Making an about-face in its digital strategy, Condé Nast has consolidated its digital properties into a single unit, with Sarah Chubb at its head.
Chubb had been president of CondéNet, the company’s unit that oversaw its destination sites including Epicurious.com and Style.com. She will report to company president and CEO Chuck Townsend and be president of the new unit, called Condé Nast Digital, which will combine those sites with individual magazine-branded sites and other, nonmagazine digital assets.
With today’s announcement, Condé Nast upends a longtime strategy of keeping its destination sites separate from those of its individual magazines. Two years ago, the company took the content-related operations of its magazines’ standalone sites away from CondéNet and gave them to those titles’ editors, leaving CondéNet to focus on its destination sites (although CondéNet continued to handle online sales of all the sites).
Townsend said that the latest move was not a cost-cutting measure, but one designed to make it easier to sell advertising across its sites.
Over the past few years, Condé has made a series of digital acquisitions, including Reddit.com, a site that aggregates and ranks news; health and nutrition research Web site NutritionData.com; and travel blog publisher SFO Media.
But lately, it has cut back heavily on its online efforts, making widespread staff cuts at CondéNet in the face of falling ad revenue. It downsized, then shut down its social networking site Flip.com; and scrapped a fledgling network of women’s blogs.
Some have criticized the company for not more aggressively selling advertising on its Web sites, pointing, as evidence, to its individual magazine sites. Last year, Condé Nast began standalone sites for several of its magazines after focusing on building out its destination sites. But while the publisher said it saw advertising potential from the sites, their primary mission was to sell subscriptions.
Condé Nast isn’t the first publishing company to reverse course on its online strategy as advertisers demand more integrated sales packages. Others, from Mansueto Ventures to Newsweek to Forbes Media have lately streamlined their online and print business and editorial operations.