Conde Nast Superstar Editors Live in Past

I have a hero and his name is David Remnick. He’s the prolific editor of The NewYorker.  He edits magazines and writes books better than anybody. Unfortunately, He’s blinded by his values and what he’s known and this position threatens the future of our cherished magazine.

David Remnick -- The greatest editor in the world

David Remnick -- The greatest editor in the world

Here he is at a breakfast at the SI Newhouse School this morning.

Radio didn’t banish newspapers, either, and television didn’t eradicate radio. “Magazines that mean something, that have carved out a space in the culture, will persist,”

I really want to believe this and I want you to subscribe to this great magazine.  But I think he’s wrong unless he meant “subsist” rather than  “persist”.   The NewYorker must find a way to thrive, not just survive.  There is a future for the New Yorker in a world of social and unlimited media, but not if they think that what they were doing 50 years ago still works today.  The industry is falling off a cliff.  Google is changing the way marketers think about ads and the New Yorker’s media is not measurable.  This model may not perish during Remnick’s tenure, but magazines and newspapers will reinvent or die.

The breakfast gets worse.  Graydon Carter and Anna Wintour were there.  Here’s Graydon speaking about the newspaper business.

“I say just wait eight years until they (young people) are  29,” he said. “At a certain point, people just start reading newspapers.”

Graydon… young people do read newspapers.  They do it for free online.  Do you really think they are going to switch to paying for it in print?  Or do you think they will read what their friends suggest to read on twitter?  Come on Graydon.  Do you know about behavioral targeting?  contextual?  How’s that working at Vanity Fair?  Graydon.  Young digital media buyers are growing in power and they are not buying “passalong rate” as a reasonable metric.  You live in the past.

Read Anna’s comments and other good anaylsis in Adage’s coverage of the breakfast.

Newhouse is private so we don’t really know what goes on with the business.   I’m deeply troubled by the lack of imagination and innovation in the newspaper and magazine businesses.  These editors have accomplished much over their storied careers but this breakfast makes it clear that they are the wrong people to lead CondeNast through the transition to digital.

Please, please don’t bury your head in the sand and hope the magazine industry works out.  It feels, and this is tough accusation, intellectually dishonest.  Wintour and Carter must be in the twilight of their careers and the relatively young Remnick will spend his post New Yorker years as a book author.

But David, part of leadership is making sure you hand over a viable institution.  For these magazines editors to say that there is no threat to their medium shows that it’s time to get out of the Gehry cafeteria and fly to Silicon Valley or just read AVC.com.

It’s time for fresh blood at CondeNast.  Come on Si Newhouse and Steve Newhouse.  It’s your job to find a way to crossover to digital.  Don’t let this breakfast serve as CondeNast’s Last Supper.

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