Mr. Sauerberg tried to stifle the chatter on Tuesday, when he released a statement that Ms. Wintour "has agreed to work with me indefinitely in her role as editor in chief, Vogue, and artistic director of Condé Nast."
It will take more than corporate stability, however, to reverse the company's slide.
The $120 million loss in 2017 was the result of a sharp decline in the ad revenue generated by the print magazines. Gains in the digital arena have offset the loss, but not enough to make the company profitable.
Based in part on the recommendation of Boston Consulting Group, the three magazines that the company will try to sell are Brides, Golf Digest and W, the three executives said.
John Wagner, who oversees ad spending at the media agency PHD, questioned the company's strategy, saying that Condé Nast can be "quick to close things, versus trying to find a solution." He added, "I'd like to see them continue to invest — keep the brands alive, even if you have to change their rate base or publishing frequency."
Expense budgets, already less than what they were in the days of leisurely lunches, are getting tighter. One publication recently informed its contract writers that their fees had been cut.
The $120 million loss — for a publisher once accustomed to hundreds of millions in annual profits — has put pressure on Mr. Sauerberg, who joined Condé Nast as an executive vice president in 2005 and rose to the top position in 2016.
The Newhouse family remains at the helm. It entered the business in 1959, when Samuel I. Newhouse, a self-made newspaper magnate, bought Condé Nast for $5 million. His elder son, Samuel I. Newhouse Jr., a self-effacing executive known as Si, expanded the company after taking charge in 1975. During his roughly 40 years in charge, Mr. Newhouse, who died last October, revived a moribund publication, Vanity Fair, purchased The New Yorker and installed Ms. Wintour as the editor of Vogue.
Condé Nast is a subsidiary of a Newhouse company, Advance Publications, which is controlled by Donald Newhouse, 89, and his son, Steven O. Newhouse, 61. Jonathan Newhouse, 65, a cousin of Si, is the chairman of Condé Nast International, home to British Vogue and dozens of other international editions. That arm is something of a corporate oasis, given that Europeans, unlike Americans, have yet to give up the magazine habit.
While many of the roughly 30 newspapers in the Newhouse chain have endured layoffs and other cost-saving measures, the Newhouses' fortunes have not suffered, thanks to the family's $10.4 billion sale of its cable businesses to Charter Comunications in 2016. A provision of the sale gives Advance an additional annual payment of $150 million, considered the equivalent of a dividend, cushioning the parent company and its controlling family from the magazine publisher's recent losses.
Condé Nast has gone through fits and starts as it has sought to revise its corporate identity for the digital age. Until last month, Dawn Ostroff was the head of Condé Nast Entertainment, the unit devoted to digital video, as well as film and television projects that was started in 2011. She left the company for Spotify with little warning.
But the video business she oversaw is very much on the rise and will significantly narrow the company's losses this year, two executives said. Mr. Sauerberg highlighted the division earlier this summer in a companywide email. "We crossed an important milestone," he said. "Our web and video businesses have grown so significantly, their revenue surpassed print for the first time in the company's history."
The company is building its future around that business. That means Condé Nast is morphing from a company of glossy print magazines with high-priced ads into a producer of short-form videos with commercials. The videos range from how-to shorts affiliated with Glamour and Allure to more elaborate celebrity interviews produced for Vogue and W. The Vogue series, "73 Questions With," has generated more than 300 million views since it began in 2014.
Volume will be a key to returning to profitability. Each month the company produces an average of 417 videos that play on YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and its own websites. Some series tackle subjects not often associated with Condé Nast. "Last Chance U," a documentary focused on college athletes from disadvantaged backgrounds, stands out from the other fare. Produced by Condé Nast, it appears on Netflix.
In addition to Ms. Ostroff, Mr. Sauerberg lost another top lieutenant last month with the exit of Josh Stinchcomb, who oversaw 23 Stories, the company's in-house advertising unit.
Condé Nast has also made bad bets in recent years. Last year it pulled the plug on its attempt at an online fashion retail site, Style.com, after nine months of development and an investment of more than $100 million. But recent investments may boost its online ad business. Advance spent $500 million in 2015 to acquire 1010data Inc., a startup that helps collect and analyze data for advertising and subscription purposes. Last year, Condé Nast bought CitizenNet, which has helped the company sell targeted ads.
The main obstacle, though, has been the loss in print readers and advertising dollars. Circulation continued to go down through May of this year, with Glamour, GQ, Allure, Architectural Digest and Golf Digest decreasing by 6 percent or more, according to MPA, the Association of Magazine Media. And as iPhone-entranced pedestrians drifted past newsstands, the company lost more than 20 percent of its ad pages last year, according to figures from research firm Kantar Media.
A sign of things to come was the hiring last year of Samantha Barry, who succeeded Cindi Leive, a Condé Nast veteran, as the editor of Glamour. Ms. Barry had no experience as a print editor, having run social media for CNN before taking over the magazine.
When her first issue landed in the spring, eyes within the company were fixed on the cover. In a starkly trimmed black-and-white scheme with a heavy border, it featured the actress Melissa McCarthy under the theme, "#the money issue," hashtag and all.
The verdict? A few editors were not impressed, according to several people familiar with the matter. It looked like a facsimile of a magazine, one of them said.
But that same cover elicited a different reaction from younger staff members, who are at a great remove from the company's mythos.
"Awesome!" a young editor said.