Conaghan fashions Net triumph for Conde Nast

Former Telegraph writer Dan Conaghan surprised peers by moving to Conde Nast On-Line last April, but his abilities have been key to the site’s success.

No anorak is required when visiting Condé Nast Online’s UK Website. Indeed, from September 23 the UK publishing group is producing twice-daily updates of its Vogue Daily online service reporting from the catwalk of London Fashion Week.

Masterminding this and other editorial developments at one of the UK’s most popular and well reviewed Websites is Dan Conaghan. He is one of a generation of twenty-somethings who appear to be dominating the development of advertising-supported online services in the UK.

Conaghan, recruited by Condé Nast’s managing director Nicholas Coleridge to become editor of his electronic publishing operation in April, turned 28 last week. His previous experience includes “celebrity broking” – that is, arranging guest appearances by famous people and animals.

He dabbled in print and fax-based newsletter publishing, as well as fitting in about five years as a writer for The Daily Telegraph, before joining Condé Nast.

An Oxford graduate, recruited by former Telegraph editor Max Hastings, he appeared to fit the Telegraph mould well. And some peers in newsprint still don’t understand the move, he says.

“My best man Jasper Gerard, who is now with the Daily Express, told my wedding guests he didn’t really understand what I did,” says Conaghan. “He said he thought it was something vaguely to do with sitting in front of a computer and staring into space.”

There are, in fact, a dozen or more people sitting in front of computers at Condé Nast Online’s offices.

There are five editorial people, eight design staff, three technical staff and a commercial team of four led by commercial director Jacqueline Euwe.

Coleridge is reported to have said Condé Nast will invest between 400,000 and 500,000 in its online publishing operation. But the site is not designed to be a loss-leading promotion for the company’s bundle of upmarket titles, including GQ, Tatler, Vogue and World of Interiors.

The site is becoming profitable, Conaghan says, although much of the photographic editorial material is supplied by Condé Nast to its on-line division for free.

The site has so far attracted nearly 200,000 registrations by users since last autumn. It features online equivalents of Condé Nast’s main magazine titles, is bolstered by an increasing level of original content and attracts 3,000 user visits a day, 2,000 of which are repeat visitors.

Advertisers such as American Express, champagne brand Mercier, Aramis and Ford are among the heavy hitting – and often upmarket – brands roped in to support the site.

Conaghan aims to attend pitches to advertisers. “It’s much more of a commercial and entrepreneurial brief than that of a journalist on a daily newspaper,” he says.

“We are beginning to attract second-time-round advertisers who were perhaps a little sceptical of the Internet at first. We can charge a reasonable sum for offering added-value links to other sites and content sponsorships, and for facilities to solicit mail from readers and brochure requests,” he says.

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