Sarah Chubb, widely respected as the person who helped form Condé Nast’s digital division over a decade ago, is leaving the company, the publisher announced. A magazine vet through two decades, most of which at CN, Chubb rose from a post as Vogue’s ad manager in 1991 to becoming director of CondéNet in 1996, where she built web-only sites like Epicurious.com. It was not clear what her next move will be or why she’s leaving the company.
In a memo sent to staffers, Condé Nast President Bob Sauerberg said that, “After a wonderful 20-year career at Condé Nast, Sarah Chubb has decided it’s time to explore other opportunities. As we all know, there is a huge amount of energy and excitement in the digital world right now-and Sarah is interested in pursuing the next phase of her career.”
The memo also included a comment from Chubb: “CN is the premier company in the industry and I have truly loved my job here. I am also tremendously proud of the contributions that my team and I have made to the Company. While the challenges of an exciting new world beckon me, I know that CN is set up exceptionally well for the future.”
Condé Nast plans to name a successor in the coming weeks and is beginning the search for a “digital strategist” now.
Last fall, Condé Nast enacted new changes in the way its digital business is managed, the second major shift that area had seen in year.
In October ’09, Condé Nast did an about face and moved away from its longstanding strategy of separating digital and print. As a result, CondéNet, which housed Brides.com, Epicurious, Concierge, Ars Technica, Reddit, was disbanded. In its place, Condé Nast Digital was created, with Chubb still in the top job. The change represented an attempt to streamline Condé Nast’s somewhat jumbled approach to its digital properties, which had some areas reporting to Chubb and some left independent and outside CondéNet’s auspices, though some ad sales functions continued to be shared.
For example, about five years ago, Condé Nast took away oversight of its individual magazine sites from CondéNet.
In October 2010, the digital business was restructured again that had digital responsibility for brands going completely to the publishers, with Condé Nast Digital converted to an emerging businesses group; ad sales were rolled up into Condé Nast Media, which is run by CMO Lou Cona.
For the technology production behind its magazine apps, including the best-selling Wired, Condé Nast handed responsibility to Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) going forward, though Condé Nast Digital’s in-house team had produced and continued to maintain the apps for GQ, Vanity Fair and Epicurious.
With that latest alteration, Condé Nast Digital’s mission narrowed considerably to focusing on development and acquisitions. At the time, CEO Chuck Townsend dismissed the notion that Chubb’s role would be diminished. “She’s certainly not losing responsibility. She’s a key, key player. … She’s the top digital executive in the corporation.”
Still, for someone who was so well-regarded by the both the online media industry in general as well as the advertising community as Chubb is, the post certainly didn’t make as much use of her skills as it had in the past and it seemed natural that she would eventually strike out for something larger. For the most part though, a source close to Chubb said she’ll likely do some consulting work on internet startups. She feels this is the right time to start something new, given the length of time she’d been at the company and considering the vast improvement in the media economy these days versus the past few years.