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The Long and Short on Portfolio

Any new business venture — from manufacturing couture gowns to baking cupcakes — will have a rocky road at the start, and Condé Nast Portfolio's first year was no different.

Joanne Lipman

Joanne Lipman

Photo By WWD Staff

NEW YORK — Any new business venture — from manufacturing couture gowns to baking cupcakes — will have a rocky road at the start, and Condé Nast Portfolio's first year was no different.

The much-hyped business magazine with a reported $100 million investment and an all-star roster of editors and writers landed with a thud on newsstands last spring. But the launch hasn't been without its share of turmoil — high-level defections, a tepidly received first issue, anemic sell-through on the stands over the last seven months, internal bickering and, of course, criticism of the woman at the top. Face it, editor in chief Joanne Lipman is the new piñata of publishing, with barely a day going by without some swipe at her in the media press or blogs. Gawker.com, for example, has taken to calling the magazine "Fort Polio."

"I think people get blinded by the fact that it's a Condé Nast publication, and they have to be critical of the magazine and the amount of money they're spending, instead of looking at the content of the magazine," said Samir Husni, aka Mr. Magazine, chair of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi who recently named the title one of his 30 most notable launches of last year.

"Any person who would have stepped into the job as an editor challenging a group of aging legacy titles would have found themselves under immense scrutiny," said David Carey, the launch publisher of Portfolio (which, like WWD, is owned by Condé Nast Publications) who is now group president, publishing director.

But as its May issue, marking a year in publication, hits newsstands, Lipman remains confident about the progress made so far. "I'm pleased with the way we're going," she told WWD. "With every issue you see more of the personality of the magazine coming through. Portfolio itself is hard-hitting and counterintuitive, the reporting is in depth and it has a voice."

Executives on the 11th floor of Condé Nast appear to agree, praising both Lipman and the magazine. "We love her," said editorial director Tom Wallace. "She's an ingenious editor and a capable manager. She's produced a magazine that's engaged her audience and won the respect of the industry it covers and the respect of its peers." To wit, Portfolio's Briefs section was recognized this year by the American Society of Magazine Editors. "It was nominated for a National Magazine Award...that ain't nothing," Wallace said proudly.
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