New Delhi: Nicholas Coleridge, 54, managing director of Conde Nast, UK, and vice president, Conde Nast International, the global magazine publishing company from US-based Advance Publications Inc., says that vintage brands will continue to grow amid economic uncertainty. Vogue Britain for instance was launched in 1916 during World War I when paper and clothes were rationed and is still going strong, he said. Also the author of Paper Tigers, on newspaper tycoons, Coleridge was in India this week to attend the World Magazine Congress. He spoke in an interview about growth prospects and plans to launch Wired and Architecture Digest in India. Edited excerpts:
Are you satisfied with the performance of Conde Nast International?
Globally, Conde Nast is having a fantastic year. It’s a high-margin, very profitable business for us. We bring out 128 magazines, 100 websites and overall we are growing at an incredible speed.
In vogue: Coleridge says India is central to Conde Nast’s plans. Photo by Satish Kaushik/Mint
We are a privately held company, we don’t disclose figures though it is often reported that the company has a turnover of €4 billion. Our advertising revenue is up about 16% this year. That’s great.
You have Vogue, GQ and Conde Nast Traveller in India. How’s the experience been?
We are fully profitable in India with our magazines. Vogue is clearly a market leader of fashion magazines. There’s no dispute about that. This month’s issue is 570 pages long.
In February next year, we will launch Architecture Digest. We are also looking at Wired, one of our other brands, which I think can work well here.
We haven’t decided when but hopefully by next year we’ll launch that too. India may not significantly contribute to the company’s global revenues but it is definitely a growth country for us.
What makes you so positive about the print industry in India?
On the whole, we’re finding the economy in India very positive. The print industry may be declining in the West but in India there’s been no decline as such. Look at the amazing circulations of all newspapers and magazines here; magazines are doubling, even tripling in size.
In the last 10 years, the Conde Nast reader in India is so much more richer and definitely better travelled. More and more people here feel that the worlds of Vogue and GQ means something to them. That’s why India is very central to the company’s plans. Now I come once every eight weeks to the country.
Personally, I’ve been coming here since I was 20.
(Shrugs) I have friends here. I come to India a lot for holidays with my wife and children. In fact, I asked my wife to marry me in Calcutta and she said yes. It was in the Tollygunge Club that tumbled down, old relic—it’s probably repaired now.
As a traveller, I find the mixture between the big, brave, bold, new India—personified by the incredible standards of luxury hotels and spas—and the timeless rural India that still coexists very attractive.
I usually come here to write. I hardly ever write about India but I love writing in India. It’s something about the weather and the general atmosphere that I find conducive to writing.
After Deadly Sins, which released in 2009, what’s next?
I haven’t told anyone about it but my new book is a modern-day version of the famous classic novel Vanity Fair. My main character is the modern-day version of Becky Sharp, the heroine in Vanity Fair, but a great deal more naughty than the original. I think I’m going to finish it in another six weeks time. I still write long-hand because I think at the speed that I write if I type, I feel half my brain is thinking only about typing.
How do you strike a balance between being an author and being managing director of Conde Nast?
I mostly write books because it’s the one thing that I do for myself. Everything else is (pauses) consensus: “Shall we start a magazine, shall we not? Is the magazine looking right or is it not?” When I write—especially a novel—it’s just me and the pen.
I’m disciplined. I have four children at home so it tends to get noisy but I write 1,000 words each on Saturday mornings and Sunday mornings.
After I hand write, I get my books typed to 39 lines per page, which is what a printed book has, so I already know where I am in the story. Then I keep going back over it, making little changes, mostly crossing out the adjectives. Because I travel so much, I often write on planes because for that limited time no phone calls or emails can disturb me.
The recent fashion photo shoot of a 10-year-old girl by Vogue Paris was severely criticized. In India, pictures of poor farmers flaunting Burberry umbrellas, Etro bags and Fendi accessories were condemned. Did blogs and social media fuel the controversy?
As far as controversies go (especially in the case of the photo shoot in India), weeks passed before anyone gave any negative reaction. I didn’t necessarily agree with the reactions but those who thought we were wrong clearly held that point of view.
Yes, I think we live in a world where there’s a huge need for people to stir controversies that can feed these new media machines. It’s why people now exaggerate how they feel. We live in a world that basically belongs to Twitter.