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.]
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]
More journalists and media commentators seem to be playing everyone’s favorite new game of Tearing Into Portfolio. This morning we mentioned Elizabeth Spiers’ piece on the second issue of the magazine—a brilliantly wicked, lengthy evisceration that recalls why we once wanted Elizabeth to edit a collection of nasty essays we proposed calling “The Poison Pen.” And Jon Friedman’s at it too, using his column at Market Beat to take aim at the magazine. And over happy hour drinks the other day, we heard lots of nattering negativity from the nabobs.
But as we pointed out this morning, it’s a bit early to pronounce the failure of an enterprise that hasn’t yet even settled into a regular publishing schedule. We’ve had two issues, published months apart. The Portfolio-ista’s haven’t yet flourished, perhaps, but it seems a bit early to expect them to have totally remade business journalism and fixed everything that’s been so wrong with it for so long. What’s worse, this is starting to look a bit like a pile on: everyone jumping the new kid on the block just because he comes from a rich family.
Gary Weiss, a veteran business reporter and one of the best guys doing investigative business journalism today, thinks the Portfolio bashing has gone too far, too fast.
Look, they’re probably right. The first issue underwhelmed me, and I’m not exactly running to the newsstand for the second one. But I am starting to wonder if the constant slamming on Portfolio isn’t going a bit overboard. After all, are the competitors all that much better?
There are only a dwindling number of periodicals left that engage in long-form narrative journalism. Even a flawed outlet for this vanishing species is better than nothing.
The magazine is only just beginning, for Pete’s sake. Portfolio may suck eggs in some respects, its office politics may be right out of the Kremlin circa 1938, but it is a new outlet in a contracting market. To answer my own question, it matters. Give the friggin’ magazine a chance. Lay off.
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.
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.
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]