Teen Vogue's print voice is gone, but conservatives shouldn't celebrate just yet

Sen. John McCain and Anthony Scaramucci, the now-you-see-him-now-he's-gone White House communications director, won't be heartbroken with word of the demise of the print edition of Teen Vogue.

After all, it's made a somewhat improbable mark with edgy news and politics coverage in recent years, including a recent "5 Problematic Things Senator John McCain Has Done During His 35-year Career in Politics" and Rebecca Chamaa's "Why Anthony Scaramucci's Paranoid Schizophrenia Insult Was Offensive" (she suffers from paranoid schizophrenia). It's thus become a bete noire for some conservatives, who've seen it as a symbol of a "liberal mainstream" that they, and President Donald Trump, love to caricature and pillory.

But Conde Nast plans to follow a painful and longstanding industry trend by eliminating the print version of a magazine that was designed strategically as a provocative way to ultimately lure a younger generation into one day reading the company's iconic Vogue. The digital version will remain but there will be layoffs at Teen Vogue and throughout the high-end Conde Nast empire (with which Poynter partners on my daily media newsletter)

The media business is nothing if not reactive, and the frequency and personnel cuts outlined by WWD for Conde Nast are right in sync with recent ones at a truly troubled print empire, Time Inc., which recently announced cuts in both circulation and frequency of trademark publications, including Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Entertainment Weekly. For example, the onetime-weekly S.I., which still is an impressive product despite wicked competition in sports journalism, will drop to 27 issues next year, down from 38 this year.

So there will be no Teen Vogue in print, only digital. And while the bastions of Vanity Fair, Vogue, Wired, Brides and The New Yorker, are not expected to suffer frequency changes, others will. They include GQ, Glamour, W, Allure, Architectural Digest and Conde Nast Traveler. WWD reported around 80 layoffs, which is still relatively modest, or about 2.5 percent, in a workforce of about 3,000.

Many of the changes caught Conde Nast rank-and-filers by surprise, but it can't be a shock, given the decline of print circulation and ad revenues worldwide. The long-term bet for many of the titles, as is true with the newspaper industry, has to be on moving to digital platforms.

The pressures are especially vivid at Conde Nast, where the substantial investment in quality editorial content and editing is self-evident. It was seen generally within the industry as a late-adopter in the digital area, but has moved aggressively. Publications such as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker have made arguably remarkable, if belated, moves into that space and, in the process, transformed themselves into even compelling daily fare.

Teen Vogue will be an interesting case study. Can the company keep and increase a target audience that is preternaturally inclined to consuming content online? And will Elaine Welteroth, the editor who is credited for much of the provocative shifts at Teen Vogue, remain over the publication or move to other duties at Conde Nast?

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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