Could this be true? Tom Florio, a name synonymous with Conde Nast, is jumping ship after 25 years to go to Hollywood? All the shifts in the air! Things are getting so damn interesting in this print/digital game.
I used to work at Conde Nast back in the days when Details Magazine had a casual office in the heart of Soho. There were dogs running around the creative loft, hip lunch spots to visit, and we had a roofdeck for cool parties with a view facing the big famous Donna Karan billboard on Houston and Broadway. Then, one day, it all ended. Our staff got a phonecall that our offices were moving to Times Square, the newly purchased building Conde Nast secured to house all their magazines — Vogue, New Yorker, Vanity Fair, etc.
Moving into the Death Star? There were gasps in the office. People were buggin out. I believe one or two people actually quit their jobs claiming this wasn’t the “lifestyle” they signed up for. I thought, how bad could this be? I mean, this is the holy grail of publishing business, right? Anyway, I proceeded to move to Times Square for the job. Im not going to lie. It was one of the best experiences of my professional career. I was in the Death Star. Joining an army of fashionistas, media darlings, and brilliant writers hungry to scale the mountain. With that opportunity also came some vapid folks, people who took themselves too seriously.. you know… devil wears prada type blah blah… the usual schtick you see in the movie. Conde Nasters come in all shapes and sizes. It’s unfair to generalize, so I won’t. I did truly meet some of the best minds, and encounter some unusual characters along the way, so I hold dear the experience of working in the mothership.
When I refer to Death Star, however, I’m not being negative. There is something gangster about working in the building. It had some ominous badass vibe about it. If you dropped the name Conde Nast over a dinner conversation, it would get “oohs and aahs” from strangers. The building was elusive… a shiny castle from the outside. Having carte blanche via the security card key provided access to “those elevators” into the pearly gates… until the doors opened up on the other side, and you strolled through your mouse maze in cubicle culture towards your little cheese at the beige desk awaiting you. It was the stuff of myth.
The role of Darth Vadar was a faceless person… a metaphor for corporate culture. All of us under his trance, signing up for the factory work, the lifestyle, the expense reports, and 401K’s with a pretty dress on. Some head Conde Nasters were “lifers”. People like Tom Florio seemed to be in this camp. Florio began as publisher of GQ. He also served as President of New Yorker, launched Conde Nast Traveler and Vogue TV. He generally oversees Vogue, Bon Appetit, and Conde Nast Traveler. His current position was Senior Vice President and Publishing Director of Conde Nast.
Tom’s “jump off ” marks the last of the old guard. He served under Conde Nast for 25 years. The shakeup continues… with Fashionista.com reporting two top contenders for the big position — Carol Smith, former publisher of Elle whom Florio brought into Conde Nast. There is also current Vogue publisher Susan Plagemann who’s another viable option. Who knows where the chips will fall? At least it makes for good lunch room speculation in the Conde Nast lunch room.
So where is Tom going? Hollywood! The same place Tom Ford ran too. These are both visual guys, so whereas Ford ran to films, its rumored that Florio will go to TV. It’s possible he’ll mess with digital, which could spawn of series of Web Video shows (the new TV network). It’s even possible Conde Nast will be involved somehow. According to WWD, there’s talk of meetings with IMG as well. The only thing we know is that it’s going to be big. Tom is a hearty man with lots of chutzpah. Some call him brash. Bottom line is the guy likes to work hard and play hard. I’ll leave it at that. He’s a strong soul and I’m sure he’ll turn LA on it’s head.
Meanwhile, the Empire is falling apart… or should I say it’s rebuilding? All this news of Apps saving the magazine business remains to be seen, but the new tools of the trade are hopeful. We will all be around to watch the rise of new platforms mutate and morph into the new paradigm. One thing is for certain, as an Empires falls, a fresh one arises… the new Death Star awaits (cue in the Vadar March Theme).