W, the hefty style bible recognized for publishing the adventurous work of top-tier photographers, had lengthy been one of the journal trade’s most august titles. While it prices much less to run than Vogue, it’s nonetheless costly.
Now, it seems to be in deep trouble.
“The bottom has dropped out of the luxury market,” Marc Lotenberg, the chief government of W’s mother or father firm, Future Media Group, stated on Wednesday night. This, he stated, has put the title in “survival” mode.
On Monday, the journal’s editor, Sara Moonves, known as her employees to inform them that many had been being furloughed. Those who work on on-line content material are staying on at decreased salaries.
Mr. Lotenberg blamed the financial upheaval brought on by the brand new coronavirus pandemic for a lot of the journal’s troubles, although he didn’t deny that funds to distributors have been late since January, acknowledging that quite a few unbiased contractors haven’t been paid for his or her providers. (He blamed this partly on the launch of a Chinese version of W, which was scheduled for January and has now been moved to September.)
The journal’s subsequent print challenge, beforehand scheduled for publication at first of May, is being postponed indefinitely. Future Media Group’s most up-to-date chief monetary officer, Sam Recenello, simply departed the corporate.
Many of the folks on the editorial crew stay hopeful that one other purchaser would possibly emerge to take the title, based in 1972, off Mr. Lotenberg’s palms. Even he appears to be open to this.
“All options are on the table,” he stated.
But it’s not time for nonessential commerce of any kind. And there are different points Mr. Lotenberg is going through.
It was June of final 12 months when Condé Nast, battling monumental overhead and declining advert income, unloaded the long-suffering oversize fashion monthly to Future Media Group, a small publishing company that puts out Surface magazine, a design quarterly.
How well this would turn out was much gossiped about from the get-go. Mr. Lotenberg has a previous history of not paying bills on time.
According to a Future Media Group employee and others at Condé Nast briefed on the terms of the sale, Mr. Lotenberg was given a yearlong grace period for installment payments on the purchase of W. The period was extended from June to September, as his company’s payments had fallen behind. (Mr. Lotenberg said he could not discuss terms of the sale.)
The magazine had appeared to be off to a good start under Ms. Moonves, who became its editor after the acquisition by Future Media.
W’s Best Performances issue, released shortly before the Oscars and featuring actors from the year’s most prestigious films, had more ad pages than ever before. The main portfolio was shot by Juergen Teller, whose underprocessed shots, mostly free of retouching, have influenced a generation of photographers.
Work like this was helping to reestablish the magazine as a laboratory for photographers to do the kind of editorial work that Vogue and Elle don’t regularly publish.
First published as a broadsheet by Fairchild Publications as an offshoot of Women’s Wear Daily, the magazine became a glossy in the nineties and regularly published photographers like Tim Walker, Steven Klein, Mr. Teller, and Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.
All of those men shot for Vogue, but Vogue was not known for featuring pictures of Brad Pitt on the floor with his pants down and bottom exposed. Vogue did not cast Madonna as a modern-day Mrs. Robinson surrounded by a harem of Brazilian male models who were barely old enough to drink.
But W, which did, nevertheless became a runaway success with advertisers.
It was sold to Condé Nast in 1999 as the centerpiece of a $650 million deal that also brought WWD, Jane magazine and a number of other retail trade titles under its wing. Over the next two decades, W won numerous American Society of Magazine Editors awards.
Things began to go awry around the time of the most previous financial crisis. Its longtime editorial director, Patrick McCarthy, was eased into retirement in 2009 (he died last year). Stefano Tonchi (a former editor of T, The New York Times’s fashion and lifestyle magazine) was hired to replace him.
As celebrities began using Instagram as their primary promotional vehicle and the advertising market became dominated by Google and Facebook, Condé Nast began to show signs of stress. Many of the company’s magazines went digital-only or shut down entirely. Editors at GQ, Glamour, and Vanity Fair departed.
Attempts to sell W went badly. Numerous potential buyers flirted with purchasing it, only to pull out. That gave Mr. Lotenberg an opening, even as numerous vendors of Surface Media were complaining of missed payments.
“We wound up being a little overleveraged,” Mr. Lotenberg said. He added that everyone was paid back, some with restitution.
When the sale was ironed out — WWD reported that Condé Nast was seeking $7 million to $8 million for W — Mr. Tonchi was dismissed. He now has a wrongful termination lawsuit pending against Condé Nast.
Mr. Lotenberg believes the future looks bright for W, despite the current economic situation. “I believe in the brand,” he said.