Hearst vs. Condé: the Tortoise (Shell Glasses) and the Rabbit (Fur Coats)

WWD’s Amy Wicks and John Koblin have a fun piece today likening magazine rivals Hearst and Condé Nast to the fabled tortoise and hare. After long trailing behind Condé Nast, the long haul of the recession favored Hearst’s unglamorous corporate culture, they report.

Condé closed six titles and Hearst closed none, they note. Now, as we climb out of the recession, Hearst is poised to make high-profile moves, like spending the reported $700 million for Lagardere titles, including Elle. They recently purchased digital marketing company iCrossing for $325 million and invested $3 million in VillageVines.

WWD attributes their resilience to Hearst Corp. CEO Frank Bennack’s longstanding tight-fisted management. Seventeen editor Anne Shoket adds that recently named New York City Schools Chancellor Cathie Black had the right ideas for recession-survivalist management while at Hearst. Bennack poached Condé’s David Carey to run the magazine division; he sounds like he’s still smarting from the lesson of founding and closing costly Portfolio.

“The current environment favors the Hearst way of doing things. […] We’ve had to course-correct far less than anyone,” he said.

Wicks and Koblin also point out that Hearst was unique in its willingness to embrace reality TV (for every title, a Bravo show) and publish TV spin-off titles. “The world isn’t that siloed anymore,” a former executive at Condé Nast and Hearst told WWD. “Will Oprah or Food Network ever be highbrow? No. But those are viable businesses.”

So how does long-due redemption taste?

Hearst employees who spoke to WWD gushed about the recent citrus festival in the cafeteria at the Hearst Tower (“I bought two clementine oranges for 50 cents!” said one) and the recent video campaigns in the elevator that feature editors from Cosmopolitan and Redbook (“It’s so nice! It means the company likes us and is really nice!” said yet another).

kstoeffel@observer.com :: @kstoeffel

Hearst vs. Condé: the Tortoise (Shell Glasses) and the Rabbit (Fur Coats)