A Q+A with new Condé Nast president Robert Sauerberg.
Last week, Condé Nast announced a slew of management changes, including the promotion of consumer marketing group president Robert Sauerberg to president of the company. The moves were part of a transitioning business model “focused around digital connectivity, technology development and consumer insight.”
It also signifies a major shift from an emphasis on print advertising to pursuing a greater understanding of the relationship between publisher, marketer and audience. While it’s still early days, Sauerberg [pictured] offered FOLIO: some thoughts on changes right out of the gate.
FOLIO: How do you define the company going forward? Is this a "publisher" (even an online publisher)? Is this a marketing company? If so, what does that mean? What will the core products be moving forward?
Sauerberg: Condé Nast has evolved from a publishing company into a media company. The core of our offerings is in beautifully-designed magazines, but the nature of our brands will allow us to transcend print. Our brands and content engage consumers on a visceral level that goes beyond traditional media. For example, The New Yorker Festival entertains ticket holders year after year, Fashion’s Night Out has incited a global community to action, while our future Gourmet Live app will tap into gaming as a way to engage and entertain like never before.
FOLIO: In making the announcement, CEO Charles Townsend said the company needs to "move away from the magazine." While embracing emerging technology and content platforms makes sense, what are the perception/expectations for the company’s 20+ print products?
Sauerberg: Magazine publishing is at our core. Print is still a key medium for Condé Nast and will be for a long time to come. However, it is not our only focus. Technology and consumer expectations have changed dramatically, and we think this is the moment to double down on the opportunities before us. We want our readers to engage with our brands in a variety of ways, and we feel our success will be based on being able to provide our content seamlessly across every appropriate platform that exists now and in the future. We want to take that engagement and continue to try to increase it and revalue the consumer proposition. We want to do that with our magazines and our websites and our digital applications.
FOLIO: How does a company like Condé Nast reconcile the difference in revenue between print and digital? (Print fading but still enormous, digital promising, but still fairly small.)
Sauerberg: Our goal is to increase our consumer touch points and monetize all of those optimally. We see great potential in our brands on all platforms and believe a concentrated effort focused on the consumer relationship and valuable content experiences will be beneficial for our advertising revenue long term as well.
FOLIO: The announcement talks about Condé Nast becoming more focused around a number of things, among them consumer insight. What does "consumer insight" refer to specifically? What is the goal for that as a revenue stream?
Sauerberg: Consumer insight and knowledge from our vast databases and research capabilities will be the enabler of growth. We will continue to use consumer behavior and trends to inform our strategies and allow us to iterate in a way that drives consumer engagement.
FOLIO: How does a publisher become a "marketing facility?" What are the primary outlets and services here? How do you organize the company to become a marketing partner, as opposed to a conduit for advertising?
Sauerberg: Condé Nast has always offered our clients unparalleled services, but under this new structure and [CMO] Lou Cona’s guidance, we intend to enhance our vast array of media opportunities to speak to the ever changing needs of our advertisers through this recession environment and beyond. He will bring the power of digital, social, e-commerce, insights and other marketing services assets to the table to provide our clients with innovative, customized solutions to their marketing needs that are uniquely Condé Nast.
FOLIO: What are the new roles of traditional publishing personnel in the new model? How do editors, salespeople, designers, etc. adjust? What new type of talent and roles are required?
Sauerberg: Condé Nast has the best and brightest in the business and we need to make sure their ideas and learnings are shared. This is a shift towards collaboration, and will ultimately enable our editors and publishers to in effect become true brand managers. The shift from being a traditional “print person” into something more is well under way as evidenced by our digital magazine apps and new products to come like Gourmet Live.