Conde Nast Needs Good News, Quick

In his memo yesterday, Conde Nast CEO Chuck Townsend told the company's employees that "difficult decisions" are coming. How bad could Conde's 2009 really be? Catastrophic, potentially.

It's worth noting two things about this new (relatively mild) note of panic that Townsend is sounding. First, remember that up until now, Conde's public attitude towards the recession has been, essentially, that they just needed to wait it out. Five percent cuts are not a true response to a life-threatening economy. Even though—as one Conde exec said—if this economy is "the new normal," the company is pretty much screwed.

More importantly: Conde needs their own money situation to improve soon, if they want to avoid the total obliteration of their company's culture. Since they didn't make serious cuts when the recession first hit, it's safe to say the company needs a strong fourth quarter to try to rescue the year. What does that mean in practical terms? Magazines close a few months in advance, and ad sales have even more lead time. So for Conde to have some hope of limping through the year in one piece, they need their ad page sales to start picking up by this summer. So let's be generous and say they have four to five months to turn things around. Uh, good luck?

[An alternate plan: cut everything to the bone at the first sign of trouble. May prove to be smart!]