Tag Archives: Conde Nast Portfolio

Portfolio never distinguished itself from the biz mag competition

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Yvette Kantrow, executive editor of The Deal, writes Monday that the demise of business magazine Conde Nast Portfolio is primarily due to the fact that it never distinguished itself in a crowded market.

Kantrow writes, “Portfolio was strictly a bubble phenomenon, dreamed up at a time when the masses still liked to talk about money and how people acquire it. More problematically, it never delivered on its lofty goal of creating something significantly different than any other business pub out there, even as editor Joanne Lipman gobbled up talent that the rest of media immediately labeled ‘stars.’

“Though Portfolio vowed to produce serious, yet-accessible long-form business journalism, it seemed to traffic more in luxury and CEO porn — a point driven home last fall when, as Wall Street crumbled, the mag featured overexposed American Apparel Inc. CEO Dov Charney on its cover. That issue is destined to become the symbol of all that was wrong with Portfolio.

“Interestingly, news of Portfolio’s demise came on the same day that the Financial Times reported on plans by Bloomberg to expand both its technology and news operations, even as its financial industry customers contract. When it comes to providing business news, Bloomberg is mostly the opposite of what Portfolio set out to be.”

Read more here.

Portfolio publisher: Lipman changed business journalism

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Conde Nast Portfolio publisher William Li defended the magazine’s editor in chief, Joanne Lipman, who has been criticized for her management of the editorial content of the now-defunct magazine, to New York Observer reporter John Koblin.

Koblin writes, “‘She changed business journalism,’ he said. ‘Portfolio changed business journalism. The whole idea of writing breathlessly glowing profiles of CEO, we didn’t play that game. And you know what, good for her. And good for John Cassidy and Jesse Eisinger,’ he said, referring to the magazine’s contributing editor and senior writer.

“‘I’m proud of the fact that in our first year we won a National Magazine award,’ he continued. ‘Business Week and Fortune? Please, that never happened. We were just nominated for two Webbys!’

“It’s unclear right now whether staff will stay within the company—there is a plan to keep as many people as possible—though editor-in-chief Joanne Lipman is out at Condé Nast, according to one source. According to a Portfolio staffer, some have taken to toasting the news of the magazine’s closure with a Stella Artois—the official beverage of magazine closings.”

Read more here.

Why Conde Nast Portfolio failed

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Jon Fine of BusinessWeek has some ideas as to why business magazine Conde Nast Portfolio didn’t last more than two years.

Fine writes, “Conde Nast made a classic mistake of spotting a consumer magazine ‘opportunity’ based on advertising and demographic considerations, not actual reader demand. (And judging from the last few years’ worth of ad pages at most business titles, there may have been too many of them on newsstands even before Portfolio launched.) It debuted at the end of a business boom, not at the beginning of one. It came at a time when business is a moment-by-moment bloodsport uniquely unsuited to being chronicled by a leisurely monthly frequency.

“The shuttering of Portfolio, among other cutbacks at Conde Nast, means that not even a magazine company well-known for keeping struggling titles alive (generally for reasons that are more personally-driven than market-driven) can elude current media realities. Conde Nast’s ad pages were especially hard-hit in the first quarter of this year, as consumers slammed purses and wallets shut and avoided the kinds of high-end purveyors that grace its magazines.

“The simple calculus of this moment in media is that a magazine with no demonstrated reader or advertising appeal cannot survive. (Don’t laugh. In flusher times, many such magazines lived on for years.) Portfolio came to the game with all the advantages a magazine could hope for — a deep-pocketed owner; a place at the table of a big company that specializes in assembling cross-magazine ad deals; run by a company that values the primacy of the printed page above all else. And it couldn’t make it into its terrible twos. Portfolio ultimately proved that sometimes a great notion turns out to be pretty not-great when exposed to the harsh light of day.”

Read more here. 

Could Portfolio have survived?

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James Ledbetter writes on The Big Money about the death of business magazine Conde Nast Portfolio and wonders whether it could have survived under different circumstances.

