Media Moves

New York magazine cuts issues

December 3, 2013

Posted by Liz Hester

While it may not be well known outside the five boroughs of New York City, the magazine of the same name is something of a must-read for certain in-the-know city dwellers. A mix of culture, fashion, design, products and news, the magazine often wins awards and sparks conversations. The announcement the weekly was moving to a bi-monthly prompted many to shake their heads at the state of print media.

David Carr of the New York Times wrote this in his column about the move:

Since its founding in 1968, New York magazine has served as a prototype of literate, high-tempo publishing, using its weekly cadence and location in one of the world’s cultural capitals to usher in a new, more intimate and frank approach to what a publication could be.

Using the tenets of so-called New Journalism, the magazine helped popularize the knowing, skeptical voices of writers including Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, Gloria Steinem and Nora Ephron. It was the birthplace of both Ms. Magazine and the concept of “radical chic.”

Now, this magazine that has been at the vanguard of Manhattan publishing for almost five decades is acknowledging that the cutting edge is not necessarily a lucrative, or sustainable proposition, at least on the same schedule.

Beginning in March, New York will retreat from its long-standing status as a weekly and come out every other week instead.

Along with the closing of the printed Newsweek and the planned spin-off of Time Inc., which includes the weeklies Time and People, the move to bi-weekly publishing represents the end of an era and underscores the dreary economics of print and its diminishing role in a future that’s already here.

The change will beget misty eyes from magazine geeks — myself among them — while other consumers will shrug and dive into the ever-changing web version of New York magazine that shows up in their browser.

The weekly schedule of New York has already been squeezed, so that the magazine comes out only 42 weeks a year. Soon it will be 26 times a year, with three additional special issues — best doctors, the annual gift guide and a food-and-drink issue.

Fashion Times did a blurb about the new publication, choosing to focus on the redesign instead of the cuts:

The Cut, which is New York Magazine‘s popular online fashion website, will be rendered into the print version beginning in March.

While it’s too soon to say exactly what will be included in the new version, it has been confirmed that the section will include a “Life in Pictures” feature, which will tell stories through photography. To that end, the magazine will focus more heavily on content that takes advantage of print. The Cut section of the magazine will be similar to the rest of the already-established sections, but with a focus on fashion. Previously, every third issue of New York Magazine would have four pages dedicated to fashion. But now, fashion will get six pages in each issue.

Each issue of the revamped version of New York Magazine will include four big sections instead of the current three, as well as four big stories instead of three. Columnists will report on sex, business and potentially technology.

Carr of the NYT writes that it isn’t readers the magazine is losing, but cuts are due to drops in ads and prices:

Journalistically, New York magazine has prospered, winning a string of big awards on the way to being named Magazine of the Year in 2013 by the American Society of Magazine Editors. But that doesn’t pay the bills, a job that increasingly falls to the website, which includes NYmag.comVulture.comThe Cut and Grub Street. Digital revenues have been growing at a rate of 15 percent year-over-year, and in the coming year will surpass print advertising revenues, according to Mr. Burstein. But part of the reason those lines are crossing is that the print revenues are plummeting.

New York, with a current subscriber base just above 400,000, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, got clobbered after the 2008 recession when classified ads went missing and stayed that way. So far this year, the magazine is down 9.2 percent in ad pages compared with the same period last year, which was miserable as well.

The brand New York is hardly dying. New York magazine’s web traffic grew 19 percent in the last eight months, to more than nine million unique visitors a month, according to comScore. But to keep up that rate of growth in a competitive set that includes publicly held companies like The New York Times and upstarts like the venture-capital backed online news site BuzzFeed, the magazine had to reduce costs to find the money to fund the part of the business that is growing.

The New York Post compared the cuts to what happened at the now-closed Newsweek:

The move to slash frequency is the latest sign that newsweeklies are a troubled commodity.

The demise of Newsweek’s print edition at the end of 2012 is the most glaring example. The magazine was still losing $20 million a year despite a merger with the Daily Beast news site at Barry Diller’s IAC Interactive Corp.

The Newsweek name was sold to IBT Media, owner of International Business Times, and most of the former staff was laid off. IBT Media continues to publish the title as a digital-only format although print editions are still produced by overseas licensees.

It’s always sad to see a magazine reduce its publication, but the bright side is that New York has figured out how to market, package and make money on the web. And that’s what many others in the industry are struggling to do, indicating the company will still be turning out pithy coverage for some time to come.

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