As McKinsey & Company makes its way through an 11-week tour of Condé Nast, consultants have been taking an early look at Anna Wintour’s Vogue and Klara Glowczewska’s Condé Nast Traveler, The Observer has learned.
Sources tell us that those two magazines have been getting a close examination in order to potentially serve as models for how the company will review—or, in CEO Chuck Townsend’s words, “rethink”—its business. When McKinsey hands out its recommendations in October, and Condé Nast’s chairman, Si Newhouse, and Mr. Townsend then issue their dictum to the rest of the company, it is expected that lessons learned from those two studies could inspire what changes are made at the company, two sources said.
The two magazines are believed to be representative business units for the entire company. Vogue, the ad-heavy breadwinner, is seen as being reflective of a bigger magazine. Traveler, with its moderately hefty staff, is smaller than Vogue and considered reflective of a midsize magazine.
If McKinsey and Mr. Townsend can figure out how to maintain the majesty of a brand like Vogue, while also reining in editorial costs (photo shoots, models, hair and makeup, clothing allowances for Anna, and so on), then they’ll feel they can effectively accomplish that for other brands, a source said.
Another source said that more books could be put under the microscope, and those visits could have even wider implications than those with Vogue and Traveler. Sources tell The Observer that McKinsey has recently met with GQ, and that Glamour is also anticipating sitting down with consultants. It is also likely that McKinsey will be spending time with titles that have a smaller profile than Vogue, and with a much bleaker bottom line. In other words: The magazines whose prospects might not be so hot. (Don’t worry about The New Yorker, though: As we reported last week, David Remnick will be exempt from a McKinsey visit.)
As Condé Nast tries to catch up with competition on the Web, both Vogue and Traveler are illustrative of the company’s unusual Web strategy: Vogue is represented online by style.com and Traveler by concierge.com., rather than by their own brand names. Several Condé Nast insiders have told The Observer in recent weeks that Anna Wintour is beginning to the “get the Web,” and perhaps the McKinsey trip helped prompt a sudden awakening.
Last week, in an exclusive interview with CEO Chuck Townsend, we asked if Condé Nast would be meeting with every single editor. “No, I don’t think so,” he said.
He told us that in the next seven weeks, “they are going to meet with as many people as they realistically can.”
For the moment, check Vogue and Traveler off the list.