Shrewd print and online strategies have helped New York magazine to defy the global downturn in magazine and newspaper market. In an article published by AdAge, Matthew Flamm writes that the magazine has experienced its best year in a decade, and it’s not hard to understand why. 2012 has seen the title win a flurry of awards, expand its online presence and attract national and international audiences.
It’s a story that sits at odds with the fortunes of the American magazine industry in general. The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) reported a 10 percent decrease in magazine newsstand sales and a month ago the Publishers Information Bureau revealed that advertising has suffered an 8.8 percent year-on-year drop. Newsweek’s financial crisis may be the most extreme example of a magazine in decline, but other major magazine brands at Condé Nast, Time Inc. and others are suffering from loss of ad and circulation revenue.
So how exactly has this supposedly regional magazine managed to boost revenues and attract 4.8 million unique online users in August alone?
For the most part, the answer is rather simple: foresight. While Newsweek’s owners are planning on making the title a digital-first enterprise in the near future, New York has been establishing an online presence since 2004. Eight years ago investment banker Bruce Wasserstein acquired both a New York encumbered by economic difficulties and poor editorial choices and its website NYMetro.com (which would later become today’s nymag.com) for $55 million. Under the guidance of Editor-in-Chief Adam Moss, New York soon began to flaunt the potential of its website. A re-launch in 2006 elevated the site from its status as the magazine’s lowly-sidekick and made it an editorial force in its own right.
By featuring blogs on general-interest subjects like sports, food and fashion, which could be of interest to readers beyond New York’s five boroughs, the site attracted an impressive national following. Today, 80 percent of all visitors to nymag.com come from outside New York. Advertisers were quick to interest themselves in a site that had managed to create a space for itself in the national arena and online advertising has contributed to a 6 percent rise in the title’s revenue. In turn, the website sought to fully exploit the most profitable section of its business – fashion advertising - by increasing and developing its lifestyle coverage. Last month The Cut blog was expanded in attempts to transform it into “a high-end fashion magazine with the scrappiness of a blog.”
Moss and his team have sought to achieve a similar breadth of reach through the print product, too. Cover stories range from being incredibly New York-centric to covering political figures and issues that have little bearing on the city itself.
New York magazine has not been entirely unaffected by the present economic climate, though any pain experienced has been minimal. Circulation fell by 2 percent this year and reader numbers are generally stagnant, but thanks to increases in cover prices reader-revenue has grown.
Unfortunately, the forward-thinking in evidence at New York will have little, if any, impact on the fortunes of other embattled news weeklies, whose editors are too busy trying make online content pay to develop and build a time machine.