an additional 5% from their budgets for 2013.  Reportedly, many of the company’s units already were leaving vacant editorial positions unfilled to save money.

None of this is new, and it’s part of an ongoing trend as print magazines try to adapt in a changing media environment.

But if the trend is clear, so are the consequences.

Last month’s editorial salary survey from FOLIO:* magazine also contained feedback from editors on workload and job satisfaction.  Across the board, editors reported being overworked, short on resources and lacking support.

Judging by the survey respondents, at a time when editors have more diverse responsibilities than ever before—digital oversight, business planning, event programming—they must do it with diminished budgets and stagnant salaries.

And now, dwindling staffs.

Is it any wonder print magazines are in trouble?

The more things change…

Is it time for a new revolt?

Back in 1970, 46 female employees at NEWSWEEK* sued the magazine for discrimination in hiring and promotion.  The suit was brought by the talented, well-educated young women who distributed the mail, clipped newspaper stories or worked as researchers doing fact-checking, because that was the most they could aspire to at that time.  There were no female writers or editors at Newsweek.

After quietly planning their uprising for weeks—in the ladies restrooms—they announced the lawsuit on March 16 of that year, the same day Newsweek hit newsstands with the cover story, ‘Women in Revolt.’  The timing was not an accident, but was orchestrated to gain maximum publicity for their cause.

The story of this groundbreaking episode in American media history, and how it brought about change, is chronicled in the recent book, ‘Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace’ by Lynn Povich, one of the leading ladies of the revolt.  It’s a tale that offers context for younger women, who may take for granted the benefits that redound to them from the struggles of their Mad Men-era sisters.

But before we get all smug and self-satisfied about how far we’ve come since those days, let’s fast-forward to 2012, and the latest editorial salary survey released by FOLIO:* magazine.

The survey revealed that female magazine editors make, on average, $15,000 less than their male counterparts.  Using data from 513 editors, the differences between men and women’s salaries span all editorial levels.  And sadly, as Folio: editor Bill Mickey told the Atlantic Wire in an interview, the gap is where it historically has been.  But Mickey doesn’t provide any insights into why this is so, and simply said it reflects “national trends across other industries.”

But, even if others do it, it isn’t right.

Wednesday News Round-Up for September 26th

Apparently, the latest body modification trend in Japan is the ‘bagel forehead,’ which entails a saline injection in the forehead, followed by the recipient poking their thumb in the middle of the blob on his or her face.  A mere 16 hours later, the head doughnut/body art disappears.  Art really is in the eye of the beholder.  While you ponder what you would look like with a bagel forehead, read up on the latest news.  All titles with an asterisk* can be found in our Wooden Horse Database.

THE ECONOMIST* is the first magazine in the world to announce a rate base for its digital edition, a move designed to give advertisers confidence.  The initial rate base is set at 50,000 copies…

Reader’s Digest Association reportedly is almost out of cash, and trying not to default.  The publishing company was downgraded earlier this month by Standard & Poor’s…

MEN’S FASHION Canadian magazine upped its frequency to three times per year, and the latest issue is being sold on newsstands for the first time.  Previously the magazine was available only by subscription…

CONDE NAST TRAVELER* executive editor, James Ireland Baker, has resigned from the magazine.  No replacement has been chosen…

NYLON* magazine appointed new beauty director Katie Dickens, katie@nylonmag.com, who begins on September 27…

M MAGAZINE*, the newly resurrected men’s magazine, made its debut this week…

LODGING magazine said goodbye to editor Len Vermillion…

LODGING magazine appointed new editor Sean Downey, sdowney@lodgingmagazine.com and @seancdowney…

NEW ENGLAND HOME lost managing editor Debbie Hagan…

NEW ENGLAND HOME named Kaitlin Madden, kmadden@nehomemag.com and @KaitMadden, as the new managing editor, replacing Debbie Hagan…

Friday News Round-Up for August 24th

One of the hottest feeds on the Twitter machine these days belongs to the Mars rover, Curiosity. As informative as it is engaging, @MarsCuriosity gives voice and personality to the visiting robot.  Check it out the next time you’re tweeting when you should be doing something else.  Grab the latest industry news while you’re here.  All titles with an asterisk* are included in our Wooden Horse Database.

SMITHSONIAN* magazine is unveiling a redesign with the September issue, to be released on August 27.  Under the leadership of Editor-in-Chief Michael Caruso this year, the magazine has lured major name-brand writers to contribute and shifted to shorter, more accessible articles.  Now the look has been updated, using heavier glossy stock and new graphic design…

PREVENTION* ousted Editor-in-Chief Diane Salvatore on Thursday of this week.  Although circulation remains high at 2.8 million and newsstand sales are up, ad sales are reported to be disappointing…

NEW YORK MAGAZINE* snagged Rebecca Ramsey, rebecca_ramsey@nymag.com and @RebeccaRams, as the new fashion editor.  Ramsey comes to the magazine from LUCKY*, where she was a fashion market editor…

INSTYLE* co-founder and fashion director, Hal Rubenstein, will step down from his post in October…

O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE* promoted Kristina Lepore, klepore@hearst.com and @kristinalepore, to associate fashion market editor…

O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE* named Robin Beck, rbeck@hearst.com, as fashion market and accessories director…

O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE* hired Britton Taylor, btaylor@hearst.com, as a fashion assistant…

GQ* will welcome back Kevin Sintumuang, kevin_sintumuang@condenast.com and @sintumuang, as the new multimedia editor, overseeing editorial content for GQ.com.  In a previous stint, Sintumuang served at GQ as an associate editor…

GQ* promoted Will Welch, will_welch@condenast.com and @willwelch, to senior editor for style…

GQ* promoted Ted Stafford, ted_stafford@condenast.com, to fashion market director…

PC WORLD* said goodbye to Ginny Mies, associate editor covering audio players and phones…

NYLON* magazine welcomed back Rebecca Willa Davis, Rebecca@nylonmag.com and @RebeccaWD, as online executive editor…

OXYGEN* magazine promoted Helen Vong, hvong@oxygenmag.com and @HelenVong, from nutrition editor to deputy editor of digital content and special issues…

OXYGEN* magazine promoted Kirstyn Brown, kbrown@oxygenmag.com, from assistant editor to nutrition editor…

BUSINESS INSIDER* in July brought on board Jennifer Welsh, jwelch@businessinsider.com and @microbelover, as science editor…