Yesterday at The Paley Center for Media in New York, Glamour EIC Cindi Leive conducted a public interview about the future of Condé Nast with CEO Charles Townsend, really pressing him the way anyone would press their boss in a room filled with industry colleagues.
Considering how rarely he grants interviews, Townsend was at no loss for words or emphatic hand gestures. Despite an abysmal advertising climate and plenty of reports of lackluster revenue at other major print venues like the Times, he believes Condé is sort of like the media company equivalent of True Blood's Russell Edgington, the vampire king of Mississippi: go ahead and bury him, but after a season he will emerge from his concrete grave stronger and more terrible than ever before.
Um, Townsend seems to believe the publishing company's future, like its past, lies in print media — or at least, in the magazine format they've established across their various properties. Townsend says digital grew at only half the rate they expected in 2012, and that the company's revenue stream still relies largely on print circulation. Tablet users, however, now account for about 10% of Condé's readership, and the company is able to seamlessly translate its magazine-style content to the new technology.
“Our print business, even in the worst moment, continues to grow and the margins are sharper and the gross profit margins are mouthwatering. When this economy recovers, the print business is going to be on fire.”
It's not like I can tell anyone how to do their job — and especially not Townsend, who uses so much jargon and fluffy marketing-speak, I'd be impressed if even he knew what he was saying half the time.
But entertain me for second: what if your print business does well because 1) you know how to put out a great print product and 2) you continue to devote lots of resources to those departments? What if your digital business is suffering not because there's no future in digital, but because you aren't dedicating the attention, manpower, and resources required to succeed in online media? And what if, in the future — "when the economy recovers" — it's not the print business that is going to be "on fire" but the digital business? Won't that make your company increasingly less relevant, no matter how well it excels at putting out a traditional magazine and translating the layout to an iPad?
I bet there's a German word for the feeling you get when you're watching a streaming video about our exciting print magazine future:
Image via WENN