Portfolio.com Editor’s Departure: It’s Not What You Think (It’s Worse?)

When Women’s Wear Daily reported last week that Chris Jones, the managing editor of Portfolio.com, was resigning, he appeared to be another casualty of a magazine in crisis. Was Mr. Jones joining Jim Impoco in heading for the exits after failing to see eye-to-eye with top Portfolio editor Joanne Lipman?

The answer appears to be no. But Mr. Jones’ departure may still tell us something about the fledgling glossy’s growing pains. According to two people familiar with the situation, the editor left because he believed that the growing influence of the magazine’s business team was compromising its editorial independence.

According to two sources at Portfolio, the general manager of digital media, Ari Brandt, formerly of Yahoo!, has been increasingly trying to assert control over the Web site, which was originally expected to be run jointly by the editorial and business sides. In recent weeks, Mr. Brandt has been suggesting that the business side should have a bigger role in the Web site and, said one source, has been using the phrase "return of investment programming" to argue that the site’s content should be evaluated on its ability to generate page visits and hits, rather than its journalistic quality.

Since it launched, Portfolio.com has been an exception for a Condé Nast publication, in that it hasn’t been used primarily as a tool to boost subscribers, but rather as an extension of the magazine’s editorial voice. Could that be changing?

Mr. Brandt did not return a call for comment, and David Carey, the magazine’s publisher, declined to comment for this story.