It could not be determined precisely what responsibilities the post will entail, and it remains possible that Conde Nast won't fill the position, which is not listed among the job openings on its website. But four people with direct knowledge said the company is quietly searching for either a digital president or a chief digital officer. Conde Nast President Bob Sauerberg is heading up the search, they said.
Mr. Sauerberg is "telling people he needs someone to think about digital," one person added.
Conde Nast already has a chief technology officer, Joe Simon, but the digital executive position would be separate from Mr. Simon.
A spokesman for Conde Nast declined to comment.
Conde Nast recently placed food website Epicurious.com under the charge of Bon Appetit, allowing the magazine to sell digital ad programs across both its own site and that of Epicurious. Moves like this are meant to empower the company's ad sellers to boost their share of digital-ad revenue. But with the exception of Wired -- which gets about 50% of its ad revenue from digital -- the magazines still rely on print for the bulk of their revenue.
Currently, each magazine brand is in charge of running its own website, although that was not always the case. For many years a separate division -- CondeNet, which later became Conde Nast Digital -- led the company's digital sales efforts. When Conde Nast dissolved the group in October 2010 -- a move that was widely hailed in the ad world -- it handed over digital sales to the magazines. Ads sold across multiple websites are handled by Conde Nast Media Group.
If Conde Nast hires a top digital executive it will be following a path struck by its rivals, including Hearst Magazines and Time Inc. Hearst, for instance, has carved out a separate digital division and last year appointed Troy Young as its president. He leads all digital content and broader strategy moves for the web and mobile sites of Hearst's magazines, such as Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Good Housekeeping. Digital sales are handled by a mix of pure digital sellers and magazine teams.
Time Inc., the nation's largest magazine publisher, has a similar position held by Scott Havens, senior VP-digital. He oversees the digital operations and development of People, Time, Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, Fortune, Money, Golf, SI for Kids and Time for Kids.
Conde's search for a top digital executive comes as the company has limited its new hiring partly by holding off on filling open positions. It also follows a summer of significant change at the company, which also publishes Glamour, GQ, The New Yorker, Wired and Bon Appetit magazines. The company shifted greater power to key executives, including Mr. Sauerberg and Anna Wintour, artistic director at Conde Nast and editor-in-chief of Vogue. At the same time, longtime editorial director Tom Wallace left the company.
Last month, it promoted Vanity Fair VP-publisher Edward Menicheschi to CMO-president of the Conde Nast Media Group, which sells ad programs spanning the company's brands. He succeeded Lou Cona, who is leaving the company. That led to a reshuffling of publishers at Vanity Fair, GQ and Wired.
Conde Nast also spun off Lucky magazine into a separate company and sold Fairchild Fashion Media, publisher of Women's Wear Daily, to Penske Media for a reported $100 million.