March 9, 2016 Last Updated 3:39 pm

Condé Nast to launch new digital innovation center in Austin

Somehow I missed this announcement from Condé Nast on Monday. Maybe it was released late in the day, then I didn’t return to find it – who knows.

But the subject here is that a major traditional media company is launching a digital innovation center in Austin, Texas, something I have called for in the past. Sadly, most of the major traditional publishing companies are NYC based, while tech is out west – and rarely do the two seem to really intersect except when one actually picks up the phone and asks for something. That is not the way things should work.

Austin is a great town, and certainly a center for digital innovation – but at the risk of alienating what Texas readers TNM might have, it is not exactly Silicon Valley, or even Seattle when it comes to a center of tech that matters to media.

Years ago I wondered why Hearst remains so NYC centric when it has a newspaper property out in San Francisco that it could begin to build a digital media empire around. In late 2014, Hearst finally did announce the formation of a new Silicon Valley digital product development group which I applauded at the time.

Condé Nast, too, has its digital team in various cities around the globe including San Francisco and London, but these “digital innovation center” initiatives are not about digital content so much as finding the talent and experience needed to develop new digital products, not just more web content. So, this is obviously a good move, and something other companies should consider. For instance, Tribune Publishing has an LA property (unless they’ve sold it today), so establishing their digital teams on the West Coast seems like the way to go (rather than bringing in another high priced East Coast name). Hey, I’m available to launch the project if they can’t find anyone else! (No doubt, I’m eager for a return to the West coast after yet another Midwest winter.)

Here is the Condé Nast announcement:

NEW YORK and AUSTIN, Texas – March 7, 2016 – Condé Nast today announced the opening of a new digital innovation center in Austin, Texas that will serve as an outpost in the company’s network of digital teams and provide additional engineering and product development for Condé Nast’s digital portfolio.  As the first major media company to establish a permanent presence in Austin, this expansion underscores Condé Nast’s commitment to growing and enhancing its digital operations, and attracting and cultivating top talent to help bring its premium content to audiences across media platforms.  The announcement comes on the heels of the company’s most recent digital acquisition of Poetica, an editorial tech company,  and the growth of its digital executive team.  Today’s announcement was made by Fred Santarpia, executive vice president and chief digital officer, Condé Nast.

“Austin has become an epicenter of digital talent and creativity, and establishing our presence there will not only enable us to accelerate our growth, but it also will provide us with insight into cutting edge technology and keep us at the forefront of the industry,” said Santarpia.  “As the next generation of consumers looks to be informed, entertained and inspired, we will be sure to make our content available to them in the most dynamic and compelling ways on every imaginable platform and device.”

The Austin office will open in July 2016, and will support up to 50 employees in its first year, including a range of engineers, product and design focused talent.  Austin joins Condé Nast’s established network of digital teams located in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and London.

“Condé Nast has a long and storied legacy of providing insightful, high-quality and artistic content, and Austin’s dynamic and innovative community is a natural complement to their mission,” said Phil Wilson, Chair of Opportunity Austin, an initiative of the Austin Chamber.  “Our region’s deep pool of creative talent, tech community and quality of life are a winning combination for companies and employees alike; we are thrilled to welcome Condé Nast to our community and look forward to working alongside them as they grow their digital footprint.”

Condé Nast grew its digital audience by 45% (YoY) in January 2016, according to comScore, with six of its brands experiencing their best traffic months ever.  The company also saw record growth in mobile traffic and increased digital video views by 150% in the same time period.  Condé Nast now ranks No. 18 among comScore’s Top 100 Properties.

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