Every fall, cold, crisp winds billow through the streets of lower Manhattan, signaling the beginning of a new season that has not yet been formally named The Condé Nast Culling Time. It’s a moment when media executives at the formerly lucrative publisher begin to panic, shuddering at the thought of presenting yet another red Q4. So they begin a see-saw cycle of cuts and padding: trimming away any staffers that appear unnecessary and adding new talent whose knowledge of “digital” and “synergy” and “digital synergy” might make it seem as if the empire were not already in decline. (Yes, I have worked at Condé Nast.)
But Vogue, which many consider to be the flagship title of Condé Nast’s ailing empire, seems to have veered in the opposite direction when they hired Stuart Emmrich and tasked him with building out the magazine’s digital arm, Vogue.com, after the departure of beloved former top editor Sally Singer. A legacy fashion editor, Emmrich spent many years as an editor at the New York Times, at one point helming the newspaper’s Styles section. During this time, Emmrich, who was hired by Vogue in December, appears to have learned very little about the internet.
In an interview with Fashion Week Daily, Emmrich discusses his plans to shake up the website, when interviewer Alexandra Ilyashov asks him the basic question of whether he had encountered a CMS—the acronym for Content Management System, or the basic interface writers and editors use to publish any kind of article to the internet–before decamping to the Los Angeles Times. (Emmrich, who was hired at the paper last January, stayed for under a year.)
He had not, though Emmrich, at least, said the encounter “was great.”
Emmrich added an anecdote describing his experience on his new Content Management System, the rare task of building a “slide show” for the Golden Globes. More from Fashion Week Daily:
I texted back and forth with Anna about various people on the carpet, what she liked and didn’t like. I kept e-mailing the editor in charge of our red carpet coverage saying, “Anna isn’t wild about this dress; let’s make sure we include this person, but not this person.” I didn’t realize I delayed the process of getting the slideshow up, because [the team] kept changing the looks. Our slideshow went up two hours late, and our traffic dropped. Anna said to me the next morning, “Why did our traffic drop? Was it because we were talking back and forth?” I said, “Oh, I don’t think so. I’m sure it wasn’t a problem!” Then I found out that was the reason. I understand the process more now.
I’m sure the staffers of Vogue.com are thrilled to be describing how such a delay might impact SEO placement to their new digital chief. No matter, Emmrich has great plans to cover the election, and expand “coverage on climate change and social responsibility, too.” Aside from feeding into the stubbornly persistent misunderstanding that Vogue, like other women’s publications, don’t cover topics that fall under the rubric of hard news, when they consistently do, it sounds like a familiar strategy—so familiar, in fact, I remember Elaine Welteroth, the company’s second black editor-in-chief, using it to reinvent Teen Vogue circa 2016.
But whether sinking or swimming, Condé Nast has always been a place that rewards a certain kind of man’s persistent self-belief with a fancy title and a blank check. Glad someone is bringing new ideas to One World Trade.