Media Headliner: Jouning aims to raise Conde Nast's online game

By Alasdair Reid, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 04 December 2009 12:00AM

After the successful launch of Wired UK, Jamie Jouning has been given a digital mandate by the publisher.

Conde Nast's newly anointed digital publisher, Jamie Jouning, is basically a Conde Nast lifer. Apart from a short stint at Sky, where he looked after sponsorship for the History Channel (presumably just to satisfy a nagging curiosity about what life was really like on the outside), he's been an ever-present inmate at the publisher since 1995.

He began in market research, then sales on The World Of Interiors; then began his long association with GQ, where he was the promotions director and, more latterly, the publisher.

But he's probably best known for a rather riskier leap into the void earlier this year - he acquired a reputation as publishing's bravest (or dottiest) executive when he agreed to become the publisher on the UK (re)launch of Wired, which hit the newsstands in March.

Even before the credit crunch turned into a full-blown recession, people were predicting that its existence might turn out to be short and sweet. But it seems to be doing rather well, which is much to everyone's credit, not least Jouning's.

Jouning will, officially, continue to be the publisher of Wired until the end of the year, when he takes up his new role - but he admits that his new appointment is a reflection of that fact that Wired has pretty much achieved its launch goals. "It's up and running - and the opportunity to move onto the digital side was too good to turn down," he says.

It was a role that became available following the recent resignation of Serena Burns, who'd been the commercial director of Conde Nast Digital, to "further her career elsewhere". Jouning doesn't quite assume Burns' job title (the company insists that it is a "newly created role"), but he pretty much takes over her duties.

As the publisher of Conde Nast Digital Britain, he'll be responsible for the revenue generating side of the company's 13 websites, including the likes of Vogue.com, Tatler.co.uk, Glamour.com, CNTraveller.com and GQ.com, reporting to Conde Nast UK's managing director, Nicholas Coleridge.

He'll work in tandem with Emanuela Pignataro, Conde Nast Digital Britain's country manager, who looks after editorial and technology issues, also reporting to Coleridge. And, internationally, he'll also report to James Bilefield, the president of Conde Nast International Digital, who is responsible for the company's digital strategy in all territories outside the US.

Bilefield joined back in July, succeeding Stefano Maruzzi, who'd left "for personal reasons", and Conde Nast's digital efforts have seemingly had more focus since - his desire to wield a new broom had, after all, been signalled right from the start, when he ditched the CondeNet branding under which the company's online efforts had been labouring for years.

Media agencies tend to confess to being a little mystified by Conde Nast when it comes to the whole question of digital. It had, to all intents and purposes, been an early adopter, not just in terms of content but in terms of overall philosophy and strategy. After all, back in 1997, Vogue.com was one of the most sophisticated websites ever seen.

There's been a feeling that, since the dawn of the new century, it has been falling behind both in terms of content development and commercial integration. On the other hand, Will Phipps, the head of planning at the7stars, argues, maybe we're just witnessing a piece of immaculate Conde Nast timing.

Phipps explains: "While other publishers rushed to replicate like-for-like content online, Conde Nast folded its arms and politely declined. Online may increase total readership if content is given away for free, but it also reduces the impact that a beautifully shot and packaged magazine can offer in return. Looking back at the last decade, one can argue that Conde Nast got it right in this aspect."

Jouning says he can't talk in too much depth about the parameters of a job he hasn't really started yet - but he maintains he is well aware that some agencies think the company can up its online game: "In some respects, some of the accusations have been somewhat unfair. There's absolutely nothing wrong with our websites. It's just that some aspects of the business might have been evolving at a different pace."

But its philosophy is already changing, he adds. In the past, a brand's digital sales people would have operated independently, talking only to online buyers - now there's far more collaboration between onand offline sales.

We're not about to see a hub structure with sales generalists selling across platforms, but Jouning says that integrated sales representation of the brand will become far more "seamless". To a certain extent, it will mirror an editorial set-up where onand offline teams are becoming ever more integrated.

Understandably, Jouning can't give definitive pronouncements on big issues such as charging for access to content - though he does say that there will be a focus on developing all sorts of new revenue streams.

The big question, though, is whether he has strong views on this sort of thing. Is he, not to put too fine a point upon it, a digital evangelist? He perhaps wouldn't plump for the word evangelist, he confesses, but admits that being the publisher of an evangelical magazine such as Wired has utterly changed his whole outlook.

As he puts it: "When you spend time working in that environment, you certainly get exposed to new ways of looking at the world."

THE LOWDOWN

Age: 38

Lives: Fulham

Family: Wife, Caroline; two daughters: Evie, three, and Beatrice, two

Most treasured possession: Newbery cricket bat

Favourite gadget: iPod Touch

Interests outside work: Sport (particular passion for cricket), food, wine and 20th century American fiction

Motto: Audere est facere

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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