Condé Nast: A Case of Digital "Vanity"

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Condé Nast is a New York-based media company that produces many globally known print, digital, and video titles. Its portfolio includes such titles as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Brides, SELF, GQ, The New Yorker, Condé Nast Traveler, DETAILS, Allure, Architectural Digest, bon appétit, Epicurious, WIRED, W, Lucky, Golf Digest, Golf World, Teen Vogue, and Ars Technica.


After launching The New Yorker's iPhone edition, Condé Nast was looking to do the same with Vanity Fair. However, the company knew that the same solution would not work for the two very different magazines.


The San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe is a provider of digital marketing and digital media solutions. The company-perhaps best known for its ubiquitous Photoshop and Acrobat products-says its "tools and services allow our customers to create groundbreaking digital content, deploy it across media and devices, measure and optimize it over time, and achieve greater business success."


The first of Condé Nast's titles that it created an iPhone app for was The New Yorker. And in early 2012, as the iPhone version of the magazine was about to go live, Emily Smith, director of operations, editorial development group at Condé Nast, says she and her team were-as they often do when a project is nearing completion-asking themselves, "What's next?" The obvious answer was to put another Condé Nast magazine on the iPhone. But she knew it wasn't going to be as simple as taking what worked for The New Yorker and applying it to another magazine.

"The New Yorker on the iPhone is a fantastic product, and everyone here loves it very, very much," Smith says. "We love it in every single way, but one of the things we often have to remind every other title of the 17 in our building is the only thing they have in common with The New Yorker is they're in the same building. There's nothing about their existing workflows and skill sets that is leaving them ready to work in a way The New Yorker can."

The New Yorker's iPhone app was created solely using Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite, Smith says. She adds that The New Yorker's production has a history of working from databases and of using XML and HTML.

"The rest of our magazines are really much more traditional print publications, so their suite of tools that they're working with builds off of Illustrator and InDesign and Photoshop and those technologies," Smith says. "So the idea of going to any one of those titles and saying, ‘Hey, we'd love to talk with you about HTML content and editing XML,' ... it's just a complete nonstarter that won't happen."

Still, Smith knew giving up was just as unrealistic-especially since Condé Nast was fully embracing digital. "We believe very firmly in the idea of being in the digital space, being in the mobile space, and trying to think of how we can create a magazine experience for a reader on a phone that is very, very true to the DNA of our company and our brands," Smith says, "and at the same time is something that we could actually sustainably put out."

Why did Smith look for Vanity Fair to be the next Condé Nast magazine to inhabit that digital space? Because it's so very different from The New Yorker, it presents a whole new set of challenges.

While The New Yorker has some "beautiful photos and illustrations," the magazine is "really a long-read, long-form journalism piece," Smith says. "While we thought we'd really resolved a lot of the reading issues for magazines on phones, Condé Nast has really strong visual publications available, and we wanted to ... kind of feel like we cracked the code on how to make sure that we were preserving the integrity of a book that has sometimes 10-20 pages of just photo portfolios running as the story and how would we resolve the challenges coming at us" in terms of making sure photography was being treated appropriately, and, in instances where typography was really art, that it was being preserved too.

"Vanity Fair-as a very large title and one that clearly, as a company, we feel many people want to read-really gave us that opportunity to go after those challenges," Smith says. "Because without being able to confidently resolve those problems, there's not a lot of an argument for us to make that we're really in a position to make sure that every one of our magazines can get on the phone."

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