Saturday, October 14, 2017

Si Newhouse never looked at data? Oh Anna Wintour!

I was sorry that Si Newhouse - who built Condé Nast's glossy mags division into an empire of highly lucrative scented-page snobbery (Vogue, Vanity Fair, Details, GQ and so on) - passed away before he met moi. How distressing! Actually, I missed the news of his death at age 89 altogether and only learned of it from Alexandra Shulman's new, most entertaining column on the Business of Fashion website. He was sucked up the astral tunnel on October 1 or thereabouts. I wonder who greeted the poppet in the afterlife. We shall never know.

Naturally, I googled the obits - and was most fascinated to see what Anna Wintour had to say about him. After all, he raised her to the heights of the American Vogue editorship (and beyond) and was immeasurably delighted by her editorial genius and celebrity glamour. Both Scorpio, they would have appreciated in each other the fervent desire to keep so much under wraps while the next chapter was plotted if not connived.

But, oh dear! Did Anna know Si at all? I have just been reading her Newhouse statement on One line stands out: “Si never looked at data or statistics, but went with his instincts and expected his editors to do the same. He urged us to take risks and was effusive in his praise when they paid off."

He never looked at data or stats? Can this be true? I don't think so. We have to go to Thomas Maier's book Newhouse to get some hard facts as opposed to Anna's entrancing tosh. On page 63, for example, there's this: "Ascending to the role of chairman of Condé Nast Publications in 1975, Si became a devotee of market surveys and scrutinised the circulation reports to see how readers reacted to each magazine cover...and how they liked each feature inside." In another passage: "Armed with this information [the market research data], the editors working for Si Newhouse were expected to adhere to the computer results in making their decisions."

We learn that "Diana Vreeland [Vogue siren of Sixties' indulgences] particularly objected to the Newhouse concept and its reliance on marketing rather than artistic considerations or editorial judgement."

Perhaps Si changed as he got older but I have yet to meet anyone who very much alters over the decades, except to get droopier and more irritable before the dementia plateau. I suppose maintenance of the sepia tint on memory requires bullshit to be spouted.

All this does remind me of one thing, though: I really must find myself an Anna Wintour for my post-death eulogy. Her (or his?) words, "Madame Arcati never said a bad word against anyone", will resonate through media jails and trigger much in the way of chortling.

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