Ledbetter writes, “The question was never a lack of talent; if anything, Portfolio hired too many talented people and didn’t know how to make them play nice together. The knives have long been out for editor Joanne Lipman; Gawker in particular seemed to want her head as a trophy, and now they’ve got it. Lipman certainly bears her share of responsibility for judgements that at times spilled over from ‘baffling’ into ‘perverse.’ Yet that’s only part of the equation: OK, the publication was not going to succeed with her there, but could it have failed with someone else at the helm?

“I think the answer is yes, and not only for the stunningly obvious reason that the global economy imploded, taking with it a good deal of Portfolio‘s would-be readers and advertisers. I think that Portfolio would have suffered even in a so-so economy, because it was ill-conceived from the very start. It was constructed as a business publication that would cover business the way it looks like from inside a few offices at Condé Nast, a world where uberwealthy hedge-fund managers compete to have witty things to say about 7,000-word Tom Wolfe stories while they collect tips about the latest places to buy eight-figure Francis Bacon paintings. 

“Not to say that such people don’t exist (or didn’t once exist), but to imagine they formed the basis of a viable business magazine was to misunderstand the mission of business magazines. If Lipman could have collected a dollar for each time one of her staff members talked about the importance of ‘narrative,’ she probably would have collected more than the magazine got in subscription revenues. Narrative is a lovely and often helpful literary tool, but the fact that it works in Condé Nast magazines like Vanity Fair and The New Yorker does not mean narrative is what the business journalism audience wants.

“Intimately connected to Portolio‘s narrative fallacy was the boneheaded move of making it a monthly (and then a 10-times-a-yearly).”

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Conde Nast Portfolio closing

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David Carr of the New York Times reports Monday that Conde Nast Portfolio, a two-year-old business magazine, is closing. The magazine is closing as of the May issue, and the Web site will close in the second quarter.

Carr writes, “The decision was announced to the staff at 10 a.m. on Monday by David Carey, Condé Nast’s group president and publishing director, and Joanne Lipman, Portfolio’s editor in chief.

“Under Ms. Lipman, a former editor at The Wall Street Journal, Portfolio failed to gain traction with advertisers and readers, in part because it was confronted by a historic recession in ad spending in its first few years of existence.

“‘The five main categories of advertising a publication like ours depends on are really in trouble,’ said Mr. Carey in a brief conversation.

“The most recent number from the Publisher’s Information Bureau showed that advertising pages in the magazine were down 60.9 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same quarter last year. The magazine had an average print circulation of about 415,000.”

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Conde Nast Portfolio extends cost cutting

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Keith Kelly of the New York Post writes Monday that the cost cutting at Conde Nast Portfolio has extended to the cover photo.

Kelly writes, “In the May issue, Lipman is running a recycled photo of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the cover.

“The shot was actually run as an inside photo in the June 2008 issue accompanying a Gary Weiss profile when Geithner was still the head of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York and was playing a leading role in trying to calm the roiling financial marketplace.

“‘It’s certainly not the Condé Nast way,’ said Steve Cohn, editor-in-chief of Media Industry Newsletter, which tracks the industry, of the latest Portfolio cover. ‘You’d think they’d have something a little fresher.’

“‘You’d think Geithner might also be a little grayer by now with all the stress he’s been under,’ said Cohn. ‘I hope it’s not a case of belt tightening.’”

Read more here. 

Conde Nast Portfolio's turnaround plan

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David Kaplan of PaidContent.org talks to Conde Nast Portfolio publisher William Li about how the two-year-old business magazine can turn its performance around.

Kaplan writes, “But the latest blow came with Q1 ad page results showing that Portfolio‘s p plunged 60 percent (the mag’s reps say the adjusted number would be 46 percent if it took the reduced publishing into account). And on the internet side, Portfolio.com has been struggling when it comes to traffic, as comScore says uniques dropped 20 percent year-over-year in March to 579,000 visitors. The drop in traffic is likely related to Portfolio’s decision to cut fresh editorial content on the site.

The turnaround plan: With all that baggage, Portfolio has a lot of work ahead to turn things around. But Portfolio publisher William Li, who was brought over from CN’s Men’s Vogue in January after a management shakeup, has been working on sharpening the magazine’s strengths and trying to expand its coverage to draw in more readers and advertisers. For instance, the magazine opening up sections on tech, travel and health. Also, Portfolio has been looking to expand its coverage and marketing appeal to more tech and telco advertisers, with advertisers like Adobe and AT&T recently having signed up.

