How’s your PnL looking so far this year? Happy your long dollar position is starting to look good? Or are you annoying your b-school alumni affairs office asking them to post more jobs for experienced grads (Hey, Columbia, are you reading this? Get to work!).
Either way, if you have time to read this, I’ll bet you’re not doing as well as Adam Levinson. No, not that jerk from Maroon 5 — that’s Adam Levine.
Adam Levinson is doing WAY better than Adam Levine. For one, no one’s calling him a no-talent bastard to his face. For another, Fortress Investment Group just gave him $300 million in shares. But that’s not the first time he made more money than you or that weasel Adam Levine.
According to Jeffrey Cane of Portfolio.com (who wrote a piece linking to a lot of other pieces I didn’t read; As a former derivatives trader, I like to think of this as derivative journalism):
“Levinson, whose annual income Trader Monthly estimated a year ago was between $75 million and $100 million, joined Fortress in 2002 from Goldman Sachs. “
Then Cane asks the question we all ask ourselves when we read such things, if only to make ourselves feel better:
“The package shows that even amid a slowdown, firms are still paying out huge sums to star traders and dealmakers. Are they worth it?”
If you’re not Adam Levinson, the answer to that question is usually, “Hell no! Give that money to me!”. However, if you’re Adam Levinson, the answer is inevitably, “Hell yes! I should be paid more!”
Apparently, a Citigroup analyst disagrees with Fortress and Levinson and Cane provides a nifty quote. However, at the rate things are going, Levinson can buy out Citigroup, fire the analyst, and delete Adam Levine’s bank account so we don’t have to read about his dating exploits ever again.
Apropos of nothing, I always think of this site when i think of Adam Levine.
It’s hard to underestimate the confusion that afflicts journalists when their journeys take them to any place where wealth intersects with politics. Even otherwise sharp writers can find themselves befuddled. A typical response is to retreat into a storied morality tale in which the “workers” or some small business—typically, a business that makes things the smart-set likes—fights against bigger businesses attempts to warp the political machinery in their favor.
A great demonstration of this befuddlement and retreat to orthodoxy can be seen in the latest issue of Portfolio. And don’t worry, we’re not going to write another three-thousand word dissection of the entire magazine. We’ve decided that even Portfolio deserves a chance to grow into its potential. So we’ll wait at least until the next issue before doing that again. (Probably.)
In “Chocolate Wars,” writer Alexandra Wolfe—the daughter of author Tom Wolfe—tells the tale of a struggle between the mass producers of chocolate—think Hershey or Nestle—and boutique makers of higher-quality chocolate. It’s a fine enough story, certainly worth telling. In fact, it was the first thing we read when the new issue came out. And Wolfe is a more than capable writer, drawing the lines of battle and the reasons for it quite well. But it’s also quite obvious that she never gets beyond the orthodox morality tale to see what’s really happening.
[Things get messy after the jump.]
Read more »
Is criticism of Portfolio just jealous sniping from rivals? That’s more or less the take of The Deal’s Matthew Wurtzel.
“The second issue of Conde Nast Publications’ business magazine Portfolio is now at newsstands leading critics like MarketWatch’s Jon Friedman and The New Republics’ Elizabeth Spiers to rip it apart once again. The magazine has established lofty goals of changing business journalism so, of course, it is going to illicit ill-will amongst rivals,” Wurtzel writes. “However, the hazing — if you will — of Portfolio is commonplace in business journalism. After all, Portfolio is not the only business journalism effort to face such treatment. The as-yet to air Fox Business Channel has received similar derision.”
Does that make sense? Some of the early criticism of the magazine came from DealBreaker’s founder Elizabeth Spiers, who hardly seems to be a likely partisan of the cause of not changing business journalism. The Deal seems to be projecting its own experiences on to Portfolio. When it was launched, it was widely criticized by more established business journalism outlets. “Although the chorus of naysayers — The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Financial Times — was smaller, their voices were perhaps just as loud — these are, of course, the stalwarts of daily news,” Wurtzel writes. “Their ‘big issue’ with The Deal was whether a privately owned newspaper reporting on private equity could remain objective.”
These days, according to Wurtzel, the criticism comes faster and with more heat because of the proliferation of online media—such as blogs.
We’re going to take that as a compliment.
[Disclosure Note: If you look over the left column, you might notice that Portfolio is an advertiser on DealBreaker. Phew. That was hard to admit. Now I need to go find myself a nice cold glass of Mike's Hard Lemonade.]
Portfolio bashing is normal [Dealscape]
Someone needs to explain to Portfolio that the “quality, not quantity” mantra doesn’t exactly apply to ad pages. The second issue of Portfolio has 122 ad pages, down from 185 in the premier/premiere issue. Something tells us the special double fold-out, pop-up, insert-add-on nature of those 122 pages in the second issue aren’t going to make up for the loss of 63 ad pages.
