Mitchell's appointment took the publishing world somewhat by surprise, as many had expected a different New Yorker marketing exec--ad director William Li--to receive the nod. Nonetheless, Mitchell's three-year apprenticeship under New Yorker VP and Publisher David Carey, as well as his stint as the launch publisher of ONE, makes him "a perfect fit," according to one magazine association executive.
And at 34, Mitchell is clearly within the demographic crosshairs of both Details and Vitals, a fact not lost on him. "I like to think I have a pretty good idea about what this audience wants," he says. He sees clear parallels between his old job and his new one: "The New Yorker was almost like a mutual fund. We were calling on everything from automotive to liquor to financial services to fashion. I think that's much the same thing I'll do [at Fairchild]."
While publisher successions often pose their share of business and cultural problems, Mitchell seems to be inheriting an ideal situation. According to the most recent Publishers Information Bureau data, Details has grown its ad pages 6.1 percent during the first quarter of 2003 against the year-ago period. By comparison, GQ is down 21.9 percent, although it has run roughly 30 more pages. And though Wackermann said last August that he hoped to debut Vitals in March 2004, the mag's premiere is now set for the fall--thus giving Mitchell a few months to catch his breath.
Indeed, Mitchell credits Wackermann for his "incredible" stewardship of the two titles, and stresses that he doesn't plan any immediate changes. "Bill relaunched [Details] and played just about everything right," he says. "I'm going to be taking a lot of plays out of his playbook. The change will be evolutionary, not revolutionary." He's happy with the mag's current 400,000 circulation, and doesn't see any reason to aggressively push it upward. "We'll get as large as we can get, but we'll do so organically. If we don't get any bigger, that's fine, too," he says.
Mitchell's plans for Vitals are slightly less formed. He declines to discuss the differences between his shopping title and Cargo, or how he plans to win what most pundits expect will be a fierce battle for eyeballs and advertisers, other than to say: "In the same way Details carved out a specific positioning, Vitals is on track to do the same thing." Not that anybody would expect him to say otherwise, but his two-word take on the just-finished Vitals prototype is "simply amazing."
Mitchell's appointment is effective April 28. The New Yorker has not yet named his successor.