Conde Nast Publications

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Its new landmark building in Times Square aside, Conde Nast's 8.3% ad page drop was the biggest among the industry's top three players. The big moves: picking up Modern Bride from Primedia for $52 million, what Primedia said was a hefty 18 times multiple of anticipated 2002 cash flow. Also, Conde Nast decided to launch Teen Vogue in '03. But the niche was crowded before Teen Vogue's entrance, as evidenced by significant newsstand declines posted by Seventeen, YM and Teen People in `02. (The timing ended up weird as well, when Primedia finally decided in '03 to sell Seventeen, a title Conde Nast had approached Primedia about previously.) New Chief Marketing Officer Richard Beckman is bringing a fresh aggressiveness to the corporate sell-not for nothing is he called "Mad Dog"-but a market share strategy (AA, Feb. 10) has not yet resulted in a big-bang on the bottom line. Trouble spots: Wired, whose yearend ad pages of 839 weren't much more than one-third of its 2,301 peak in `00, and whose circulation remains below Conde's minimum preferred circulation level of 650,000. And Modern Bride's 23.8% ad page falloff can't be good either. Another trouble spot is Glamour, a cash cow currently suffering from significant newsstand declines (down 7.6% to less than a million for the last half of '02) as Hearst's Cosmopolitan continues to ratchet up single-copy sales. Ongoing is the ambitious plan overseen by Conde Nast Exec VP-Chief Operating Officer Chuck Townsend to merge back-office functions among all Conde Nast magazines, as well as those of Advance Publications siblings Golf Digest Cos., Fairchild Publications and Parade. Some Conde Nast-ers point to that and other moves as evidence the company handles itself with more financial restraint than it had. But this is still a company where a key title posting a 1% profit margin on $100 million-plus in revenue-The New Yorker-is counted as good news, which doesn't do much to change the common perception that the game Conde Nast plays is somewhat different from everyone else's.

Rating: 2 stars

Best performer:

Lucky

ad pages

up 38.1% to 1,012.7

(one more issue in '02)

circulation

up 18% to 818,250

Worst performer:

Wired

ad pages

down 33.7% to 839

circulation

up 3.1% to 531,491

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