Mitchell Heads 'Vanity Fair,' Mittman To 'GQ' Publisher

Two iconic American magazines are getting new leadership, with Friday’s announcement from Condé Nast that Chris Mitchell has been named vice president and publisher of Vanity Fair -- filling the spot vacated by Edward Menicheschi, who was recently appointed president and chief marketing officer of the Condé Nast Media Group -- while Howard Mittman is taking up Mitchell’s old position as vice president and publisher of GQ.

Both men have long pedigrees at Condé Nast.

Before serving as publisher of GQ, Mitchell was vice president and publisher of Condé Nast Traveler, and before that he held the same position at Details and Wired. Mittman previously served as vice president and publisher of Wired, a position he took up in 2009, after being named associate publisher since 2006. Condé Nast will announce a new publisher for Wired in the near future.

Both publishers also have their work cut out for them. While possessing some of the most prestigious, high-profile brands in the business, neither title is immune to the broader trends affecting the magazine publishing industry, including slumping ad pages and stagnant or declining print readership.

According to the Publisher’s Information Bureau, in the first quarter of the year (the most recent quarter for which PIB data are available), Vanity Fair’s ad pages slipped 4.6% to 358, while GQ was flat at 227.

Vanity Fair’s newsstand sales slid 11.8% from 252,651 in the first half of 2013 to 222,735, leaving overall circulation flat at 1.22 million, per the most recent figures from the Alliance for Audited Media. Over the same period GQ’s total circulation slipped 2.1% from 964,264 to 943,676, due to an 18.8% drop in newsstand sales, from 160,095 to 130,046.

By the same token, both titles have been aggressively pursuing digital strategies intended to lessen their dependence on legacy print readership and revenues, including an array of new digital video offerings. For example in the fourth quarter of this year, Vanity Fair is planning to launch a new series on Discovery Communication’s Investigation Discovery, called “Vanity Fair Confidential,” consisting of documentary-type features further exploring some of the magazine’s famous investigative journalism.

However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Condé Nast’s overall video strategy. According to a recent report in Capital New York, some editors feel sidelined in the production process. Citing unnamed sources within the company, CNY said Condé editors believe the business side has dominated video production, resulting in “spotty,” “off-brand” or just sub-par content. Examples included GQ’s first slate of programming last year, which was felt on the editorial side to be off-target for the magazine’s brand.

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