Magazine Makes News by Having a Name

What is there to say about a publication which was announced last August but won't appear on newsstands until late April 2007? Apparently plenty.

Kudos to the people behind the rollout of Condé Nast’s new business magazine for landing a friendly 1457-word piece on the front of the New York Times business section yesterday — just as, to quote said article, Condé Nast’s “sales force heads to Madison Avenue to make presentations to advertisers.”

So what is there to say in June of 2006 about a publication that was announced in August 2005 and that won’t appear on newsstands until late April 2007?

Well, to quote the Times’ headline: “The Buzz of Magazineland Now Has a Name.” According to the Times’ Katharine Q. Seelye: “The masking of the name created buzz around the magazine, and its unmasking is likely to generate more today.”

Once Seelye unveiled “The Buzz of Magazineland’s” chosen name — Condé Nast Portfolio — how did she go on for another thousand-plus words? She interviewed the editor (“in her Times Square office”) and quoted her talking about the magazine’s content in the present tense (as if the content — not to mention the full reporting staff — already exists). And then, the ultimate space-filler: Seelye quoted the experts. “The reaction among industry watchers to the magazine’s name was mixed,” Seelye reported, with half of Seelye’s “watchers” gushing over the name (“great resonance”) and the other half panning it (not “disruptive” enough).

Where else did the “unmasking” generate “buzz”? In the New York Post’s business section yesterday, with Roddy Boyd’s breathless lede: “After weeks of suspense and more than a little dithering, Condé Nast Portfolio is the name of the much-heralded arrival in the business magazine wars.”

Meanwhile, in Women’s Wear Daily (also a Condé Nast publication), Sara James’ story last week reminded us that the rush to be first — aided by anonymous sources — is not peculiar to the Washington press corps. James reported that “sources familiar with the launch said recent internal discussions had narrowed that list even further, to just Quote and Portfolio, with mockup covers made of each and the majority of staffers favoring the Quote logo” — which, in turn, prompted this headline on Romenesko: “Conde Nast’s business mag expected to be named Quote.”

But back to the Times article. At one point Seelye seems to be preparing readers for another paroxysm of Portfolio-related coverage next week: “It is through a branding event — when [Portfolio’s editor, Joanne Lipman] interviews Eric E. Schmidt, the chief executive of Google, on June 15 — that Condé Nast Portfolio will start the long, slow public buildup toward its debut.”

Funny, we thought the magazine’s “long, slow public buildup towards its debut” was already well underway.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.