One last General Motors-Condé Nast parallel worth pursing: Both companies have been badly run by executives who invested more effort in pursuing perks, status, and empire-building than chasing profits. Writing in a slightly different context, Condé Nast veteran Tina Brown summed up what ails the magazine company in an April post on the Daily Beast: "The court of the Sun King is a rats' nest of competing favorites who jostle for the 81-year-old supremo's [S.I. Newhouse] attention."
Disclosure: The New Yorker Festival, a Condé Nast operation, hired me in 2008 to appear on a panel about political coverage. I left Wired, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair out of my Condé Nast calculus because they don't seem to compete directly with their corporate cousins. Tell me how I'm wrong via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. See my Twitter feed for cheap enlightenment. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)