The glacial progression of the second issue has ceased, and the mag will hit newsstands on August 15 to much rejoicing.
Portfolio’s Second Issue Wraps With 122 Ad Pages As Deputy Editor Fired [Folio va Gawker]
This editor’s for hire…
Trouble with the little $125 million launch that could, from the New York Observer:
This morning, Portfolio editor Joanne Lipman fired deputy editor Jim Impoco, according to a staffer. Mr. Impoco, former editor of the New York Times business section, was responsible for bringing in top talent to the Conde Nast business magazine (or is it a women’s magazine?)—which just closed issue number two—and it’s a big loss for the Conde Nast start-up. A Portfolio spokesperson said: “Jim Impoco left the magazine and we wish him well.” The spokesperson would not confirm that he was fired.
Issue #2, we’re still waiting…
Deputy Editor Fired From Portfolio [New York Observer]
This was very clearly one of the most surreal moments of BX: The Opening. Amidst the crowd of traders, there appeared a man with a shock of white hair in a double breasted gray suit. And that man happened to be Tom Wolfe.
After the jump, cast your vote for what Wolfe was doing at the Blackstone opening.
Read more »
How is that $100+mm magazine launch doing? You remember, the magazine that will print stories that are way over-covered in the first place but create novelty in having celebrities like Tom Wolfe write reductionist generalizations in flowery prose. Maybe that golden cityscape on the first cover of Conde Nast Portfolio was pyrite after all. Gawker has released some Portfolio sales figures received from an insider and although it may be too early to tell, Gawker reports that industry insiders are saying Portfolio kind of bombed at newsstands, considering the financial muscle used to peddle it.
Portfolio’s goal is to sell 200k copies at newsstands this year. So far Portfolio has sold 30k copies in 23 full days of release (although only 15 days of national release, but a.) who outside of NY buys the magazine and b.) this probably slightly balances out sales inflation caused by the marketing push at the magazine’s launch), which amounts to roughly 1.3k copies sold per day. If portfolio maintains this rate, it will sell over 300k copies by the end of the year, well ahead of expectations. At a cover price of $4.99, that $1.7mm in revenue from newsstand sales (and a rather nauseating 1% recoup of startup costs). The problem is – it is extremely doubtful that Portfolio will continue to sell 1.3k copies a day. Taking a hypothetical – if the current daily sales number halves for the rest of the year (or cools way off before August), the magazine will sell slightly over 180k copies.
The next issue of the magazine doesn’t come out until August, and then normalizes into a monthly publication. It’s unlikely that many new people will discover Portfolio’s age-old (“Exchangeable Currency vs. the Barter System” by Dana Vachon) content who haven’t already stopped to watch the potential Conde Nast car-wreck. In other words, that huge launch boost to carry the magazine through August didn’t happen.
Is ‘Portfolio’ Selling Like Its Hype? [Gawker]
We used to do some work for a private equity guy who refused to even glance at newspapers or business magazines. His thought was that people who read newspapers were to caught up in the present, and should probably start reading magazines. And he said that people reading magazines should given them up for books.
“Worse than the news. By the time it’s in a magazine, it’s old news,” he’d say. “There’s nothing useful to be learned from them.”
But that isn’t true.
A trio of finance professors have demonstrated that at business magazines are good at indicating the end of a period of abnormal performance. Basically, if a magazine is writing about it, it’s already old news. And that is useful to know.
The study focused on the covers of BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes. But they’re old news themselves. We decided to apply the measurement to Portfolio. Glancing at the cover at Portfolio one sees that the magazine cover has, well, nothing. No words except it’s title, subtitle, title, date, and website. And it has a picture of Manhattan rooftops.
So is the message that nothing is over? The Portfolio is over? The Conde Nast is done? New York City is through? “Business Intelligence” is no longer businesslike or intelligent?
Then we remembered that we torn off a cover-flap. It’s stuck between the pages of an biography of Hilaire Beloc that we’ve been reading. Maybe that’s where the secrets to what is already over are hiding.
After the jump, the cover-flap stories and our analysis.
Sometimes the Stock Does Better Than the Investor That Buys the Stock [New York Times]
Read more »
Other than looking a little confused when holding up the
premiere premier first issue, Jon Stewart’s interview with Matt Cooper about his Valerie Plame piece in Portfolio aired Monday without any discussion of the mag. This, despite Cooper’s insistence that he was entirely focused on promoting Portfolio. Here’s a quote from Cooper in the Portfolio blog:
I still haven’t seen the show. I’ve been on the road promoting Portfolio in Atlanta and now on to Minneapolis and haven’t had Comedy Central in my hotel rooms. But I’ll be curious what it looked like.