“Earlier this month, the site was hit with one of its biggest losses when popular blogger Felix Salmon left to start a blog at Reuters covering global finance. He’ll be replaced by The Economist‘s Ryan Avent.”

Read more here. 

New blogs on Portfolio

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Gary Weiss, a former BusinessWeek reporter and editor who has been a contribuing editor at Conde Nast Porttfolio, has moved his blog over to the Portfolio site.

In addition, Ryan Avent from The Economist will be replacing Felix Salmon on the magazine’s list of bloggers. Salmon is going to Reuters.

Jeff Bercovici from Portfolio writes, “The new guy is Ryan Avent, who’s been writing The Economist‘s Free Exchange blog for the past two years. Based in Washington, D.C., he also write a column on urban economics and transportation for Grist, and has written for The Atlantic, The American Prospect and the Guardian. He starts tomorrow. I look forward to him pointing out how wrong I am about everything in the grandest Market Movers tradition.

“We’re also adding a couple of new blogs: First, The Weiss File, written by Portfolio contributing editor and author Gary Weiss. A former Forbes.com and BusinessWeek writer, Weiss will ‘peel the lid off some of the less-savory practices of Wall Street and Corporate America, and still give atta-boys when deserved,’ I’m told.

“Then we’ll also have a new business-travel blog to complement Joe Brancatelli’s weekly dispatches on the subject. That one will be called Itineraries and written by Portfolio.com’s deputy editor, J. Jennings Moss, a veteran of FoxNews.com and ABCNews.com, among other places. (You can address him as Josh in your mash notes/hate mail/Nigerian investment offers.) They both debut tomorrow.”

Read more here.

Incredibly bad first quarter for biz magazines in ad revenue, pages

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TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE

Every single business magazine reported a decrease in first-quarter advertising revenue and advertising pages, according to data released Wednesday by the Publishers Information Bureau.

Among the largest declines was Wired magazine, which saw a 50.4 percent drop in ad revenue to $10.2 million and a 57.2 percent drop in ad pages to 113.14 during the first three months of the year.

Inc. magazine also had a huge drop, falling 62.1 percent in ad revenue to $6.8 million and 46.7 percent in ad pages to 89.89.

Among the bigger business glossies, BusinessWeek fared worst, dropping 37.2 percent in terms of ad revenue to $33.9 million for the quarter and 39.8 percent in ad pages to 258.79.

In comparison, Fortune dropped 24.1 percent in ad revenue to $37.9 million and 26.3 percent in ad pages to 316.39, while Forbes fell 8.8 percent in ad revenue to $55.6 million and 15 percent in ad pages to 428.7.

Overall, the magazine industry experienced a 20.6 percent drop in ad revenue and a 26.1 percent decline in ad pages for the quarter.

Business magazines that outperformed the industry include The Economist, which experienced a 10.9 percent decline in ad revenue to $27.9 percent and an 18.8 percent drop in ad pages to $484.96. In addition, Entrepreneur saw just a 7.4 percent drop in ad revenue to $23.6 million and an 11.2 percent decline in ad pages to 11.2 percent.

Conde Nast Portfolio reported a 48.8 percent drop in ad revenue to $4.1 million for the quarter. Its ad pages fell 60 percent to 66.05. But the publication cut the number of issues it’s now printing.

See all of the data here.

Thinnest Portfolio issue ever

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Keith Kelly of the New York Post writes Friday that the April issue of Conde Nast Portfolio, at 106 pages and 21 ad pages, is the thinnest ever.

Kelly writes, “Some sources said that the April issue was held up later than usual to try to scare up a few more ad pages, but Publisher William Li said that wasn’t the case.

“‘We always close late,’ he said. ‘We’re on the same schedule as Vanity Fair because we are so news-sensitive.’

“He also pointed out that the April issue closed in January, ‘when everyone [was] panicked.’

“Li insisted the May issue will be fatter, but because it hasn’t closed yet he said he couldn’t give an exact tally. He also noted that on a percentage basis, Portfolio is only in the middle of the pack in terms of industry declines.”

Read more here.