After numerous reports that the New York Times had been pursuing Deborah Needleman as the new editor of T magazine (and numerous denials from Needleman that she had accepted the position), it appears that Needleman finally caved. The New York Times Co. announced today Needleman, currently the editor of T’s four-year-old rival publication, WSJ magazine, will take over as editor in chief of the the Times' style magazine.
So what drove Needleman to make the jump? "T is one of the most important and powerful fashion brands in the world, and that was a large part of what enticed me," she told Adweek. When asked what she has up her sleeve for the T, which has been without an editor since Sally Singer's departure in August, Needleman said, "I do have significant plans for how I want to develop it, but I feel like I need to get in there and meet the staff and get the lay of the land before really making specific plans."
Singer was known for pushing a grungy, downtown aesthetic during her reign at T, which wasn't always a hit with advertisers. Needleman said that although she has "a lot of respect" for the magazine's previous incarnations, she plans to imbue it with her own sensibility. "I think it’s safe to say that it will be different," she said.
WSJ has flourished since Needleman, who was previously the founding editor of Condé Nast’s dearly departed shelter book Domino, took the reins in June 2010. As of September, WSJ’s ad pages were up 45 percent year over year, according to Media Industry Newsletter. The magazine, which began as a quarterly publication, increased its frequency from nine issues in 2011 to 10 issues this year, and recently announced yet another frequency increase that will see 11 issues published in 2013 and 12 issues in 2014. (Still, T magazine remains a much larger presence than WSJ. While WSJ ran about 500 ad pages in 2011, T, which published 15 times last year, ran more than double that amount.)
According to a spokesperson for The Wall Street Journal, there is a “search underway” for Needleman’s replacement at WSJ. Although Needleman said that she will likely not be involved in choosing her successor, she said that she had already given "a few suggestions." As to when she will make the transition to T, Needleman told Adweek that the details were still being worked out, adding, "I’m letting the Journal take the lead on whether they want me out the door or whether they want me to stick around for a bit." Needleman also said that she wouldn't rule out the idea of bringing along some of her current WSJ staffers, but stated, "I’m really proud of what my team built at the Journal, and I don’t want to jeopardize that."
While Needleman clearly has affection for the WSJ brand, admitting, "It’s a funny thing to leave a great job," she isn't concerned that the magazine will suffer from her departure. "I feel like it’s strong and secure and growing, and it will continue to grow and develop without me," she said.