The Imperial Editor Goes the Way of the Dodo

Nor is it even about a physical magazine. An editor’s main responsibility is no longer the alchemy of a monthly print issue, which is inc...


Nor is it even about a physical magazine. An editor’s main responsibility is no longer the alchemy of a monthly print issue, which is increasingly as much of a relic as the imperial persona; now it involves a multiplatform juggling of mutating websites, social media accounts, podcasts and other digital properties.

Little wonder, perhaps, that at Condé Nast some of the most storied positions, including editor in chief positions at Vogue Paris and Vogue Germany, are not expected to be filled at all. In April, the company published a letter from top editors outlining “a collective vision” for a sweeping overhaul of its famously hierarchical and protective global operations.

“We used to work in silos, tending to our individual titles and often competing with each other — ultimately it’s self defeating,” the letter said.

Now newer editors in chief, like Samantha Barry of Glamour (who took the job in 2018), reflect a collaborative spirit between magazines at Condé Nast. Ms. Barry called it a “sharing economy,” in which editors support one another on weekly Zoom calls with Ms. Wintour or via text messages. (Of the editors-only group chat, Ms. Jones of Vanity Fair said, “it is a great resource and it gives me great joy.”)

“I think that might be a bit different to the way it was in the ’90s,” Ms. Barry said.

But the editors are sharing content, too — cover shoots and interviews — a strategy that has been underway since 2018 and that was also employed at Hearst (where different editions of Harper’s Bazaar share content, for example) and the former Time Inc. (where the international InStyles also shared).

In practice, this has meant a marriage of the previously separate sister companies of Condé Nast and Condé Nast International, centralizing power in New York and creating redundancies. Many magazine employees outside the United States who were interviewed for this article said they have been told they have to reapply for their roles, and said that their titles were expecting significant layoffs, to be announced in July. (A Condé Nast spokeswoman said there is an “ongoing consultation process in some European markets related to its global content transformation” and, “as part of that process, there are opportunities for employees to take on new roles.”)

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