Ed Nardoza is editor-in-chief of WWD and editorial director of Conde Nast's Fairchild Fashion Group. He began writing earnings reports at Fairchild 30 years ago and has since served in reporter and editor roles at Footwear News and DNR. He talks to PRWeek about his new gig at the soon-to-launch menswear trade, the retail industry's greatest challenge, and the makeup of an effective PR contact.
Can you talk at all about your new role at the menswear affiliate slated to launch later this year?
Nardoza: It'll come under my jurisdiction as associate editorial director where I oversee all the business publications. It'll be kind of an evolution of what we've done all along in mens. We have great roots in the mens business but it's very much a part of the WWD makeup, the WWD DNA. We see them as brother and sister publications. We want it to have the feel of a Fairchild publication, to have the voice and integrity and business focus with some sophisticated fashion. I'll be in charge of the launch of the magazine and when it's up and running and has some steam we'll hire an editor.
How, in general, has the nature of the daily shifted over the years, now that it includes video, social media, and all of the extra tasks media professionals must take on?
Nardoza: For a long time, we felt that there was great urgency to what we did in a daily newspaper environment. We still think that, but what's happened in the marketplace is news gets measured in increments of seconds and minutes, not days and weeks. We try to do as much as we can in the daily that's more explication, not just facts. But we do tend to break most of the big stories through WWD.com. We've had to be sort of dual-brained in that regard, but we don't see them as separate entities.
Would you say that WWD was more prepared for this kind of shift than maybe some of the weeklies and monthlies?
Nardoza: I wouldn't say necessarily that we were more prepared, but I do think that we arrived very early in the game. We insisted on a paid digital model, paid circulation, and we've grown rather dramatically this last year online.
It's been a tough year for most levels of fashion retail. What's the fashion industry's greatest challenge related to the economy?
Nardoza: The greatest challenge is staying relevant to the consumer and figuring out which way the consumer is going. They're very fickle, there's not a lot of brand loyalty, so the challenge is to put provocative creative product in front of the consumer in an accessible and affordable way and engage them. That's the biggest challenge because regardless of the economic situation, if the product is compelling enough people will buy it. There's too much stuff, too much product, so you got to distinguish yourself, deal with price sensitivity, deal with a global marketplace where you have to understand foreign markets if you want to grow as well as sourcing your goods internationally. It's a much more complicated market than it used to be.
How are these challenges impacting your coverage?
Nardoza: It's been a challenge for us to interpret it because no one really has the answers. What you do is you try to look at companies that are performing well and try to figure out why other than just good accountants who know how to keep the budgets in line, what it is they're doing from a product and distribution and image standpoint that's resonating with the consumer. Everybody is doing social media as a way to communicate with their consumer. All of that is happening now. You've got the merger of high and low, of Wal-Mart and Paris couture. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but we're almost there.
I saw the WWD video interview by Tavi, the young fashion blogger. There's been a lot of hype about these teen bloggers. How do you embrace this trend and not compromise the serious business tone of the outlet?
Nardoza: I think [bloggers] are part of the business. We've always had a fun frivolous side at Fairchild at large, but particularly [at] Women's Wear Daily. Our Eye page is sort of the release in the middle of the facts and figures, and there is a lot of personality in the business. We try to reflect that, the fun, the energy, the creativity. Bloggers are just a natural extension of that. The question is, do we see them as a threat in any way in that they're disseminating information. Well we're all competing for the readers' head space…but blogging is not really journalism to our mind, and yet they have real influence, particularly in the beauty category where they can judge a product very quickly and get it out to hundreds of thousands of followers. They can move the market in a way that didn't exist before that encourages these vendors to look to direct-to-consumer communication as part of their marketing strategy. Bloggers can be useful there, but it's tricky. There are no standards in the blogosphere. It's the Wild West.
How do you choose news and trend items that make it to the cover each day?
Nardoza: It's based on a couple of factors. The news is judged like any other newspaper. What's the most exciting story that's going to engage the reader? What's the most important influential story, and dramatic. In terms of the fashion image, we're shooting fashion all the time and there are couple of elements that go into that. One is how beautiful is the picture and how interesting are the clothes and thirdly how influential is the resource. Is it an important designer or not? Sometimes we'll go with the complete unknown on the front page just because the designer is creative enough and we think it's worthy of attention. We look at the fashion presentation as news but just presented pictorially.
What is your interaction like with PR professionals? What kind of information and pitches catch your eye?
Nardoza: For the most part it's a good relationship and we find that the most effective PR is one who really is an executive extension of their clients, company, and brand. If they're in in-house PR, they're really sitting right there at the table with the CEO and they know every nuance of the business and they can speak with authority for the client or for the company. We really take the approach we want to cover it all, hear about it all, know it all. Anything to do with the fashion and retailing industry and whatever surrounds it peripherally - red carpet, design in a broader sense, consumerism, research, psychology. The infiltration process begins and we see what makes it into the paper.