New York Mag's Cutback Says Less Is More



jpeg-1Photo: Courtesy of New York Magazine.
New York magazine has been a staple for New Yorkers for over 40 years. On any given subway car, you can easily find a handful of people reading it during their commute. But, starting in March 2014, we'll be seeing fewer new covers on the platform. Beginning in March 2014, the magazine will cut back publication of the print edition from 42 weeks a year to 26. Readers will still see three additional special editions, however, the best doctors, annual gift guide, and food and drink issues.

Speaking to the major announcement, publisher Lawrence C. Burstein said: "We've talked about this for a while, and you can't help but get wistful about it," adding that, though it's a sad moment for New Yorkers, it's the lesser of two evils. "I would be more concerned if we didn't address how the market and people's reading habits have changed. I would not be doing this if I didn't believe we could make a better magazine and continue to grow what we do both in print and online." Burstein also explained that the magazine will take a more visually-driven approach to its content, a decision that we can only assume was dictated by the way readers now consume content.

A preference for more visual material was just a small factor to the new approach, however. For one thing, a drop in advertising across the industry has taken a toll on the magazine's print revenue. Additionally, The New York Times' David Carr makes an argument that New York magazine is likely trying to avoid a similar fate to Newsweek: "The punishing economics of being a stand-alone weekly can be explained in one word: Newsweek. The cost structure at a weekly makes the drop in ads across the industry an existential threat and, as happened at Newsweek, its benefactor is no longer in the picture: Bruce Wasserstein bought New York in 2004 and died in 2009. By all accounts his heirs are dedicated owners, but they know as well as anyone that Newsweek sold for $1 in 2010 and, after its new owner Sidney Harman died, limped along in a doomed merger with The Daily Beast until it ceased print publication last year. They and the people who work for them are trying to avoid that fate." We cannot help but be skeptical, however, of such a harsh comparison. As Carr himself notes, Wasserstein's heirs are very much involved in what is still a hugely successful brand. So, while it may be easy for a print publication to see Newsweek as a sort of cautionary tale, the family of vibrant titles under the New York brand (including Vulture, The Cut, and Grub Street) remain strong. Indeed, according to The New York Times, its digital revenues have grown 15% per year, and will surpass print ad revenues in the coming year. In other words, this isn't a case of an investor cutting and running — and the New York brand is by no means a fading one.

The real problem here is that in general, we don't love change, especially when it affects our nostalgic tokens. We've become so attached to the weekly offering of New York on our newsstand, that we can't help but feel a bit anxious at its reduction. Still, you'd better believe we'll keep clicking our way through its digital edition on the regular. (NY Times)