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Conde Nast readies 'Portfolio' debut

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Early next month, media buyers and potential advertisers will get their first look at a prototype of Conde Nast Portfolio, the publisher's much anticipated entry into the highly competitive business magazine market.

By the time it debuts next May, the magazine will have been in development for nearly two years, which is in keeping with Conde Nast's methodical approach to business. The company is best known for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Wired , among other glossies.

Conde Nast Portfolio will launch with a guaranteed rate base of 300,000 and will grow to 650,000 over five years, with circulation boosts of 25,000 to 50,000 at a clip, said David Carey, group president-publishing director of Conde Nast Business Media. Carey is a former publisher of The New Yorker and was the first publisher of SmartMoney.

After the May launch, Conde Nast Portfolio's frequency will become monthly starting with the September issue. A companion Web site will go live April 24.

C-level executives will comprise about 30% of the magazine's audience. Carey said the balance of circulation will include lawyers, bankers, investors, educators, middle managers who are on the fast track and small-business executives. The magazine is expected to attract financial, corporate branding, technology and luxury advertising.

"We'll cover the expected range of what you would think for an upscale business magazine, a product with a certain sense of style," Carey said.

Privately held Conde Nast has reportedly committed about $100 million to the development and growth of Conde Nast Portfolio over the next five years. Joanne Lipman, who oversaw the launch of The Wall Street Journal's Weekend Edition , has been brought in as editor in chief of the new title.

"The magazine will distinguish itself in the category by the depth of its reporting and the strength of its narrative," Carey said. "We're really going behind the scenes, and we think that's the function of what a print product should do."

Conde Nast aims to take market share from well-entrenched brands, such as BusinessWeek, Forbes and Fortune, all of which have substantially larger circulations than that planned initially for Conde Nast Portfolio .

Chris Philip, senior VP-director of media relations at ad agency Doremus, who has huddled with Carey on potential ad buys, said the new publication will definitely have an impact on the "big three" business books.

"What Conde Nast Portfolio is doing is stepping away from up-to-the minute coverage and focusing on in-depth stories, which will be very interesting," said Philip, whose b-to-b clients include Knight Capital Group, Sandler O'Neill and United Technologies. "The coverage will be relevant and substantive, and will have a unique point of view; and that should set them apart."

While welcoming the new title into the fold, competitors said Conde Nast Portfolio faces an uphill battle. "I think we all agree that the more senior-level the individual, the more time-pressed the person is and the more difficult to reach," said Chris Poleway, president of Time Inc.'s Business and Finance Network, which includes Business 2.0, Fortune, Fortune Small Business and CNNMoney.com. Those properties garner a total of 20 million unduplicated individuals a month, Poleway said.

"They need to build a significant Web presence and prove to advertisers that they're delivering the right audience if they want to compete for b-to-b ad dollars," he said.

Jim Berrien, president and publisher of the Forbes Magazine Group, which includes Forbes, Forbes Asia, ForbesLife , "Forbes on Fox" and the Forbes Conference Group, said: "I don't know if the market we're talking to--high-powered, C-level, kick-ass guys who are charging all day--have the time for a long read."

Advertising for the "big three" has been mixed this year. Through July, ad revenue for BusinessWeek fell 9.1% while ad pages dropped 3.4%, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Ad revenue for Forbes grew 9.3%, while ad pages climbed 3.6%. Fortune's ad revenue was up 1.6%, but pages fell 1.7%.

"As we look at more digital platforms, are people going to sit back and read a high-tone business magazine?" asked Brad Adgate, senior VP-research at Horizon Media. "Conde Nast has some leverage and it knows the publishing industry as well as anybody. But other giant publishers have had failures. In this market, it's easy to do."

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