Joanne Lipman’s Best Portfolio Decision

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John Koblin has a thorough walk-through of how Condé Nast Portfolio came to be (during a low-key luncheon between future editor Joanne Lipman and Advance Publications overlord Si Newhouse) and how it ended (because Lipman, despite her talents and previous success at The Wall Street Journal, had no coherent vision for the magazine). Along the way, the Observer writer accounts for a lot of mistakes: Lipman didn't allow her highly paid reporters to establish beats, for one thing, a practice that leads to expertise and a steady flow of story ideas. She also hoped for "sexy" business stories where finance wasn't the actual point of the story — but those stories weren't always easy to find. There wasn't an emphasis on ideas, but there was one on style and gimmickry. Lipman couldn't decide on a cover strategy that set the magazine apart, and when business wasn't "sexy" anymore, there was no way to keep the whole thing afloat. But there is at least one good decision that is recounted in this piece: the decision to call the whole thing Portfolio to begin with. Other choices, as demonstrated in a slideshow of cover mock-ups, included: "SCOOP, with the two O's blacked out to resemble nothing so much as a pair of boobs like the ones in the posters for the movie Amarcord; Advance (Hi, Si!); currency (note punctuation!); the file (once again!); liQuid (OK!); The File; and SPARK."

LiQuid? Even pretend magazine titles on Hannah Montana are more plausible.

At Portfolio, Prehistory Was Prologue [NYO]