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2009 October 8

But What About Elle?

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(NEW YORK) The changes both recent and in store at Condé Nast have left the world of media reeling, but the end is still not in sight. Some are speculating that the company-wide 25% cutbacks are not only a way for Condé to lessen its enormous budgets, but to prepare for an even bigger renovation. "The [McKinsey] review has led us to a number of decisions designed to navigate the company through the economic downturn and to position us to take advantage of coming opportunities," Charles Townsend’s company-wide memo stated on Monday--the day the news broke that Gourmet, Cookie, Elegant Bride and Modern Bride would fold.

It appears that Condé Nast is rethinking its position on the profitability of luxury titles, at least in the short-term. “I think we’re coming down in our perk-distribution and looking more like other [publishing houses],” Charles Townsend told The Observer on Tuesday of the Condé transformation. Earlier this summer, rumors spread that Hachette Filipacchi Media’s Elle could be up for sale to Hearst, a deal that would result in a major source of revenue for the long-struggling Hachette and a prize fashion book for Hearst. The rumors were denied. But now, in the wake of imminent frequency reductions at W from 12 to 6 issues, industry insiders are buzzing about Condé Nast possibly acquiring Elle in its quest to fill their lineup with broader offerings. According to an Audit Bureau of Circulations report for the first half of 2009, Vogue’s subscription base continues, though less dramatically, to top Elle’s, about 1,200,000 to 1,050,000. At the newsstand, Vogue dropped 2.8%, while Elle lost 12.2%. Experts attribute Vogue’s higher performance to its Michelle Obama March cover.

Elle has recently been enjoying more exposure than ever. After the magazine’s groundbreaking reality hit Project Runway, CW's Stylista show was cancelled after just one season, but the magazine is seeing a television comeback with MTV’s The City. And Elle can still afford to send its top editors in full force at the European shows, allowing them to stay on long after many other American eds have been called back. There aren’t many alluring properties in publishing today, but Elle may be one of them.
EMILY GYBEN




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