Today endlessly irksome media columnist Jon Friedman writes: "It's still hard to believe that a monthly, which has published a total of two issues, can seem so important. Yet Portfolio has taken on the aura of a big-budget Hollywood production, where pandemonium appears to be everywhere. Unfortunately, the magazine raises comparisons with "Heaven's Gate" and "Gigli." ("Do you even remember the latter's plot line?" Friedman asks. Sadly, some people do.) Friedman trots out Portfolio's publisher David Carey and Conde publicist Perri Dorset to dismiss the hubbub and claim that everyone's just talking about their stories. And, for real? It's "hard to believe" that this magazine—for which Conde Nast crowed about spending $100 million and poached nearly every business journalist with a pulse and maybe one standout clip—"can seem so important"?
Also, hi, it's a magazine. Of course people in the "media beltway" are going to be interested in it! Particularly when everyone's got a friend who went to work at Portfolio and is worried about that friend's future, working for a hapless and megalomaniacal editor. And it's more than a little disingenuous, at this point, for Condé Nast to insist that it's so weird for people to be interested in how the magazine's doing. Their publicity campaign for the magazine was really something special.
As these things usually do, it all began with a press release almost exactly two years ago—August 24, 2005. "CONDÉ NAST PUBLICATIONS TO LAUNCH NEW BUSINESS GROUP; JOANNE LIPMAN NAMED EDITOR-IN-CHIEF; DAVID CAREY NAMED PRESIDENT," the release trumpeted. At the time, Lipman said, "Condé Nast is the premier magazine publishing company, and I am delighted to be joining the team."
Things were quiet for a few months. Then, in March 2006, Lipman's BFF from the Journal, Amy Stevens, announced she was quitting the paper to become a deputy editor under Lipman, along with the Times's Jim Impoco. (We all know how that ended.) So, two relatively high-profile hires.
In April 2006, it was reported that David Carey was staffing up the ad-sales side of things; Carey also announced that he expected the mag to be "fully staffed," on both the business and editorial sides, by Thanksgiving of that year.
At this point, also, recall that Condé Nast was still deciding on a name, which in itself was a way to drum up press. So a story was planted in WWD on a Thursday in June 2006 announcing that the magazine was really close to deciding on a name, which would be announced the following Monday. Ah, the suspense!
Condé Nast Portfolio will feature the high caliber of writing, photography, and design that readers of Condé Nast magazines have come to expect. Early circulation efforts will capitalize on the company s newsstand authority, and will also take advantage of Conde Nast's existing relationship with millions of top management readers, as well as the database of American City Business Journals, a unit of Advance Publications.
Uh, yeah. That's not hyperbolic at all.
The next day, there was more coy "we don't know what the magazine will be about" stuff in the Post, except that as we pointed out, "Maybe the tab was tuned to the wrong station? Because the Times, Women's Wear, and Mediaweek somehow manage to get some details on that editorial thrust." Buzz! Let's create some!
Finally, there's the whole thing about other publications perhaps engaging in just a touch of schadenfreude, since Portfolio made so much noise every time the mag stole a reporter or editor. Take the June 23, 2006 announcement about former Time reporter Matt Cooper becoming Portfolio's Washington editor (at the time of his hiring, he was working as a Time.com editor):
Matt Cooper has been named Washington Editor of Conde Nast Portfolio, it was announced today by Joanne Lipman, Editor-in-Chief of the magazine. His appointment is effective in September.
"Matt is one of the most brilliant political minds in the business," Ms. Lipman said. "He has also been an inspiration to journalists everywhere and we are delighted to have him as part of our team."
So yeah, isn't that funny that people are paying attention to how the magazine's doing? Can't imagine why that might be the case.