Is There Room for $2 Million Man Graydon Carter at the New Condé?

graydonpaintThe McKinsey consultants came and went at Condé Nast, and the gist of what their conclusion is rumored to be is what you’d expect: the money’s not coming in like it used to, and the company’s days of lavish spending have to end.

But the specifics of their conclusion are likely to put fear in the heart of any well-paid midlevel Condé editor: according to Ad Age, there may be a sweeping budget cut of as much as 25% across the board. No more six-figure Vogue photo shoots, no more luxury company cars for editors and publishers, but the company was already moving in that direction. In addition to the frills, the rank-and-file are likely to take a huge hit. Also according to Ad Age, Vanity Fair’s ad revenue is down more than 35% since this time last year.

But one question seems iconic of the decisions that will define the new Condé: will Graydon Carter, who reportedly makes over $2 million a year plus lavish perks, be able to survive at the company in his current incarnation?

Graydon Carter’s outsized pay package is the stuff of rumors, & exact figures are unknown, but both gossipy Cityfile and the New York Post place it at above $2 million a year, with the Post claiming that he makes more than Anna Wintour, whose own $2 million comp is under siege. Maybe even more outrageously, Gawker dug up documentation that shows that in 2006, Carter signed a deal with Condé Nast allowing him to pay an interest-free monthly mortgage of around $2083 a month on his “$5.3 million mortgage on his four-story greek revival townhouse in Greenwich Village,” with Condé paying the difference. And that’s not even including the other perks.

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Under the old logic, this was all OK because Carter was a rainmaker: his connections gave the magazine all-important access, and in a broader sense, he defined the Vanity Fair brand. It’s easy to take cheap shots at him over the amount of time that he spends managing the Waverly Inn and strutting around like a celebrity, but this argument has some substance to it: Tina Brown started a tradition of the larger-than-life Vanity Fair editor that Carter carries on, and it’s difficult to imagine the magazine as it currently exists without him at the helm.

Thing is, in the new, recessionary calculus of Condé Nast, where money is actually finite, the insane premium that Carter’s getting over a comparable EIC could cost fifteen to twenty staffers further down the balance sheet their jobs, whether at VF or elsewhere. Sure, he ate in the cafeteria that one time, but Carter doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would take a big pay cut. But is the overpaid superstar editor really justifiable anymore?

The way that Condé Nast — and Carter himself — approach these questions the coming months will show where the company’s new priorities are — and if the McKinsey evaluations were ultimately just another expensive luxury item.

Revenge of the Nerds: Malcolm Gladwell Gets Laid; Daily Beast Drools

GladwellIn a new piece for The Daily Beast, writer Sean Macaulay celebrates the sexual conquests of New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, lavishly praising the best-selling author and nerd extraordinaire for morphing from a stifled goober to a big city casanova. “The Love Guru” recounts the blossoming of Gladwell through a series of vague anecdotes and anonymous quotes, like the one about Malcolm and his hot date from late last year: “It was…like the high-school geek landing the prom queen—so wrong, yet so right.” But if that’s not salacious enough, there’s always this:

They drank some wine. They talked some more. He fluttered his long, slender fingers. He seemed so comfortable in his own skin, so authentic. He had this eerie feline self-assurance, and it was hypnotic. Forty minutes later, they were back at his place.

The whole thing is totally creepy in its blatant worship of a once-meek man, as Macaulay goes on to call Gladwell a “classic loner” turned “master boulevardier,” both “intriguing and exotic” and a “literary rockstar,” with a certain power over everyone: “They call it having ‘Malcolm powder’ sprinkled in your eyes.” Hm.

But by the time the article’s author reaches out to Gladwell for a comment — “I don’t think I want to participate in this at all,” said Gladwell – you realize that Macaulay, too, has realized the sheer ridiculousness of the article’s premise and is in on the joke. And the way he slyly mimics Gladwell’s writing style, going so far as to get an “expert” quote, is actually pretty great.

But it’s tough to convey subtle humor online and the site’s commenters were not having it: “The Daily Beast is going to have to decide whether it wants to be a dispenser of intellectual/quasi-intellectual fare or TMZ!” read one response. And Salon’s women blog Broadsheet took offense as well. “Nerds can totally get hot chicks if they bring something to the table…rather than seeing them as an alien race to be conquered with magic seduction techniques,” wrote Kate Harding. Sure, the piece is creepy, but it seems to be comedy posing as journalism, far from serious, and not the other way around.

Would You Pay $75 for Newsweek? If Not, Somebody Will

10524_159366441100_18343191100_3916411_1585713_nWould you pay $75 for a year’s worth of Newsweek? Well, it doesn’t matter becuase if you don’t then the new, smarter, richer Newsweek reader will. Or at least that’s the plan.

Amidst shouts on all sides that print is dying, that magazines are dead in the water, Newsweek has kept its eye on the ball and stuck to its plan for surviving this crisis — redesign the mag and the website, cultivate a more dynamic relationship between the two, lower the rate base, raise newsstand prices and subscription rates. In short: Don’t worry about newsstand numbers and cultivate a more dedicated readership; be more like The Economist.

And on Friday afternoon at The Post Company’s annual shareholders meeting in D.C., Ann McDaniel, managing director of Newsweek, added more detail to the title’s action plan: a year’s subscription to Newsweek could cost as much as as $75 by 2011.

