Women’s Wear Daily gives a narrative of the decline of Peter Brant’s publishing empire:
The magazine’s travails stem from a clash of business cultures and of egos among the top brass, as well as poor timing. Sischy and Sandra Brant had produced Interview since 1989, when the Brants bought the magazine from the Warhol estate for an undisclosed sum. Sischy’s Rolodex provided content for the magazine — friends like Elton John would interview their peers and other friends like Bruce Weber would photograph them. Sandy oversaw ad sales, and with her then-husband’s art world heft and her and Sischy’s contacts in the fashion world, brought in a steady stream of ad pages. The duo ran a tight ship — they didn’t pay their contributors much money, but they didn’t have to. Talent flocked to Interview because, for photographers and stylists, it was a creative outlet with few boundaries, unlike typically more structured — and higher-paying — commercial assignments. That formula drove Interview into profit from 1994 on — the title made $2 million at its peak — and to a rate base of 200,000.
But when Peter Brant took full control of the business, out went Ingrid’s and Sandy’s contacts and a new network had to be built. Among them, Christopher Bollen from V magazine became editor of Interview, and Karl Templer joined as creative director. Alan Katz, who had been publisher at Cargo and Vanity Fair, was named group publisher. Stephanie Seymour Brant was given a token title on the masthead: contributing fashion editor. O’Brien and Baron joined Brant Publications as co-editorial directors overseeing Interview, Art in America and The Magazine Antiques, and also reportedly received a small stake in the company. […]
But the expensive relaunch came just as the economy tanked. As the Dow shrank from 12,000 in February 2008 to 8,500 by December, advertisers cut back on spending across print, and trimmed nonessential media properties from its media plans. Interview, a small niche title, often fell into that “add-on” category of magazines for fashion brands. Through 2008, the title’s ad pages — despite the September issue — fell 27 percent, to 656 pages. […]
Peter Brant’s increasing withdrawal from the company as his battle with Seymour Brant escalated in part contributed to Interview’s woes. By January, Ryan became involved in the family business (sister Kelly runs the online operations), first working with Art in America and The Magazine Antiques. […] During the transition, staff turnover ensued. Group publisher Katz was fired in January, and Peter Brant dismissed Baron, blaming costs, and Templer left with Baron. O’Brien tried to woo former Condé Nast Publications Inc. sales executive Samantha Fennell to become the new publisher, but she withdrew shortly after accepting the position. To replace Baron and Templer, O’Brien hired French design duo M/M Paris to oversee art direction.
Interview’s bottom line continued to struggle after Baron’s departure. This year’s first six issues carried 205 ad pages, 38 percent fewer than in 2008. “To be an independent magazine in America is a hard place to be when ad budgets shrink,” said David Lipman, ceo of his own ad agency, arguing that larger, stable titles do better in tough times. “When budgets shrink, [advertisers] go to what’s true and what you know. When you have a magazine that lacks confidence, as Interview has shown by the changes in the last few months, [an advertiser’s] confidence is shaken.”