Conde Nast Gets Down to Business

New Magazine 'Portfolio' Will Compete for Pages in Crowded Ad Category

By Published on .

Most Popular
NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- When Conde Nast Publications finally delivers the first issue of its new business monthly, Conde Nast Portfolio, to newsstands next April 24, its success or failure will hinge on one question: Whether it can be what Time Inc.'s Real Simple was to the women's service category, or what Fox News was to 24-hour news. To succeed, Portfolio needs to feel new.
Conde Nast's new business title, 'Portfolio,' launching next spring, will be home to long-form narratives and in-depth investigative pieces, with breaking news online.
Conde Nast's new business title, 'Portfolio,' launching next spring, will be home to long-form narratives and in-depth investigative pieces, with breaking news online.

Plenty of details, large and small, have already been decided. The magazine will include a big feature well, home to long-form narratives and in-depth investigative pieces, allowing Portfolio to leave the breaking news to its Web site. Like the magazine, the site goes live April 24, at CNPortfolio.com.

It already has one committed advertiser: OutlookSoft, a provider of corporate-performance-management software. The May 2007 issue, on sale April 24, will guarantee paid circulation of 300,000 to advertisers. The title won't appear again until a September issue, available Aug. 21, after which it will appear monthly with a rate base of 350,000. The long-term goal is paid circulation of 650,000. The rate card for the first issue lists a single-occurrence, four-color, full-page ad at $34,200; the same ad in subsequent issues will cost $39,900.

But questions remain. For one thing, ad pages at business magazines don't look so hot these days. Fast Company, Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Money and SmartMoney all lost ad pages last year, and only SmartMoney was in positive territory (up 0.8%) last January through April, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Those six titles booked a total of 11,468 ad pages in 2005, down 8.2% from the previous year. So the universe of existing dollars Portfolio can steal is shrinking.

Reaching the 'next generation'
For another, the media landscape is shifting very quickly. "The big challenge in this category is to demonstrate how they plan to reach the next generation of business leaders," said George Janson, managing partner and director of print, Media-edge:cia. "What channels are they using and how are they making their content relevant to this generation?"

There's a lot of publicity to handle, too, akin to the soaring expectations that affected response to The Wall Street Journal's new "Weekend Journal" last year, which Joanne Lipman -- now editor in chief of both Conde Nast Business Media and Portfolio -- helped create. "The hype surrounding this book is a mixed blessing," Mr. Janson said. "It's important for the sales staff to manage expectations."

As you'd expect, Portfolio's architects have high hopes. "I'm not out to bash other titles," said David Carey, the former New Yorker publisher who was named president of Conde's newly formed business group last August. "The marketplace is big enough. There's tons of room in this category for innovation."

Opportunity, not obstacles
Perhaps more important, Mr. Carey argues, the disruption caused by the Web is more opportunity than obstacle.

"Against that, we think there's just an inflection point. If you look over time, often the very best new products are launched at these moments of time. Things are up for grabs, things are a little chaotic. That's the right time to roll out a new product."

Ms. Lipman, a former deputy managing editor at The Wall Street Journal who figured out a successful formula for attracting the daily's business audience to her lifestyle "Weekend" section, said some articles have already been assigned, while editors are hashing out other potential subjects and angles. But it's still largely about developing the prototype, designing the site and hiring editors and reporters from newspapers, magazines and the Web.

"The fun of this project is that we get to try to reinvent business journalism," Ms. Lipman said. "The world is open, and we are very open-minded, because we can be."

Evoking art and business
The name, the subject of idle guessing games since the magazine was announced, won out because "portfolio" can evoke a collection of financial investments, of management duties and even of artwork or photography. "We liked the combination of both the artistic and the business meanings of the word," Mr. Carey said.

And luxury and leisure advertisers may gravitate toward the unhurried environment created by a monthly full of long-form writing, said Mark M. Edmiston, managing director, AdMedia Partners. "You want to have something more like National Geographic or the Harvard Business Review, which people save for future review, rather than something you tear out pages from on an airplane and stuff in your briefcase."

Charles H. Townsend, president-CEO, Conde Nast, said the business group was important to the company not just because of the resources already devoted to it. "It's a huge investment but not an overwhelming one," he said. "It's important to us also because it's a continuation of a mission that we are on to broaden our base beyond the categories that we statistically dominate: fashion and beauty."

"We look at this as a bridge in many respects," Mr. Townsend added.

Though the company is taking its time building this particular bridge, it also seems eager to get in the game. Its inaugural event is later this month, when Ms. Lipman hosts a conversation with Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the Four Seasons in New York on June 15. The company hopes to build a full-fledged conference business by 2008.

Of the other magazine names under consideration that circulated widely early last week -- Conde Nast Currency, Conde Nast File and Conde Nast Quote -- some may emerge on magazines down the road, when the company moves to make its business group a group in more than name. For the near-term, however, Mr. Carey will be concentrating on the 129 sales calls scheduled over the next three weeks for Portfolio.
In this article: