Every day in different cities, in breakfast meetings and lunches and office calls, Chris Mitchell sells The New Yorker to advertisers. Or rather, Mr. Mitchell, the magazine’s associate publisher, sells the attributes of The New Yorker ‘s readers: educated, affluent people who keep their Banana Republic platinum card handy, but who still give a damn about John McPhee’s geological surveys.
But where he gets them, really gets them, is on his turf-at The New Yorker Festival, the magazine’s annual self-congratulatory orgy of lectures and panel discussions featuring reporters and editors and actors, filmmakers and novelists.
“You can show people audience-research numbers six ways to Sunday,” Mr. Mitchell said, “but show them a line of intelligent downtown New Yorkers standing outside the New School auditorium in order to see an Anthony Lane movie event sponsored by Kate Spade, and it’s worth more than any amount of audience-research runs.”
The “utility infielder” to publisher David Carey, the 33-year-old Mr. Mitchell helps play boss to the largest advertising staff at Condé Nast, one that’s steered the onetime cash sinkhole into profitability.
“He clearly is on a very fast track,” Mr. Carey said. “There’s no question about that.”
A head start helped. The son of a Chicago advertising executive, as a kid Mr. Mitchell feasted on the plethora of complimentary subscriptions that came through the household: Ebony. Good Housekeeping. Sports Illustrated. Esquire. He did time at the graduate publishing program at N.Y.U., then in marketing at San Francisco Focus and Condé Nast corporate.
In 1996, he joined Wired , where his fortunes rose with the magazine’s. In his four and a half years there during the late 90′s, Mr. Mitchell jumped from sales representative to ad manager to advertising director. During the same period, the independent magazine saw exponential growth and oodles of technology and dot-com dollars, and was finally swallowed up by Condé Nast.
Then he got his own show. When longtime Wired publisher Dana Lyon left to start a design magazine , One , Mr. Mitchell went along. He liked Pink Rock, but here was a chance to be a publisher, albeit for a magazine in the dot-com loft environs. The magazine folded in July 2001, around the same time Mr. Carey returned as The New Yorker ‘s publisher after a sojourn at Gruner and Jahr. Mr. Carey said it was one of his “main priorities” to bring Mr. Mitchell back to Condé Nast.
In the two years that followed, Mr. Mitchell has proved worthy of Mr. Carey’s faith-reeling in Banana Republic, Kate Spade and Cole Haan. And he’s done it by pushing the vision of the New Yorker reader: people who “know about the new cool clubs in the meatpacking district but are also discussing articles in The New Yorker .”
Mr. Mitchell is the demographic dream pitching the demographic dream (see: high-paying job, wife and 8-week-old baby in Chelsea), pushing the virtues of would-be Hemingway scholars turned investment bankers across the country.
The challenges of the magazine could keep him occupied for another five years, he said, though his ultimate goal remains that of any associate publisher’s: a publisher’s title within Condé Nast. “I consider myself lucky and young, because people remind me of that,” Mr. Mitchell said. “I wake up every day and feel lucky to have the job that I do where I do.”
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