Oh, how the mighty have fallen, redux: Conde Nast and McKinsey


Among the big victims of the recession has been the media world's conventional wisdom. Just a year or two ago, it was still thought that Conde Nast Publications (my previous employer, it should be noted) would weather the downturn that was then beginning more comfortably than any of its competitors thanks to its unique market position.

With titles like Vogue, Vanity Fair,GQ and Architectural Digest, CNP just about owned the luxury consumer (or, more usually, the middle-class consumer who aspires to luxury). The lush production values of Conde magazines yielded a reader experience not easily replicated online, and an aggressive corporate ad sales program allowed the weaker properties to benefit from the stronger titles' clout.

None of that has proven untrue, exactly, but Conde Nast is nevertheless in nothing like the enviable position it expected to occupy. That much was made clear by yesterday's announcement that Conde has hired consulting giant McKinsey & Co. to help it "rethink the way we do business," in the words of CEO Chuck Townsend. (It's the second time Conde has hired McKinsey; last time was in 2001, and eventually resulted in a reorganization that included dissolving Fairchild Publications.)