Inside Fort Polio: A Former Staffer on What Went Wrong

Gabriel Snyder · 04/27/09 02:47PM

Paul Smalera, a Portfolio staff writer who was laid off before it shut down today, argues that it was hubris and an obstinate editor — not the economy — that doomed Conde Nast's business mag.

Portfolio, 2007-2009

Hamilton Nolan · 04/27/09 10:11AM

Conde Nast, Manhattan's most lavish magazine publisher, was once able to subsidize expensive and monumental magazine launches with newspaper profits. But now the last of its kind, Portfolio, is dead.

Hearst Layoffs Hit Esquire

Hamilton Nolan · 11/07/08 11:02AM

The layoffs at Hearst this week have already hit Redbook and Good Housekeeping. So as not to be sexist, now they've come to Esquire. We hear the upscale men's mag laid off four editorial employees yesterday, including two editors, and decreed that another open assistant editor position won't be filled. "They gathered everyone together to tell them not to tell anyone the exact number cuz they don't want any media," says a tipster. That's somewhat embarrassing. But not as embarrassing as the spending habits of another layoff-happy mag, the recently decimated Conde Nast Portfolio: According to P6,

How Long Will Si Newhouse Support Portfolio's Editor?

Hamilton Nolan · 07/21/08 12:20PM

A long Times profile yesterday of Conde Nast chairman Si Newhouse describes him as a shy, unassuming man who putters around the office quietly in an old sweatshirt. This can lead to a pleasant work environment, but also some surprises: "Despite the influence he wields, Mr. Newhouse so defers to his editors and dislikes confrontation that a number of them have said over the years that their first indication of trouble came when he fired them." Notably, the piece gives no indication at all that Conde Nast is nervous about the struggles of its $100 million business magazine, Portfolio. But does that mean its editor, Joanne Lipman, is really safe?

Not Portfolio?

Ryan Tate · 05/05/08 02:10AM

"Bethany McLean, co-author of a best-selling book about the Enron debacle, is leaving Fortune after a 13-year run to jump to Graydon Carter's Vanity Fair... It marks at least the third time that Condé Nast, which is headed by billionaire chairman S.I. Newhouse, Jr., has come calling on McLean, one of the higher-profile journalists at the Time Inc.-owned business magazine. Portfolio had tried to get her to jump ship a year ago when Condé Nast was launching its business magazine, but Time Inc. editor-in-chief John Huey intervened to help Fortune win that tug of war." [Post]

Oh, Snap! A Fashion Blogger's F-You Goodbye

Sheila · 03/31/08 01:25PM

Lauren Goldstein Crowe, the Portfolio fashion blogger, posted her last post today. She continued the grand tradition of bloggers on their way out: the big fuck-you last post. Noted was Moe from Jezebel and other alleged meanies of the internet, who she had been advised to ignore. But she couldn't help herself!

It's Always The Cover-Up That Gets You

Nick Denton · 03/25/08 10:02AM

Portfolio editor Joanne Lipman should learn rule number 63 or web publishing: by deleting a blog post, one only draws greater attention to it. On Friday, the Conde Nast magazine's media industry terrier, Jeff Bercovici, wrote a typically niggling piece for Portfolio's website about best-selling fabulist, Malcolm Gladwell (displayed after the jump). According to Bercovici, the Tipping Point author is the bane of the fact-checking department at his day job, as a writer for the New Yorker, another title owned by Conde Nast boss Si Newhouse. There was nothing that controversial about Bercovici's item: Gladwell has himself drawn attention to his mockery of orthodox journalistic practice. But the post disappeared from Bercovici's Portfolio blog over the weekend.

Portfolio Editor Taken To Point Of Ecstasy By Boss

Ryan Tate · 03/24/08 06:57PM

An online staffer has written in with a fairly lengthy account of the continuing discontent inside Condé Nast business magazine Portfolio. The anonymous tipster said that "every last person at the magazine" except new managing editor Jacob Lewis is lined up against editor Joanna Lipman, deputy editor Amy Stevens and senior editor Kyle Pope. (And the ungrateful hacks wonder why they are being pushed out the door!) But the anger may only be strengthening Lipman's position. Condé Nast patriarch Si Newhouse has a big fan in Lipman, who recently told staff her initial meeting with the Advance Publications CEO left her "so happy she could have been hit by a truck." Now Newhouse is said to have embattled Lipman's back. Email from the insider after the jump.

Must The Rich And Their Magazines Suffer?

Hamilton Nolan · 03/24/08 10:09AM

The question weighing on the mind of the print media at large is, "In what month will I be getting laid off?" But in the luxury print media sector, the question is more like, "Will our readers be buying more, or fewer, private planes this year? And when should I buy mine?" As hard as it is for crusading journalism school grads to admit, magazines targeting upscale readers—a polite term for "rich Wall Street bastards"—will naturally attract more premium advertising, and are usually better positioned to ride out any crazy economic fluctuations than other magazines whose readers are quicker to go broke. Or are they?

