The Gilded Age of Condé Nast Is Over

“You have to choose carefully where you dine,” said another source. “When a client wanted to go to get Japanese, you used to say, ‘Ooooh! We’ll go to Nobu!’ But it’s so outrageously expensive, now you have to think twice.”

One former Portfolio staffer told us about how—as recently as last year—after three editorial staffers arrived from Vanity Fair, they would order takeout from Balthazar several times a week. Sandwiches, cheese plates, the works.

Now, you can try the deli downstairs. Or the cafeteria.

“There are suddenly more people in the cafeteria,” said one editorial insider. “It’s getting kind of cutthroat with placing your stuff there to save a seat, especially near the window. You can’t really get a seat ever.”

And that’s before you deal with the changes in the food.

“At the salad bar, you’re allowed one protein and generally they have five proteins listed,” said this source. “But the only proteins they have now are tofu and chicken! There’s no shrimp! I don’t think there’s any more shrimp there.”

(“If there’s more tofu than beef at the stir fry bar, then we’ll probably be even healthier,” quipped Mr. Remnick.)

“When I started, there was this little refrigerator, and it was stocked with amazing drinks,” said one ad-sales source. “Pellegrino, Orangina, Red Bull. And like the water wasn’t Poland Spring, it was like Fiji. I remember when I started working here, I emailed everyone I know and I was like, ‘I have to tell you about the drinks!’”

But then in December, a few months after Condé Nast ordered publishers and editors to cut 5 percent from their budgets, the drink supply emptied out. That Fiji water turned into Poland Spring. Worse, instead of the fridge, the water bottles were stowed in a warm closet.

And then: “I just found out today that we are on our last batch of Poland Spring,” said the source. “We won’t have any more after this. We have to start drinking tap water.”

Still, Mr. Townsend doesn’t think these lifestyle changes add up to much, even if they make Condé Nast seem, at least from the outside, less enviable.

“The Red Bulls and Oranginas are maybe no longer there, but what’s the difference?” he asked. “It’s still the quirkiest place on the face of the earth. A lot of that quirkiness makes us special. A lot of that quirkiness makes for interesting observations. But it has absolutely nothing to do with anything, so where’s the line drawn? I don’t want to lose the speciality or the quirkiness, but a lot of this stuff that has been part and parcel of it is just meaningless.”

I asked Mr. Townsend what he meant by that.

“You don’t need it! You don’t need the Orangina!”