Rather than lead the magazine industry, Conde Nast is providing plotlines for soap operas about the high-glitz worlds of fashion and publishing. This can't be what Chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. and President-CEO Steven T. Florio aspire to be known for.
Conde Nast news in recent years has revolved around whether its new building was cursed, how Mr. Florio would rebound after a scathing profile in Fortune and other dramatic tales. In the latest go-round, eight top Conde Nast executives were shuffled. Publishers were switched at Glamour, Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest and Bride's.
Some of this was triggered by Conde Nast's ambitious acquisition of Fairchild Publications. It rewarded an insider -- Glamour Publisher Mary G. Berner -- with the chance to run this critical new holding. Much of the rest was spawned by the ouster of a once-favored senior executive, Catherine Viscardi Johnston, a move that served to revive controversy over the handling of Vogue Publisher Richard Beckman. Mr. Beckman was forced to seek counseling, but not to resign, after he allegedly broke the nose of a female subordinate.
In the magazine world, where "buzz" is a much valued commodity, this is great water-cooler talk. But where it counts, with advertisers and media buyers, it diverts attention from what's ultimately more important -- the magazines. The sooner Messrs. Newhouse and Florio show they are committed to restoring stability and calm in the executive suite, the sooner they will depart the soap opera world and return their still-glamorous products to the spotlight.