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With the winds of change currently whipping through the editorial cubicles of W magazine, it was only a matter of time before they would reach the publishing side. This happened Thursday, when Bill Wackermann, the senior vice president and publishing director of Glamour, Details and Brides, was given responsibility for W’s business operations, effective immediately. The magazine’s current vice president and publisher Nina Lawrence will now report to Wackermann, who is believed to have edged out Tom Florio — publishing director of Vogue, Teen Vogue, Bon Appétit and Condé Nast Traveler — for oversight of the luxury glossy.
As for his immediate plans at W, Wackermann met with the ad team Thursday afternoon and with new editor in chief Stefano Tonchi that night. He said he planned to focus on developing a strong marketing platform, though he was mum on details. “I think what we need to do, first and foremost,” he said, “is to be able to take to market, in a very clear way, why this W reader is so unique, so affluent and so fashion-obsessed that she is a consumer that [advertisers] can only get through the pages of W.”
After having lobbied hard for the magazine for months, Wackermann has reason to be excited — his empire is expanding, and with a tony title no less — but he has a difficult road ahead of him. W, feeling the sting of last year’s luxury market plunge, has been among the worst performing fashion magazines of late, both at newsstand, where single-copy sales declined 42 percent in the second half of 2009, and with respect to advertising — year to date, W’s ad pages are down about 16 percent, to 385, according to Media Industry Newsletter. (And before that, data from Publishers Information Bureau revealed ad pages for the whole of 2009 were down 46 percent, to 1,052, compared to the previous year.)
For Lawrence, Wackermann’s new role means another layer between her and Charles Townsend, Condé Nast’s chief executive officer, a less-than-direct structure she is familiar with at this point. She briefly reported to Richard Beckman during his stint as president and ceo of Fairchild Fashion Group. (Beckman was given additional oversight of W in late October and resigned in January, after which Lawrence went back to reporting to Townsend.)
In an internal memo to employees, Townsend stopped short of asking for staffers’ prayers. “Please join me in wishing continued success to Bill and the W team,” his message concluded.