The interview was good. Jon is tough on the press as everyone who watches the show knows so I found myself defending a profession that I think he rightly critiques most nights but kept trying to bring it back to the mag because, hey, that’s what I was there to promote.
By “bring it back to the mag” Cooper meant not talking about the mag at all. Papa Nast cannot be happy – it’s one chance to develop some street-cred with the “younger than Tom Wolfe” generation was squandered.
Does it sadden anyone that the Daily Show is reaching for guests in the depths of Portfolio? I don’t know whether that speaks more to Daily Show guest bookings or Portfolio’s insta-“prestige.” At least it’s a bit amusing that Portfolio needs to be referred to as “Conde Nast” Portfolio just to seem legit. You need to pump at least $125mm into your magazine launch for branding.
Daily Show Interview with Matt Cooper
Behind the Scenes at Daily Show – [Portfolio]
If there were champagne corks popping around the office of Conde Nast’s Portfolio on Monday, there might be some wound licking this morning. Yesterday the New York Post declared the magazine “empty.” This morning the New York Observer’s Michael Thomas finds himself disappointed with the magazine. (And, of course, you can read Elizabeth Spiers’ devastating take on the magazine here.)
The New York Observer’s take sums up the view of those who are short the magazine:
Nowhere in the 335 pages of this first issue is the merest remnant of what we used to call history and the fascinating—and even occasionally instructive—parallels between past and present. It’s as if our present world sprang whole from the brow of Mammon. Perhaps I’m asking too much intellectually, but what troubles me most about Portfolio is how lightweight it is, despite its physical bulk. This is supposed to be a magazine about business, about making money and losing it, about getting and spending, about honor and thievery. About character and the clues it strews. (There’s a great piece waiting for someone on Steve Schwarzman’s syntax.) And speaking of the Blackstone supremo, how come Jimmy Lee, for a decade the Spirit of Christmas Present to Schwarzman’s Scrooge, isn’t a lead underwriter in the Blackstone I.P.O.? What a nice piece that would make.
But at least they got to have a nice party!
An Empty Portfolio [New York Post]
Massive Portfolio’s Platinum-Plated Debut [New York Observer]
[WARNING: If you're part of the 93% of DealBreaker's readership that cares nothing about business media because you don't work in media, read no further. This will probably make your eyes bleed.]
If the premiere issue is any indication, Conde Nast Portfolio** will be the Paris Hilton of business magazines: pretty but vapid, and unlikely to produce anything resembling an original thought.***
If you’re throwing darts at a newsstand, you’re probably as likely to hit something worse as something better. By all magazine standards, it’s slightly above average.**** But it’s painfully bad for a magazine that has poured $125 million and 18 months of work into development. (We’re no strangers to painfully bad, you understand, but Dealbreaker costs less than a Deb Schoeneman contributing editor contract to produce and it’s done entirely on the fly. What’s their excuse?)
[Below: A Portfolio staff meeting. As we imagine it.]
We took an hour yesterday and read the thing cover-to-cover. At 300+ pages, you’d think it would take more than an hour, but you would think wrong. A ton of ad pages (advantage Portfolio) and a few acres of graphics and photos to compensate for a lack of new and interesting information (disadvantage Portfolio) reduce the amount of actual text to a manageable 60 or so pages of feature content and like most large magazines, front-of-the-book doesn’t start till page 97. Among the pages: a big story by Tom Wolfe on hedge funds. We’d note the other potentially exciting features, but that’s pretty much it. Our take:
First, a word about the cover: Only a company as fat and complacent as Conde Nast would be arrogant enough to launch a new business magazine with a cover that gives the reader no idea that it’s a business magazine. There are two possibilities here. (1) Portfolio thinks that newsstand readers will look closely enough to see the subtitle “business intelligence” just below the title, despite all available research indicating that they generally don’t read anything in fonts smaller than GIGANTIC, or (2) Portfolio imagines everyone everywhere already knows what they are because they’ve gotten quite a bit of media trade press and people who work in media tend to think that everyone everywhere pays attention to media news when, in fact, they don’t. (Other things most print media consumers don’t pay attention to: bylines. But more on that later.) We know Conde Nast does cover testing for some of their magazines—Vogue, Vanity Fair, etc. We can only assume the $15,000 or so it would have cost to do that for the “Premier” issue was used to pay people to pick lint from Tom Wolfe’s trademark white suit. Or maybe to pay for the first 15 words of his piece, which are as follows: “Not bam bam bam bam bam bam but bama bampa barama bam bamity bam bam…” (Here Wolfe exhibits the typical mentality of a Conde Nast freelancer who is paid by the word: why not insert a few extra bams?)
Read more »