Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why "Portfolio" Closed?

Conde Nast has been a very successful magazine publishing company for decades, and its Vanity Fair magazine has done extremely well since its relaunch 25 years ago.

But when it decided to launch a business oriented Vanity Fair called Conde Nast Portfolio, I had some doubts.

The magazine was well-written. But just as Vanity Fair often seems like an upscale People magazine, with a strong focus of inside Hollywood and inside Manhattan scandals, Conde Nast Portfolio seemed like it was primarily focused on hedge funds, Wall St. and the media world -- which left most of the business world.

For our clients, it was unpitchable. They didn't cover tech, for example. There was not way in, from our perspective. Nor would our clients be interested, really, in the readers of the magazine -- even though I was a subscriber.

In "Lessons learned from a closed "Portfolio,'" BtoBOnline quotes a disgruntled former editor, Jeffrey Chu, senior associate editor of Portfolio from early 2007 through last August, who said that when it came to pitch meetings -- the meetings in which reporters pitch stories they'd like to write -- "every thing could be a business story, but it had to be about rich people, hedge funds or finance...It was about rich people's toys. It was about dressing a diamond mining executive up in a fancy dress and making people look glamorous—but from worlds that kind of already were famous.”

The rest of the article looks at Portfolio as an advertising failure. But from my perspective, a business magazine that really doesn't cover business was the problem.

After all, people reading business magazines are not looking for scandals or glamour. What they want are either investment opportunities or management advice. Forbes provides the former; Fortune provides the latter; BusinessWeek provides news coverage with a smattering of the former and the latter.

But Conde Nast Portfolio provided neither. It often served up scandals among the wealthy, frequently those well known within Manhattan -- and the market for those stories and the people interested in them already have media outlets for that: Vanity Fair, the New York Observer and New York Magazine.

There wasn't room or interest in another option.

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