Conde Nast, the magazine publishing company known for The New Yorker, Wired and Vogue, is getting into the US higher education market.
As our public media colleagues at Marketplace reported, the company is partnering with a venture capital firm and some as-yet-unnamed universities to launch a set of co-branded certificate courses, and eventually a master’s degree.
Why is a media company getting into the higher education business? And why now?
“We have a very strong interest in being part of developing the next generation of talent,” Jill Bright, chief administrative officer at Condé Nast, told Inside Higher Ed. “It is an opportunity to introduce our brands to new audiences by creating something that’s unique in an educational setting.”
Of course, corporate-branded forays into the world of higher education are nothing new. Conde Nast itself is involved with the Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design in the UK, where you can get a 10-week Vogue Fashion Certificate.
Conde Nast’s push into higher ed comes at a time when media companies, faced with faltering advertsing and circulation, are exploring all sorts of new opportunities. “For a media company, if you look at the economics of that, increasingly you want to be able to diversify your revenue streams,” said Michael Moe, an analyst and investor in education companies with the investment firm GSV Capital. “It’s a continuum from conferences to seminars, certificates. I think it’s a natural extension of the brand and the intellectual capital within that brand.”
Historically, one way that media companies have “developed the next generation of talent” is through internships. Two months ago, Conde Nast settled a class action lawsuit brought by two interns who said they were paid less than $1 an hour to do significant work for the New Yorker and W, a fashion magazine. This is part of a trend of interns insisting on their rights. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, an intern who does work and creates value for the employer, rather than having a wholly educational experience, must be paid minimum wage. The terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed, but the company has discontinued the internship program.
When the settlement was announced in April, CEO Charles Townsend said it “will allow us to devote our time and resources towards developing meaningful, new opportunities to support up-and-coming talent.”
A spokesperson for Conde Nast, who declined to be named, says that the proposed university programs and the now-shuttered internship program are separate and unrelated. “We are always committed to cultivating talent,” she said. “[But] Conde Nast is supporting university programs to enrich them with our content, our great authors, our perspective, the networks that we bring to bear, rather than for us to cultivate talent.”