It is the big tent of the magazine world, home everything from Architectural Digest to Vogue, Golf Digest to Wired, Bon Appetit to Vanity Fair, Details to the New Yorker, and plenty of other blue-chip print brands.
With all that editorial heft under one roof, it's no surprise that Conde Nast wants to spin some of it out into the electronic realm. There's a push afoot at the company to expand into a new medium (or at least one that is relatively new to Conde Nast), and it's not the Internet. It's television.
"What we're trying to do is create original ideas that can deliver as much as possible for us in print, as a live event, and in the digital and TV space," says Richard Beckman (pictured left), prexy of Conde Nast Media Group and chief marketing officer of Conde Nast. "We have over 100 million people read our magazines each month. We have 32 million unique visitors to our websites each month. We have the expertise in creating editorial in narrow niches with strong passion-point marketing (opportunities). This type of content lends itself to a unique kind of engagement with its (targeted) consumer."
Conde Nast's interest in diving deeper into television production this year has been fueled in large part by the success of the company's CBS special "Movies Rock," which featured contempo artists performing classic screen tunes.
Two-hour spesh, produced in conjunction with the Producers Guild of America and exec produced by Don Mischer, Kathleen Kennedy and Bruce Cohen, was well-received and performed well enough for CBS to yield a follow up installment later this year (and a vigorous campaign by Conde Nast to secure an Emmy nom in the variety/music special category).
"Movies Rock" delivered for Conde Nast in the form of a special one-off supplement mag, overseen by Vanity Fair's Graydon Carter, that was bundled with 14 Conde Nast titles in advance of the December TV preem.
"It started with the idea of looking at music and movies and how they've shaped each other," Beckman says. "It sounded like an interesting (stand-alone) magazine idea. That translated to the live show that became a TV show and had all sorts of digital extensions. What we're doing is taking all the currency and assets we have across various media platforms and bundling to them to our advertisers."
"Movies Rock" was patterned after the success of Conde Nast's "Fashion Rocks" concert event, which has been a big part of Gotham's fall fashion week festivities for the past five years, and has also aired as a special on CBS.
As was the case with "Fashion Rocks," Beckman says the emphasis in developing "Movies Rock" was on finding a fresh way to celebrate filmdom. It all stemmed from a breakfast meeting he had with Kennedy and Cohen last year.
"We talked about how the little screen coverage of the big screen had become really focused on awards. We felt there were ways to create a show that was more evocative of the nuances of film and the passion people have for movies," Beckman says.
With Hollywood vets on board as exec producers and Vanity Fair's Carter involved, Beckman said he had no inkling of how tough it would be to book the talent for "Movies Rock," which was taped in early December at the Kodak Theater.
In the end, they lineup up such heavy hitters as Beyonce, who tackled "(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow"; Usher, who soft-shoed "Singin' in the Rain" (pictured right); Carrie Underwood, who lit up the Hollywood hills with "The Sound of Music"; and Jennifer Hudson, who did a rousing rendition of "Somewhere" from "West Side Story."
"It was like pushing a fridge across the beach," Beckman says to land the first few boldface names. But once it was all sung and done, "the artists were so happy to have stretched themselves into spaces they don't usually go," Beckman says. "Usually when they're on TV they do their own material. That's what was so entertaining about this -- we were putting them outside their comfort zones."
Beckman says Conde Nast is developing two more big-idea specials in the "Movies Rock" and "Fashion Rocks" vein (with thematic ties to Conde Nast books, natch) for 2009, and he expects to be up to six by 2010. Company is also open to the idea of series programming, if the perfect opportunity arises, he says.
"There are no shortage of good ideas," Beckman says. "I don't want us to become a one-trick pony by continuing to do only the one-off specials....But In the final analysis, not all good ideas are ideas that are good businesses. My job is evaluating where good business and good creative can intersect financially for us."