Nearly a year since the publishing giant Condé Nast said it was creating a network of brand studios tied to its magazine titles that will develop content across podcasts, films and television, several of those who had worked on the audio projects have left the company. And in a public letter released Tuesday, eleven former producers, editors, and engineers say Condé Nast has become a poster child for what not to do.
“We hope companies investing in audio will learn from the mistakes of Condé Nast’s mismanagement,” the group said. “Second, we want people who work in audio to understand how the executives currently responsible for audio at Condé Nast Entertainment might treat them.”
Condé Nast launched a network of brand studios tied to its magazine titles last February. As it looked to leverage the intellectual property of brands like The New Yorker, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Wired and GQ. Then at the June Newfront presentation, it announced the launch of seven podcasts. It includes a show called In Vogue, hosted by Anna Wintour, the iconic editor of Vogue magazine. Pitchfork, the online-only magazine, would produce The Pitchfork Review. Wired magazine would produce a weekly podcast called Get Wired. And Self magazine would release Checking In.
But the former employees said in their open letter that Condé Nast only had the amount of production staff members needed for a single podcast, not three. “The results of this decision snowballed into larger foundational issues that led to skilled producers leaving their jobs. The team members who remained continued to be overworked and exhausted,” they said. When Condé agreed to hire additional producers on a freelance basis, a hiring freeze at the company prevented them from being brought onboard as salaried employees with benefits. Some production duties were also handed off to Neon Hum which struck a deal to help Condé Nast produce the shows.
The group of ex-employees said they decided to go public with their complaints about Condé Nast, not to complain, but to act as a wake-up call to podcasters and companies who are looking at joining the audio space.
“We know that the conditions we met are not unique to this company,” they said. “Professional audio work is undervalued across our industry, and both the people and the shows suffer.” The group said podcast producers need to do more to invest in their teams, including paying a fair salary, as well as creating a collaborative environment with the team that works on the shows.
“We believe that Condé Nast has a bright future in audio. However, we don’t foresee success for this or any audio initiative that doesn’t respect its producers, editors, engineers, or the creative work they’re making,” they said.
A rep for Condé Nast told CNN that the company “saw much growth” in its audio business last year due to the success of the podcasts it launched. “As we continue those series and develop new projects for this year’s slate, we hope to not only bring back some of our teams, but also build new creative partnerships with the best in the industry,” the rep said.