Phillip Picardi to lead Teen Vogue after Elaine Welteroth’s departure

Phillip Picardi, digital editorial director of Teen Vogue, will serve as chief content officer at Teen Vogue following the departure of editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth last week.

Picardi will fully take over operations of Teen Vogue in its completely digital state, while jointly running Them, a new LGBTQ-focused publication he founded at the end of 2017. Condé Nast announced Welteroth was stepping down in an internal memo to staff members last Thursday, coming just eight months after she was elevated to editor-in-chief and two months after the magazine decided to shutter its print edition

Sources had earlier confirmed Picardi’s Teen Vogue appointment prior to Condé Nast’s official announcement on Wednesday morning. In a release confirming his new role on Wednesday, Anna Wintour, artistic director of Condé Nast and editor-in-chief of Vogue, said Picardi has been influential in engaging younger audiences. Picardi did not respond to request to comment for this story.

Picardi will be tasked with regaining Teen Vogue’s momentum after a decline in digital readership. After riding a traffic high in July 2017, during which comScore reported more than 9 million unique visitors, the digital publication has taken a readership hit in recent months. By October 2017, it had dipped to just under 5 million unique visitors, before rising slightly to 5.2 million in November 2017.

In addition to navigating traffic fluctuations, the transitions at Teen Vogue point to larger tumult at Condé Nast. Like its competitors and peer organizations, the company has continued to struggle to fight against an uncertain media market that has gone from “pivoting to video” to losing visibility on Facebook. In just over a year, Self magazine shuttered its print publication completely, the relaunch of in the U.S. remained indefinitely stalled, and notable longtime editors Glamour’s Cindi Leive, British Vogue’s Alexandra Shulman and Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter have been replaced.

Welteroth at a holiday party celebrating new Vanity Fair editor, Radhika Jones. 

Welteroth, who was the first African-American beauty director at Teen Vogue in 2012, became the second black editor-in-chief in Condé Nast’s history when she was promoted to head of editorial in April 2016. While it was rumored that Welteroth would take over as head of Glamour, the glossy shared last week that it tapped CNN digital producer, Samantha Barry. According to reports, Welteroth is now expected to pursue a career in television after signing with the Creative Artists Agency. In addition to serving as the face of Teen Vogue’s newly launched summit series, she also has writing credits on ABC’s “Black-ish.” (Picardi is also expected to take over the summit series in her absence.)

Despite Welteroth’s prolifically upbeat social media posts, a former Teen Vogue staffer who spoke on the basis of anonymity said the workplace atmosphere under Welteroth was less than cheery. Rifts among Teen Vogue’s leadership allegedly began shortly after Wintour appointed Welteroth to editor-in-chief, and they continued leading into last week’s announcement.

“It created some tension, and it absolutely trickled down,” the former employee said. “It was a very difficult working environment, and it didn’t need to be. Everyone at Teen Vogue is super passionate and hard-working. They did a good job of hiring a good staff, but we weren’t treated well.”

According to the employee, what was once was a harmonious relationship between Welteroth, Picardi and creative director Marie Suter — who shared joint responsibility for the publication until Welteroth was elevated — grew soured. They said, as Welteroth became the public face of the company, she routinely took credit for the work of Picardi and his team, largely using her social media accounts to do so.

“Phil really is the person that elevated Teen Vogue to become this political powerhouse, and I think Elaine took credit for a lot of his work,” the staffer said. “It set up a situation where, once she was announced editor-in-chief, it didn’t bode well for that relationship.”

While operations allegedly grew rocky behind the scenes, Teen Vogue became a rising authority on an array of social issues, many in direct response to policies enacted by the administration of President Donald Trump. Leading into the beginning of 2017, the publication brought on Lauren Duca to run a new column called “Thigh High Feminism” and shortly after launched a “Woke Letter,” a newsletter that compiled timely articles on topics like LGBTQ issues, immigrations and sex positivity. (Duca declined to comment for this article.)

According to the staffer, when print was shuttered, Welteroth attempted to get more involved with digital to no avail, given it was already smooth-sailing under Picardi. The former employee also expressed lack of sensitivity on behalf of Condé Nast, which the source said likely had an indication that Teen Vogue was on its print deathbed when it appointed Welteroth just six months before shuttering it completely.

“The daily grind that digital takes to maintain and the output of articles you put out a day — it’s not something you can casually swoop in on,” the staffer said. “I don’t think Elaine has that many allies left at Teen Vogue. The staff was hyper aware that this was going on.”

Though Welteroth did not respond to request to comment, she took to Instagram over the weekend to share parting words with the publication, in two separate posts commemorating her time there. Picardi is not mentioned in either of the posts. (One commenter asked “Why is Phillip missing from this narrative?”)

When I moved to New York City at 21 as an editorial intern, my greatest dream was to become Editor-in-Chief. It was a goal too intimidating to even say aloud. I was convinced it was totally out of reach for someone with no connections, no trust fund, and no fancy clothes. I pursued the path anyway. Eventually, I started believing the vision placed inside of me. I learned to shrug off the fear of failure, and how to refuse the urge to shrink—even when I was asked to. . Now, at 31, God has broken the glass ceiling on all of my wildest childhood dreams. My bucket list is all checked off and somewhere along the way I’ve managed to join the ranks of unstoppable women who’ve, throughout history, stared back into the face of the unknown and decided to MAKE IT HAPPEN. . Now, it is time to dream even bigger. . After six life-changing years at Conde Nast, I’ve decided to leave the company. Leading @TeenVogue at a time such as this, alongside some of the most talented people in the industry has been the most rewarding experience of my editorial career. It has helped me discover how to use my voice to empower young people and girls. This will continue to be a major focus for me as I take my next step—because beyond the compelling covers, and groundbreaking conversations we started online, cultivating this incredible community is what I am most proud of. . You are a beautiful, inclusive tribe of thinkers, doers, and dreamers who challenge me to be better every day. Getting to know you, both online and in person, has been the absolute greatest joy of my job. And I’m excited to take you all along for the ride into my next chapter. . What I know now that I didn’t know at 21 is that life is a series of dreams realized. There is no destination, but there will be breakthrough after breakthrough along the way. Our greatest obligation is to keep reaching, to continue growing, to push beyond what seems possible, to live outside the boxes created for us. That is exactly what 2018 is about for me, and for all of us. I’m beyond excited for what the future holds—if 2017 taught us anything, it’s to never underestimate the power of a black woman…✌❤️✊ #TeenVogueForever #ontothenext

A post shared by Elaine Welteroth (@elainewelteroth) on

The first of Elaine Welteroth’s posts honoring her time at Teen Vogue. 

“It wasn’t easy, and it won’t be easy going forward,” she wrote in the second post. “But what I know for sure is that same spirit of reinvention (rebellion!) that transformed Teen Vogue will live on, and I could not have more confidence in the team presiding over the future of this special brand.”

This article has been updated to include an official statement from Anna Wintour, artistic director of Condé Nast and editor-in-chief of Vogue.

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