Is That Condé You’re Wearing? Publisher May License Brands

“DO WE REALLY need Vogue handbags? Gourmet kitchen mitts?” sniffed one Condé Nast insider.

And don’t worry! Details AftershaveTM or a GQ tie brought to you by Kiton will not be hitting a retailer near you anytime soon.

But … the days of Condé Nast licensing may not be far behind. There’s currently a push within 4 Times Square to expand the brands of the company’s most iconic magazines, and Condé Nast executives David Carey and Robert Sauerberg, are leading the charge.

This isn’t the first time the idea of licensing has been floated at Condé Nast, but it’s something that Si Newhouse has pooh-poohed in the past. The reasoning was simple: It cheapens the brand.

“Si has never bought into it,” said a Condé source.

“He’s against anything that he feels takes the focus away from the printed magazine brand. That’s why he used to be so against digital,” said another.

But with McKinsey out the door, and with revenue a point of major concern-or, well, every concern-for Condé Nast, some form of licensing may be inevitable.

What could we possibly see? We called up a few Condé Nast people and asked them to speculate: perhaps something like Gilt Groupe, the online luxury brand discounter, but developed by Condé Nast-say, an online sample sale brought to you by Lucky, from which Condé Nast takes a cut. Or maybe rewrite freelancers’ contracts so that if an article is optioned for film, Condé Nast will see some of that money. All sorts of e-commerce deals, or Condé-endorsed conferences that charge awfully big fees right up front.

These are ideas that won’t completely creep out the publishing industry, but they probably aren’t anything that Si Newhouse would have considered a few years ago.

Welcome to 2010, when everything is on the table.

Is That Condé You’re Wearing? Publisher May License Brands