My life in advertising: Nicholas Coleridge
26 March 2012
Condé Nast International president Nicholas Coleridge on the Chinese consumer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and why magazine publishing has a healthy future. Sales of Glamour magazine, he tells Sonoo Singh, are way bigger than that of Harry Potter
A former jailbird who can trace his lineage to the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the president of Condé Nast International Nicholas Coleridge is quite the rock star of the publishing industry, sitting rather pretty at the helm of a $15bn privately-owned US purveyor of glossies.
From being a war reporter in Sri Lanka (for which he spent 10 days behind bars), features writer, editor and author of five bestsellers, including the thriller With Friends Like These, Coleridge remains the sentinel of the print and publishing world.
It was Coleridge who introduced the first handbag-sized magazine in 2001, titled Glamour. At a time when most publishers were abandoning launch ideas, he unleashed the lavishly geeky Wired in the UK in 2009. Last year, he launched a fashion title from Azerbaijan, Baku, to distribute in France, the US and the UK. As the new president of Condé Nast International, he is now responsible for 104 magazines, including Vogue, GQ and Vanity Fair, published in 22 countries.
STRONG PRINT SALES
“Print is proving surprisingly resilient and confounding the doom mongers. At the luxury end, circulations have plateaued, but at a way higher level of sales than 20 or 30 years ago,” he says. “In 1990, British Vogue sold 150,000 copies a month – now it is 210,000. GQ sold 40,000 copies – now 120,000. So anyone who says print is in terminal decline is mistaken – at least at the high end. Glamour sells around 500,000 copies per month, way bigger than Harry Potter.”
For a man who has ink running through his veins, Coleridge continues to be excited by new technology. “The invention of the iPad and other tablet devices is giving us a further boost, and 10% of all GQ’s UK newsstand sales are now on tablets,” he says.
In 1995, Conde Nast was a magazine-only business, publishing fewer than 30 titles. Today, it has 117 magazines in 24 markets, both print and digital, including thriving territories such as India and China. It also has a branded restaurant business, rolling out GQ and Vogue-branded restaurants in Ukraine, Turkey and Russia.
The man has clearly paid his dues for his contribution to the publishing industry. In 2009, he was honoured with a CBE. “It was jolly nice to be given that medal, not that I have ever worn it,” Coleridge says. What he wants to talk about instead is his new book and his writing process:
“I write at the weekend. I start before 7am and finish by 11am. My job at Condé Nast involves a lot of meetings, so it is fun to have a solitary project.” His next novel, published in October, is called The Adventuress – The Scandalous Destiny of Miss Cath Fox, Gold-digger.
So “no regrets” then in becoming the first Coleridge to go into writing since Samuel Taylor in the 18th century (his father was Lloyd’s of London chairman). Unlike the poet, though, he’s never been a drug addict, just a “magazine addict.”
By Sonoo Singh