Former Condé Nast Editor Plans a Vanity Fair for the Substack Era

A former editor at Vanity Fair has been working for a number of years to create a digital publication with a enterprise twist: Its writers will share in subscription income.

Think of it as Vanity Fair meets Substack, the subscription publication platform that has attracted big-name authors.

The new firm behind the publication, Heat Media, hopes to unveil it in the coming months, 4 individuals with information of the matter mentioned. The start-up is partly the brainchild of Jon Kelly, a former editor at Vanity Fair who labored below its earlier editor in chief, Graydon Carter.

If all goes in response to plan, the start-up’s contributors will embody writers whose contacts embody the energy elite of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Washington and Wall Street. An annual subscription would price $100 and will embody a each day publication, a web site and entry to occasions, the individuals mentioned. The publication doesn’t but have a title. One into consideration is Puck, the title of an American humor journal of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Writers have been supplied fairness and a share of the subscription income they’d generate, the individuals mentioned. It’s considered one of the first makes an attempt to align the new expertise financial system with extra conventional media establishments. Mr. Kelly has already been in talks with a number of well-known journalists, together with Wesley Lowery, previously of The Washington Post.

The publication would depend on an algorithm to gauge what number of readers purchased a subscription due to a particular author, the individuals mentioned. Mr. Kelly is recruiting a few of his former colleagues, the individuals added.

Another novel facet is the funding. One of the backers is the non-public fairness agency TPG, which might take three seats on the Heat Media board, with one going to its co-chief government Jim Coulter, the individuals mentioned.

Another investor is 40 North, a associated funding arm of Standard Industries, a international industrials firm, the individuals mentioned. David Winter, its co-chief government, would additionally take a board seat. Heat Media has raised round $7 million thus far, in response to the individuals.

Mr. Kelly and TPG declined to remark. 40 North didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Mr. Kelly left Condé Nast, the writer of Vanity Fair, in March 2019 and joined TPG shortly afterward. The chief of the agency, Mr. Coulter, is pals with Mr. Carter, and TPG backed Mr. Carter’s post-Vanity Fair enterprise, Air Mail.

The start-up’s enterprise mannequin is an early try to mix Substack’s entrepreneurial system, below which writers can make cash instantly from subscribers, with that of conventional publications.

For TPG, the funding is its newest in the media enterprise. In 2018, the agency joined with a former News Corp government, Jon Miller, to invest in the “geek culture” website Fandom, which recently acquired the gaming website Focus Multimedia. Last year, a TPG affiliate acquired the soccer site, and the firm recently announced plans to acquire a stake in DirectTV.

The cash from the two firms would give the start-up some security when some of the biggest digital media players, such as BuzzFeed, Vice, Vox Media and Group Nine, have stumbled as the pandemic ravaged the ad industry. They have discussed taking part in mergers or going public to satisfy their early investors.

Mr. Kelly and his business partners — Joe Purzycki, a founder of the podcasting company Luminary Media, and Max Tcheyan, who helped build the sports site The Athletic — are driving toward a different idea: the creator economy. Heat Media wants to give writers a sense of agency but with the added the protection of salaries and resources.

It sees its potential competitors as the Washington news site Axios, the tech news site The Information and Vanity Fair, according to two people who have seen a pitch deck on the company’s plans.

As media businesses large and small rely more on revenue from readers, connecting a writer’s pay to subscriptions may become an inevitable feature of the industry.

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