Carol Smith headed publishing at Elle as the senior vice-president and chief brand officer of Elle Group for the past eight years. However, Condé Nast just stole her away from Hachette Filipacchi Media for a newly created position that reports to Tom Florio. Last year Florio was promoted from publisher of just the magazines that fall under Vogue’s purvey (Vogue, Teen Vogue, and Men’s Vogue) to also overseeing Condé Nast Traveler and Bon Appétit. Under Florio, Smith will serve as vice-president and publishing director of Bon Appétit and the Gourmet brand.
Some wonder if Florio hired Smith simply to squash his competition. As Vogue’s greatest competitor, Elle reeled in 2,082 ad pages last year compared to Vogue’s 1,988 pages (though this doesn’t necessarily mean Elle made more money on those pages). Insiders tell WWD that Florio was overheard saying of Smith’s appointment, “The best offense is a good defense.”
During Smith’s tenure at Elle, where her name appeared above Robbie Myers’s on the masthead, the magazine sponsored Bravo’s Project Runway, and later aligned itself with MTV’s The City, making it the No. 1 fashion magazine as far as extracurricular reality-television projects go. (Isn’t it funny how no one mentions Stylista in connection to Elle anymore? It’s like a bad dream the industry mostly seems to have forgotten.)
Florio wants Smith to help him “build a significant food group” and tap into the category’s television potential. He told WWD, “Carol is a brilliant media executive and I think when she looked at the growth potential of this food category at a time when it’s hard to find growth anywhere, she got turned on — she liked it.” Smith explained her decision to jump ships a little differently:
“My contract was coming up for renewal and I never saw myself going anywhere. I love Elle and thought I’d retire here, but then I had a drink with Tom. He said, ‘Could you ever see yourself doing for food what you did for fashion with Elle?’” Smith recalled. “I had never even thought about it….Then I started to think, you know, what’s the difference between food and fashion? Not much.”
She’s right — just look at Bravo. They’ve built an entire network on shows that are all essentially the same, but also completely different, and most of them revolve around food, fashion, and people who like food and fashion. Elle creative director Joe Zee is sad to lose his colleague. “I was told 2010 is the year of change. Change at ELLE today and I am heartbroken about it,” he tweeted about the news.