MEDIA: HEADLINER - Fleet Street hack injects some glitz into contract publishing. Susan Douglas joins Conde Nast as its president of new business

Although it would seem that Susan Douglas's appointment at Conde

Nast as the president of new business marks a retirement from the cut

and thrust of the newspaper world, Douglas is adamant that this role is

every bit as demanding as her previous incarnations.

Douglas, a Fleet Street hack famed for her long legs, glamorous attire

and ruthless ambition, is to take up full-time residence at Conde Nast,

driving its contract publishing and new-media business. 'I wouldn't say

this job was secure - I have so much to do and it's scary because the

job is so big.'

Douglas' remit at Vogue House is pretty diverse. Her domain will be

heading Conde Nast's growing contract publishing business, taking charge

of its online division and helping the managing director, Nicholas

Coleridge, with new magazine launches and other special projects. 'One

has to keep all the balls in the air,' Douglas says. 'But you have to


The first wave of activity will be to acquire a few titles for contract

publishing and push contract publishing within Conde Nast. We can be a

real player against the likes of John Brown and Redwood. We have the

reputation for being the best magazine player in the world.'

With Douglas close to announcing a new contract win, and four other

prospects in the pipeline, perhaps Coleridge's declaration that he wants

to double the size of Conde Nast's publishing business over the next few

years is not so unrealistic. As other magazine publishers wake up to the

riches of contract publishing, with The National Magazine Company and

Emap Elan both eyeing the market, Conde Nast is a relative old timer.

First of all through its joint venture with Forward Publishing in 1995

with the Conde Nast Forward Publishing Agency, and more directly through

the setting up of Conde Nast Contract Publishing two years ago. The

latter kicked off with Canary magazine, for Canary Wharf's population,

and has added titles for the HSBC Group, Harrods and Veuve Cliquot to

its fold.

Just as Douglas brought some glitz to the fusty middle-aged suits in

Fleet Street, she's planning to spruce up the image of contract


'We have to elevate the game and make the quality of journalism better -

it's often seen as a poor cousin to newspapers and magazines. But that

will change, because it only takes someone like Orange to produce a

brilliant magazine with a huge circulation and the power of that is

extraordinary compared to a newspaper title.'

Coleridge is typically ebullient with his praise for Douglas who until

now has worked for Conde Nast as a consultant for two days a week. 'I'm

a tremendous fan. She's speedy, professional and a load of fun too. The

cut and thrust of internet and contract publishing is going to keep Sue

on her toes - she isn't going to be bored.'

Douglas may have cut her ties with the newspaper world for now,

following her decision to quit as a consultant for Scotsman Publications

earlier this month, but she hints that this isn't necessarily a

permanent absence.

'I'll never get newspapers out of my blood. Certainly in the past few

years I've felt that newspapers have been playing it safe more than

ever. There's less creativity and excitement.'

A former Haymarket employee, she has certainly had her share of

excitement in newspapers since landing her first Fleet Street job on The

Mail on Sunday in 1982. She recalls that her worst time was working on

the Daily Mail under the watchful eye of David English, but is pragmatic

about her short-lived stint as the editor of the Sunday Express, where

she failed to halt its decline. 'When the chop came prematurely one had

to be philosophical - when you have such exciting projects that can come

out of the blue they can disappear just as quickly. It's a volatile


The inspiration behind Julie Burchill's ruthless journalist Susan Street

in her novel Ambition, Douglas, at 44, has done a lot of high-profile

living, and somehow you know that this is unlikely to change. While

Conde Nast may lap up her presence, you wonder how long she'll park her

slender frame in Hanover Square for before moving on to the next big



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