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Condé Nast’s top management gave no hint of the planned closure as it gathered Domino publisher Beth Brenner and the company’s other publishers for the firm’s annual publisher’s meeting on Monday and Tuesday. “There was no warning that there would be more things coming, or that any hard decisions would have to be made,” said one executive who attended. But the next morning, chief executive Charles Townsend told Wackermann, Brenner and editor in chief Deborah Needleman that the magazine was closing, and around 11:30 a.m., Townsend and editorial director Tom Wallace informed the magazine’s sales and edit employees.
While the magazine’s circulation seemed robust, with its rate base swelling to 850,000 from 450,000 in just under four years — boosted by the inclusion of subscribers from the shuttered House & Garden — ad pages weren’t growing. Through 2008, Domino’s pages fell 5 percent to 692, and in 2007 pages declined 4 percent, to 725. Meanwhile, the shelter category has been downsized, with Home, Cottage Living, O at Home, Vogue Living and Country Home all folding in recent months. “Although readership and advertising response was encouraging in the early years, we have concluded that this economic market will not support our business expectations,” said Townsend.
Insiders assumed the sharp turnabout in corporate support for Domino in a two-week period may have come because chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. changed his mind about the long-term growth prospects of the shelter title. A spokeswoman for the company provided some guidance. “The decision to close the magazine was entirely due to the economy,” she said. “But in hindsight, perhaps we would have not have moved forward as we did two weeks ago.”
The magazine’s March issue will be its last. Its Web site will also be shut down. Needleman and Brenner will leave the company. “We leave with our heads held high. The response has been overwhelming. We’re proud of what we’ve done,” said Brenner Wednesday afternoon.
According to the company spokeswoman, several employees from the magazine’s edit and business sides will be placed in limited open positions at the company. Although she would not confirm how many staffers were affected, Domino lists about 75 full-time staffers on its masthead.
— Stephanie D. Smith