Good Point

Sheila · 03/18/08 12:20PM

Bookslut sums it up perfectly: "Dear Conde Nast Portfolio: About your most recent cover... Women who are smart enough to attain powerful positions know not to wear white stockings. Especially with red Mary Janes. Contrary to what you might think, we don't run businesses while dressing like 11-year-old school girls. Thanks for trying, though." [Bookslut]

The Evolution of Portfolio's Covers

Nick Denton · 03/17/08 03:36PM

Portfolio magazine's highly conceptual covers were commercially foolish, but rather brave. The cityscapes and factory floors of the Conde Nast title's first four issues paid homage to an earlier, more confident era of magazine publishing, in which editors could survive a bad month on the newsstand. And then, spooked by low sell-through numbers, Joanne Lipman panicked. January's Spy vs Spy cover could have been borrowed from the defunct Business 2.0; February's How Fat Won, illustrated by an overloaded burger, is a bogus trend story more often found in Newsweek. The latest shows a man's black shoe treading on a woman's red stiletto reminiscent of nothing more than a classy fetish magazine. Provocative? Pathetic? Discuss.

Look Who's Toxic Now

Nick Denton · 03/17/08 12:55PM

Congratulations, Portfolio, on that lovely advertising spread for Apple's ultra-thin laptop on pages 2 and 3 of last month's issue. Whatever anybody's said about the magazine's editorial leadership, nobody doubts the Conde Nast title's appeal to advertisers. Ah, but then, again, there's that editorial leadership. Flick forward to Portfolio's feature on corporate polluters: Apple is among the magazine's 'Toxic Ten'. First of all, the magazine was ridiculously unthinking to include any computer company along with industrial giants such as Alcoa. More damning: Portfolio editor Joanne Lipman also forgot one of Conde Nast's golden rules: give an advertiser the opportunity to pull out of an issue containing a critical article. It's both polite, and politic. Apple is said by insiders to be furious, as is Portfolio's outgoing publisher, the normally unflappable David Carey, a rising star on Conde Nast's business side, and someone the embattled Lipman needs on her side. ENLARGE»

Fort Polio Highlights For Kids

Hamilton Nolan · 02/28/08 03:49PM

GOOFUS (Matthew Cooper) begins his article on Obama's economic plan by admitting that it's not really any different from Hillary Clinton's, thereby undermining his whole story from the start. "So when I sat down to write about Obamanomics, it struck me to look at the delivery, not the script," he says, launching into a pointless and unverifiable riff about his own thoughts on Obama for the rest of the article, instead of coming up with a better idea. GALLANT (Jesse Eisinger) writes a thoughtful, well argued explanatory piece on the flaws of the municipal-bond insurance market. Turns out it's all a big scam! Even if you're not an insurance fan, this piece is a great primer. Let's all be more like Gallant, shall we?

Times Speaks About How An Email Typo Triggered A Scoop

Ryan Tate · 02/10/08 09:03PM

A New York Times scoop on a possible $1 billion settlement between drug company Eli Lilly and federal prosecutors was triggered when a lawyer for Lilly accidentally sent reporter Alex Berenson (left) an email intended for his second cousin, lawyer Bradford Berenson. Portfolio, the Conde Nast business magazine, broke the story Monday and, in the days since, the Times has bent over backward minimize the role of the accidental emailer. It knocked Portfolio's scoop on the incident as overblown and wrong, and, after stonewalling that magazine, granted interviews and issued a statement to several blogs that likewise knocked Portfolio's reporting. Now Alex Berenson has appeared on NPR to discuss the incident at some length and, guess what? It turns out Porfolio wasn't so wrong after all!

For Big Spenders, By Big Spenders

Nick Denton · 02/06/08 12:26PM

Dana Thomas' gig at Portfolio sounds wonderfully cushy. The former Newsweek writer, now European editor at Conde Nast's business title (she asked for the title because it sounded "very grand"), went on a "couple-thousand" shopping spree after she signed her contract, according to the New York Observer. We suspect, however, that Joanne Lipman's extravagant magazine, which is funded to the tune of $100m, will waste more on the forthcoming opus by Jay McInerney.

When Even The Contributors Are Critics

Nick Denton · 01/28/08 11:52AM

Joanne Lipman may be deaf to warnings from her colleagues. (The embattled Portfolio editor ran a poorly-sourced rehash of a 21-year-old story in the latest issue of the Conde Nast business magazine, despite protests from fact checkers and editors.) But that doesn't stop others from volunteering advice. The brittle editrix approached Michael Kinsley, editor of The New Republic in its heyday, about a freelance piece. She got something else. Says Kinsley: "I was talking to Joanne Lipman-who I'd never met-and she talked to me about writing a piece and I said I'll write you a memo about what I think of the first few issues and what problems you have; I could just be another voice. I'm sure more criticism is just what's she's in the mood for." And I'm sure that Lipman even more delighted by Kinsley's willingness to share their private conversation with the New York Observer.

Why Joanne Lipman Should Go

Nick Denton · 01/24/08 03:28PM

The February issue of Portfolio, which just hit newsstands, has a superficially fascinating account of fugitive fraudster Robert Vesco, who ran Bernie Cornfeld's bogus mutual fund in the early 1970s, and then escaped to Cuba. Except the profile, based on a poorly-sourced book by a Fox News correspondent called James Rosen, is as hollow as the investment empire Vesco ran. For Conde Nast's embattled business magazine, which staffers jokingly call Fort Polio, the article is an embarrassment; for the title's wobbly editor, Joanne Lipman, who forced through the piece against the objections of her colleagues, the publication is an indictment. How flawed is the piece? Here's how.