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Condé Nast, Hearst Eye Partnership With Dave Zinczenko

Since departing Rodale last November, he has been shopping around his services as a consultant to a number of magazine publishers.

COMEBACK: Last week, Dave Zinczenko finally made his return to magazines, as a contributing editorial director at American Media Inc.’s Men’s Fitness, after he was pushed out of his home for most of his career by Maria Rodale.

It was only a matter of time. After he departed Rodale last November, he had been shopping around — including to both Condé Nast and Hearst Corp. — his services as a consultant to help the publishers create book and e-book businesses for their magazines.

That could still happen, though talks have slowed down since Zinczenko bonded with David Pecker. As part of his deal, Zinczenko will help Men’s Fitness branch out into books, licensing and video, reporting directly to Pecker. He declined comment through an AMI spokesman.

Zinczenko took three weeks after departing Rodale before going out to pitch to publishers, including Condé, Hearst and AMI, several sources said. Within the last month, he’s been received by all the top executives — Condé’s chief executive officer Charles Townsend and president Bob Sauerberg and Hearst Magazines president David Carey included.

Zinczenko sees himself as a Timothy Ferriss figure, a multiplatform guru with a hand in books — he has a contract at Random House — while also consulting for other companies through a new firm he’s getting off the ground. He is also said to be interested in pursuing work on television, where he was ubiquitous in his heyday at Men’s Health.

His selling point to magazine publishers was to parlay the success he’d had with his books and use that as the base for brand extensions. The pitch was that he could help them create their own book business, in print, online and on tablets, around their titles.

He had a receptive audience. Among the veterans in the ivory towers, he’s a young rock star who gets apps. But there were reservations about getting into bed with Zinczenko. For one thing, what he’s peddling, publishers already do with some degree of success.

Then Pecker stepped in. Men’s Fitness could use Zinczenko’s touch, especially to tap into those elusive alternative revenue streams. Though Fitness’ newsstand was up 29 percent in the second half of 2012, overall circulation, even with the aid of digital replicas, is down slightly, 0.4 percent to about 577,000, according to the Alliance of Audited Media. Ad pages too took a dive of 12 percent last year, according to Media Industry Newsletter.

The other publishers did not see it coming. “Condé’s still recovering from the shock,” said an insider. Condé declined comment.

Still, the wooing continues, sources said, with Condé and Hearst reluctant to close the door on someone they see as a talent, and Zinczenko eager to expand his portfolio. “Should there be an appropriate project to work on together as he develops his new company, we would be open to that. His consulting with [American Media] is not an issue for me,” Carey said.

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