Anna Wintour’s newly expanded role at Condé Nast has gotten initial approval from insiders, who read it as a sign that after years of belt-tightening the company is trying to get its groove back. But what exactly her new title of artistic director will mean was the burning question for the company’s editors in chief as they assembled at an all-hands meeting for the company’s top editors last Friday.
“I’m sure all of you are wondering what the hell I’m going to do,” Wintour was heard to have said, apparently reading the room well. Wintour, who will continue as editor in chief of Vogue, said that she’d be going on a “listening tour,” and was short on details but spoke as a consultant might do in pitching new business, talking about her extensive influence in the fashion world.
The meeting, in a dining hall at 4 Times Square, had been scheduled before the Wintour announcement, and is a relatively new thing for the company. CEO Chuck Townsend kicked off the first one last year to update editors on a state of the business (and send the message that everyone needs to think about how to grow their brands and work together).
In addition to Wintour’s remarks, there was a Q&A with Townsend and president Bob Sauerberg that was moderated by Glamour editor in chief Cindi Leive. Townsend was asked if Lucky magazine’s new organizational structure would be a template for other titles. (In a huge break with convention, the company recently gave a brand manager oversight for editorial as well as business.) The answer was, no, Lucky is in a unique situation because of its e-commerce potential. Another question had to do with why the company’s new video initiative was being done centrally by the Condé Nast Entertainment unit and not at the brand level. Sauerberg explained that that was the best way to achieve scale.
There are signs that the company is getting its swagger back. The publisher had its strongest first quarter in five years, prompting it to take the unusual step of putting out a press release. Townsend took a swipe at the competition in The New York Times, which quoted him as saying that had he not promoted Wintour, “I fear we could end up looking more like Time Inc. I don’t want to look like a gray-suited business.”
“I probably shouldn’t have said that,” attendees at Friday’s meeting heard him say, tongue apparently planted in cheek.