With Condé Nast’s promotion of Bob Sauerberg to president of the entire company, it’s the latest indication that for the beleaguered magazine industry, old models no longer apply.
With brands like Vogue and Vanity Fair, Condé Nast has traditionally leaned heavily on luxury advertising, but it’s paid a heavy price for that reliance. When the recession hit, the company was hit harder than its peers as that revenue fell particularly sharply.
By appointing a consumer marketing veteran as its new president, Condé Nast is loudly signaling it recognizes the need to get more revenue from other sources.
“The historical priorities that have served our company so well—great content, best-in-class magazines, key client relationships—remain the cornerstone of what we do, but we need to move beyond the magazine,” said Chuck Townsend, who is giving up the president title but will remain CEO of the company, said in a statement.
“The set of strategic course changes being put in motion today will reorient our organization to thrive in this new world of opportunity, assuring the brightest future for Condé Nast,” he continued.
In an interview, Sauerberg said the company would focus on creating new ways for its popular brands to serve readers, which would also drive ad revenue.
“We’d like there to be more consumer revenue,” he said. “We think the more we focus on the consumer, it’s going to make our advertising even better.”
Most recently, Sauerberg was group president of consumer marketing for Condé Nast. Prior to that, he was COO of Fairchild Publications before it was folded into Condé Nast. Earlier, he spent 18 years at the New York Times Co.
Recently, Sauerberg has been adding responsibility for helping Condé Nast’s brands develop licensing and other new revenue streams, areas that the company have traditionally been cautious about entering. To that end, he was involved in the development of Gourmet Live, a forthcoming social media food app for which the company planned to charge subscription fees as well as seek advertising.
An understated executive with a quiet, down-to-business management style, Sauerberg also has gained visibility in the industry as the chairman of Next Issue Media, an e-reader consortium founded by five major publishing companies.
His understated style stands in sharp contrast with flamboyant figures like Ron Galotti and Steve Florio who dominated in the days when ad revenue was king.
“This is the last indication of just how dead the Italian boys’ club is,” quipped one publishing exec at the company, using an insider nickname for those executives and their ilk.
Insiders saw Sauerberg’s appointment as a step that moves him closer to potentially taking over for Townsend, whose transition is believed to have been occupying top brass there for much of the past year.
Sauerberg’s promotion follows the recent departure of high-level executives there—David Carey, Tom Florio and Richard Beckman—people who at one time or another have been seen as potential successors to Townsend.
Elsewhere, Lou Cona adds the title of chief marketing officer—a title he didn’t immediately inherit when he took over corporate sales from his predecessor Beckman. Cona will continue in his current role as evp of the Condé Nast Media Group. Finally, John Bellando adds the title of chief financial officer to his current responsibilities as COO.