Stefano Shows Off His Very Own Vanity Project

tonchi 2 Stefano Shows Off His Very Own Vanity Project“I think we should have our salad and then we will go fast through the magazine,” said Stefano Tonchi, the editor of W. It was Tuesday afternoon on the fourth floor of 4 Times Square and Mr. Tonchi was wearing a two-button gray suit and an open-collared white shirt. He was showing off his newly redesigned W to a small group of reporters and Condé Nast publicists in a room abutting the Frank Gehry-designed cafeteria.

Brand-new editor at large Lynn Hirschberg and creative director Jody Quon were also there. So off to page 204 we go, with a short item written by Sports Illustrated‘s Jon Wertheim, accompanied by a dark, sultry photo of the 25-year-old American tennis player John Isner (pronounced Is-Ner).

“This is something on Eyes-ner,” Mr. Tonchi said.

‘They have been doing a magazine for a very boring readership. I was very surprised when they talked about it like a vanity project, but there was not a lot of vanity.’

“Tennis player,” whispered Ms. Hirschberg, instructively, to the group of reporters.

“The marathon man …” continued Mr. Tonchi.

“Guy was in the longest match ever,” whispered Ms. Hirschberg.

“It’s a little taste-preview of what will be in the U.S. Open and the great hope of American tennis!” he concluded.

The cover features eight relatively unknown American actresses, including Emma Roberts, Zoe Kravitz and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. They are supposed to be the next big things!

Mr. Tonchi went with these gals instead of, say, Julia Roberts (Elle’s September cover girl).

Once his presentation — and it was fast — was over, we asked him to explain the choice.  

“The happy marriage is when you and the celebrity are in the cover to promote the magazine, to promote the content of the magazine and to represent the magazine somehow,” he said. “When the celebrity is on the cover of the magazine to promote the piece or her movie, I think the magazine is a loser.”

And what separates W from the rest of the field?

“We have a different readership — I think there is space out there that is a little bit edgier than, say, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Elle, so on, because we have a smaller circulation. We can take risks that they cannot do because they have to answer to a very demanding newsstand.”

And what about that WSJ. glossy magazine and Rupert Murdoch? Are they competition?

“He has the resources to do it, but he should try to reach the people that he doesn’t have already,” said Mr. Tonchi. “They have been doing a magazine for a very boring readership. I was very surprised when they talked about it like a vanity project, but there was not a lot of vanity.”

Zing!

At the luncheon, there was some talk about the magazine’s Web site and iPads and iPhones. W will launch a family of apps in the spring.

What does Mr. Tonchi’s staff think?

“I’m very eager to embrace that part of the magazine,” said Ms. Quon. “You can’t have one without the other.”

“I’m going to buy an iPad!” said Ms. Hirschberg.

“I’m going to buy one for you,” said Ms. Quon.

“I’m going to buy an iPad! I’m going to buy an iPad! I don’t have a computer, so this is a big moment for me,” continued Ms. Hirschberg.

And how does she write her stories now without a computer?

“I don’t type them,” said Ms. Hirschberg. “I give a handwritten copy to someone who types them, who I pay.”

zturner@observer.com / @zekeft