Inside Conde Nast’s ‘Ancillary’ CutBacks: Details & Razorfish

By Matt Van Hoven 

We reported yesterday that Details magazine may be holding off on that Web site redesign for the time being. Following our story, paidcontent and C|Net followed up, revealing that Conde Nast is indeed cutting back on ‘ancillary’ initiatives in the near future. Did Conde Nast just pull a Plaxico?

Shooting oneself in the foot has its benefits: you get to tell a funny self-deprecating story at parties as you limp about, high on Vicodin, sapping on wine coolers. But it also means you can’t play in the big game &#151 and as a relatively young entrant to the sport (of convincing men you’re worth reading), Details can’t afford to be on the bench while big brother GQ and rival Esquire dash across goal line after goal line.

Well, so to speak. It’s difficult to point to specific issues in Details’ Web presence because their stats are mixed with GQ’s. Publishers’ data April 2006 through March 2007 put the sites’ average unique users at 750,000 per month. Combined? Yikes. But there’s no question that GQ and Esquire are more respected than Details &#151 both cater to the successful, adult male.

Details may try to do the same, but since its relaunch in 2000 the publication has had issues defining itself. Take these three recent Gawker headlines: ‘Details’ Gayness Increases Tenfold With Gossip Girl Cover’; ‘Actual Proof That Details Is Gay’; ‘Details, Like Any Proud Gay Mag, Joins Fight Against AIDS’. Um, apparently news + style + hipster-garbed celebs = gay mag? Sure, it’s Gawker saying that, but if perceptions are true then the publication is facing the ultimate branding challenge &#151 redefining itself as relevant via its content, allure and most importantly, accessibility.

And that’s where a new Web site would come into play. We presume Details’ aim was to separate itself from, where it currently resides. As part of the bigger Conde picture, it can’t hope to distinguish itself online &#151 and if we know anything about the average 34 year-old male (Details’ core audience), he likes to get his info online (as well as on paper). So a strong Web presence is key to the style magazine’s future.

Read into Conde Nast’s decision as you like; but from where we’re sitting, this move was not based on future thinking. When everyone else is retrenching, distinguish yourself by taking risks. Or in Details’ case, make yourself competitive; get back in the game; call Razorfish, and tell them it’s on.

More: “Conde Nast Puts Web Site Launches on Hold: What’s That Mean for Razorfish?