Even if you wouldn’t dream of paying that much for a week’s worth of old news (a year of The Economist is $120, by the way), it’s probably worth every penny to somebody out there.

Can Google’s “Fast Flip” Save Publishing?

google-flip-3-mGoogle has just announced new efforts to help magazine and newspaper publishers with a new search service that displays results in the style of a “virtual magazine”. The program is called “Fast Flip” and will launch with featured content from The New York Times, The Washington Post and the BBC. The concept aims to replicate the experience of browsing a printed publication, with readers pressing next page to be instantly “flipped” on to the next item of content, with revenue share built into the experience.

The new-look news website, dubbed Fast Flip, will pull in content from more than 40 publishers and aims to make reading articles online a more “engaging” experience, said Google.

The Telegraph reports:

Revenue generated from the adverts served alongside the article will be split between Google and the relevant publisher, with content providers taking the “majority” of the revenue, according to a Google spokesman.

Josh Cohen, a business product manager at Google, said that Fast Flip, which will be available as a test service from the Google Labs section of the search giant’s website, will aggregate content from dozens of US websites, newspapers and magazines that have opted in to the service, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Newsweek.

Users can either browse through articles based on the most recent, most viewed or most recommended stories, or search for articles by topic or keyword. Clicking on an article takes the user directly through to that publisher’s website. Fast Flip will also be available on Apple’s iPhone and handsets running the Google Android operating system, enabling users to continue reading features, opinion pieces and news stories while on the move.

Newt Gingrich Honors Porn President, then Pulls Out

6a00d8341c6d4753ef00e54f12b4878833-800wiWhen I got this press release from my Asylum editors on Friday, I thought it must have been a gag. Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions PAC had announced a seemingly odd selection for their Entrepreneur of the Year Award: (via email).

In a truly unexpected move, the Washington, DC-based political action committee “American Solutions for Winning the Future” (ASWF) has named Allison Vivas, President of the adult entertainment studio Pink Visual, recipient of its Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2009.

Sure, it seemed like an odd pairing, until I saw this banner. Try to guess if this is an ad from American Solutions, or the name of a new Pink Visual porn movie:


Alas, over the weekend, Gingrich got cold feet about the whole thing and rescinded the award. An American Solutions spokesman tried to pass the whole thing off as a “mistake,” despite the fact that the letter they sent to Vivas included a hand-written note saying how much Newt was looking forward to meeting her face-to-face. It also said Newt wanted to “get (her) thoughts on cap-and-trade and Obama’s tax policy.” Is that what they’re calling it these days?

The letter and the award seem to me like a well-designed vanity lure for deep-pocketed donors, rather than the result of intense desire on Newt’s part to press the flesh with local businesspeople from across the nation. In this case, the sincerity of the pitch works against him.

I emailed American Solutions for comment, and to ask whether donations are solicited at this dinner. I am awaiting a reply.

BusinessWeek Spent $16M On Middling Social Networking Site

myspace generation

The management at BusinessWeek must have taken the magazine’s endless parade of breathless Web 2.0 cover stories to heart. The New York Times reports that the deeply indebted magazine spent $16 million building a social networking site that has made just $600,000 in revenue. How?

The site, Business Exchange, is a subdomain of I signed up for an account to see what it was all about; basically, it’s an easily searchable groupblog on business that lets you friend people. People post links to articles from outside sources and comment on them, and takes a sliver of credit.

It’s all fine, but $16 million is a wildly uncompetitive price for a site that seems to exist as a forum-based add-on for the much more successful LinkedIn, whose users it entices with one-click registration. Adam Tinworth has a theory as to where it came from:

They’re a big brand, from a big company. They clearly need a big, expensive infrastructure, or so the thinking goes. Unfortunately, that rather ignores the fact that the products they’re trying to compete with run lean and fast.

It’s easy to mock BusinessWeek for its folly, but it at least had the foresight to see that online ad revenue from editorial content is just one way for a publication to make money online, and arguably less important than other avenues. But if the execution is poor, a good idea is just as harmful as a bad one.

(h/t Adam Tinworth)

Newsweek Turns To NYT To Advocate For Arrested Journo

maziar-bahari-550x368It is a measure of the power the New York Times op-ed pages still possess — despite the financial struggles both the paper and the industry face — that Jon Meacham editor of Newsweek opted to turn to them to advocate for the release of Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari.

Bahari was arrested under trumped-up charges back in June whilst covering the Iran protests for Newsweek. Shortly thereafter Newsweek called for his release, to no avail. In August, after Bill Clinton’s headline grabbing trip to North Korea, Newsweek again highlighted Bahari’s detainment at the hands of the Iranian’s (along with the fact he and his wife are expecting their first child this fall). Again to little avail.

On Saturday, Meacham took to the op-ed pages of the New York Times to make his case ahead of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the UN at the end of the month, perhaps in an effort to reach a wider, more connected audience; the Times may be weakened and struggling but it’s hard to argue it still top dog when you want people to listen up. From his editorial:

Mr. Ahmadinejad is likely to be greeted by protesters in New York, and as usual, he will dismiss them. But this year the real protest should take place inside the chamber, with governments condemning the arbitrary and unjustified detention of a foreign journalist. If Iran wants to be taken seriously on the world stage, it needs to adhere to international standards. Journalists need to be free to report within the legal framework of the country. Foreign governments need to be granted consular access to their citizens. Prisoners need to be granted access to their lawyers, and either charged or released quickly.