Condé Nast has hired Roger Lynch as global chief executive, hoping the former leader of music streaming company Pandora Media can help the century-old publisher of Vogue and GQ survive the harsh climate for magazines.
Mr Lynch’s appointment comes as Condé Nast is uniting its US and international units under one corporate umbrella. The changes, which will consolidate business and back-end operations, aim to speed up Condé Nast’s transformation.
“What we were looking for [in a chief] was the central problem of our company, and all media companies: which is disruption,” said Steven Newhouse, a member of the billionaire family that owns Condé Nast. “We wanted someone steeped in dealing with disruption.”
Mr Lynch told the Financial Times that he “likes industries in transition”.
Condé Nast faces industry-wide tumult as print circulation falters and digital advertising is dominated by Google and Facebook. PwC forecasts print advertising revenues for consumer magazines will more than halve between 2012 and 2021 in the US, falling to $6.7bn.
Departing US chief Bob Sauerberg, an 18-year Condé Nast veteran, unveiled a turnround plan last summer to return the company to profitability by 2020. In November, he was ousted. Mr Lynch will be global chief of the merged group.
“It could be argued the change should have happened sooner,” said Mr Newhouse. “Condé Nast has been in publishing for 100 years and the business model was very successful for a long time . . . but we couldn’t really get to where we need to go unless we started over.”
A former Morgan Stanley investment banker, Mr Lynch has worked at a range of media companies, including DISH Network and Chello Broadband in London, as the television industry underwent a bumpy transition to streaming. Mr Lynch founded SlingTV, the slimmed-down TV service aimed at people ditching their cable subscriptions. Most recently he led Pandora Media for about a year, exiting in January after the company was sold to SiriusXM.
Condé Nast has made moves to become less reliant on the declining print business, pushing into digital videos and introducing paywalls to all its US websites. Condé Nast in the US lost about $120m in 2017, but losses shrunk in 2018 and the company was still looking to become profitable by 2020, according to people familiar with the plans.
The Newhouses declined to comment on financial details, but said Mr Lynch was “coming into a healthy business”.
Condé Nast International, which presides over titles across the world but is based in London, has aggressively pushed into new territories, launching Vogue in countries such as Greece and Slovakia.
Its US counterpart has put some of its less profitable magazines up for sale, including Brides, W and Golf Digest. It has also shut the regular print editions of Glamour, Teen Vogue and Self magazines.
The Newhouses said there were no immediate plans to shut down more print editions. “Which is not to say that we would never,” said Jonathan Newhouse, cousin of Si Newhouse, who ran the company for four decades. “But no one is talking about that right now.”
Condé Nast and Condé Nast International are both owned by the Newhouse family’s Advance Publications. Condé Nast has been responsible for US titles, such as the New Yorker, and its sister company, CNI, handled titles such as British GQ. Under this structure, Anna Wintour, Condé Nast’s most senior editorial figure, has maintained tight control of Vogue in the US.
Regarding ongoing rumours that Ms Wintour may exit amid the restructuring, Steven Newhouse said: “No”.
As part of the changes, Jonathan Newhouse will relinquish his job as chief executive of CNI, but will stay on as chairman of the board of the merged group.