Why Conde Nast Digital Chief Sarah Chubb Is Leaving

Veteran of Glossy Publisher's Online Efforts Talks to Ad Age About Her Departure

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Sarah Chubb, a 20 year veteran of Conde Nast and head of its digital efforts for 15 years, is leaving to "explore other opportunities," the company said today.

Sarah Chubb
Sarah Chubb
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But don't be too cynical about that "explore other opportunities" boilerplate, Ms. Chubb told Ad Age today. "This really was just a personal thing," she said. More on that below.

Conde Nast, publisher of magazines from Vogue to The New Yorker, has been recalibrating its digital approach since last summer, when Bob Sauerberg was promoted to president and started talking about a new business model for the company. Ms. Chubb's portfolio changed as Conde Nast reorganized in October, handing many of the digital operations that had been handled by Conde Nast Digital to the magazines themselves.

Conde Nast Digital then focused on corporate strategies for digital growth and the company's "emerging" digital businesses, such as Brides.com, Epicurious, the Gourmet Live iPad app and Reddit. Reddit went on to break the billion-page-view mark in January. The publisher of Conde Nast Bridal Brands, on the other hand, took control of Brides.com's business operations last month, further diminishing the Conde Nast Digital portfolio.

If all that meant Conde Nast Digital had less to do, however, nobody told Ms. Chubb, she said today. "The digital group and I have been very involved in the transition and also the follow-up on the responsibilities that aren't necessarily the same ones before," she said.

What are those new responsibilities? "We reopened the doors to M&A efforts," Ms. Chubb said."I've been spending my time looking at a lot of young companies."

The company's effort to disperse digital expertise and responsibility across its brands, however, doesn't sound totally inconsequential to her mindset. "The desired end state for that reorganization is great for the company," Ms. Chubb said. "The whole company needs to be digital. That for me, who'd been the digital person off in the corner for so long, was gratifying. But I just got to the point where if it's been 20 years, if I'm ever going to do this, I'm going to do this now," she said.

"In the time I've been in digital, there have been several times when I thought 'This has been awesome but I've always had the sense I should scare myself a little bit more or go try something a little bit less comfortable," she said at another moment.

"After a wonderful 20-year career at Conde Nast, Sarah Chubb has decided it's time to explore other opportunities," Mr. Sauerberg said in a memo. "As we all know, there is a huge amount of energy and excitement in the digital world right now -- and Sarah is interested in pursuing the next phase of her career."

"Sarah has been a transformational force at Conde Nast and the media business as a whole," he said. Conde Nast said it will name a successor in the coming weeks.

For now Ms. Chubb, whose last day at Conde Nast is Feb. 18, said she plans to do some consulting with people she knows, have fun and look around for the next thing. "I'm really interested in what happens next in social, and where social, mobile and content meet," she said.

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