Chuck Townsend: Condé Nast Besting Economy, Rivals

After an ad downturn that was especially hard on luxury-focused media companies, Condé Nast CEO Chuck Townsend says the company is outpacing the economy and trumping its competition in ad pages.
In a year-end memo to staff, Townsend boasted that the fashion/luxury publisher ended the year with a 3,000 ad-page advantage over its competitive set, in which he included Hearst, Time and Hachette Filipacchi Media titles.
For the most part, though, Townsend talked about change the company is going through as it tries to replace softened ad revenue with new revenue streams.
“I believe Condé Nast has evolved more in the past year than in the past 100,” he wrote.
He continued to press a theme he’s emphasized this year of collaboration by editors and publishers. As part of that, editors have been asked to come up with brand-building ideas and to attend business meetings with their publishers.
Vanity Fair got a shout-out for winning Condé Nast’s first collaborative leadership award, a designation the company created this year to encourage editors to become more business-minded. Vanity Fair was recognized for showing the most profit improvement at the company.
Along those lines, the company has made changes to give individual publications more control over their businesses. This week brought news of a new public relations structure in which PR staff will report to the publisher and editor of their individual brands instead of to Maurie Perl, the company’s chief communications executive. The new structure starts in January. The company also reorganized its digital arm this year to give publishers ad-sales responsibility for their titles’ Web sites.
Townsend also pointed to the company’s mobile and tablet efforts of the past year and other brand extensions, like a deal with JCPenney to use defunct magazine Modern Bride’s name on product lines; Dash, a new newspaper supplement centered on food; and magazine-branded, newsstand-only publications.
He also cited Brides’ ad page and revenue gains following the company’s bridal magazine consolidation and doubling of Brides’ frequency. Brides’ ad pages rose 26.6 percent in 2011. Vogue and GQ’s profit improvement also got a mention.