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Listen: Inside Dawn Ostroff’s Last Days at Conde Nast Before Seguing to Spotify

Brands like Vogue, GQ and Architectural Digest are best known as classic magazine brands. But to a new generation of consumers, they’re being redefined as video destinations, too.

Expanding the scope of established media brands is Job One for Dawn Ostroff, who has just been named chief content officer for Spotify. She moves to the music streaming giant after seven years as CEO of Conde Nast Entertainment, where she’s been entrusted with turning print titles into multimedia machines. She made considerable progress on that front during her Conde Nast tenure, as she explained in the latest episode of the Variety podcast Strictly Business (recorded earlier this month before her move to Spotify was announced).

“The digital business for us is a real business, it’s been profitable for a few years,” Ostroff said. “It’s really a big part of the future of the company. There is no doubt for our company the digital video business is really a sound business model that has a huge amount of upside for us.”

The business of building video-first brands is not a new one for Ostroff, who has led some prominent TV networks including Lifetime and the CW. But as she found out after taking the job at Conde Nast in 2011, programming for digital platforms like YouTube and Snapchat is a very different proposition than primetime TV.

“It really was eye-opening to understand the way in which we make the content for the digital space has nothing to do with the way we create television ideas,” she recalled.

Ostroff has heard the same old sob story in the digital content space about fighting over the advertising-revenue scraps that Facebook and Google leave behind, but she sees plenty available money in the marketplace. She credits Conde Nast for instilling a sense of financial discipline in her that digital-native ventures looking to scale at all costs may have missed. “We didn’t have the luxury of that. We were funded by our parent company,” Ostroff said. “Our mandate was to scale and be profitable at the same time. So we really had to look at our business model very differently.”

Putting brands like Vogue and Glamour in a TV setting was Ostroff’s way of capitalizing on a missed opportunity Conde Nast should have seized long before she got to the company.

“We have brands that never became cable networks and, if you look back, they probably should have been and they probably would have been very successful given the verticals that all these brands play in,” said Ostroff. “We have an opportunity to leapfrog over what was missed, which was cable, and create those kind of verticals and channels in the digital space.”

Listen to the full podcast below.

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