Monthly Archives: July 2012

Case Study 1: New York Magazine

The Magazine

New York Magazine is one of the most well-known publications that was born and raised in New York, and covers news, culture, and living in the City in such a way that, as an established cultural institution, it not only is influenced by the city but influences the city itself. The magazine was founded in April 1968 by editor Clay Felker and has 1.8 million readers per week. The current editor of the magazine is Adam Moss. New York Media, the company that publishes the magazine, is owned by Bruce Wasserstein.

The Rise of Blogs

Blogging has had an undeniable influence on magazine publishing, and one way that traditional publishers have kept up with the trend in light of digital magazines like Slate and independent bloggers who rise to fame and influence like Syle Rookie, is by creating blogs of their own. New York Magazine’s website generates 25% of its revenue. New York has profited heavily off the popularity of their small number of high-quality blogs which generate constant content.

Vulture alone is established enough to have its own spot on the magazine’s about page, and rather than having a web address that reads “nymag.com/vulture”, it has its own website, “vulture.com“. Vulture has its own twitter account and its “partners”–the other blogs that put it deep into a mesh of powerful entertainment blogs–include Celebuzz, the Hollywood Reporter, Moviefone, and HuffPost TV. It is interesting that they are connected to the Huffington Post, which is so massive and widely influential in the online media landscape yet clearly reached that position by re-phrasing and re-posting the news stories of many other media outlets.

The main categories at the top of the Vulture homepage are Movies, TV, and Music, with others listed under “etc…”– Books, Art, Theater. I think this also reflects the waning mass-media influence of those latter three forms in comparison to the first three. No doubt quick and free (and illegal) distribution of Movies, TV, and Music through the Internet has helped those media forms sustain their popularity in the digital age.

Similarly, Grub Street had its own URL, and expanded from a blog about New York City restaurants and dining to one covering everything foodie in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. New York Magazine acquired Menupages in 2008 to enhance its restaurant database and add menus to their reviews and descriptions.

New York’s other blogs include The Cut (their fashion blog, which appears to not be popular enough to have its own URL) and the Daily Intel (their local news blog, and also more firmly attached to New York than Vulture of Grub Street). They also have The Sports Section, which is  listed as one of their blogs yet is not at the bar at the top of the page. This “hierarchy” that emerges from the visibility, variety, and prominence of their 5 blogs is a telling indication of their readers and their primary interests. Entertainment and food top the list, while snarky takes on local news and style are of interest but not primary, and sports are pushed to the bottom of the ladder.

The motivation for making Grub Street national must have at least in part stemmed from readers in urban areas across America reading New York and looking for something like it in their own city, and probably stemmed in equal parts from the employees at New York hoping to convince urban dwellers across America that New York had something to offer them, too. Vulture and Grub Street also lend themselves to national discussions and topics more readily than the other two prominent blogs–there is food everywhere, and media/entertainment is more powerful and abundant around LA than NY (particularly the TV and movie industries, which Vulture covers heavily), so it makes sense for both of those blogs to branch out. On the other hand, Daily Intel is, by definition, local. As for The Cut, the fashion industry is arguably centered in NY, but even if someone makes a case for other cities, they would typically be in Europe rather than other parts of America, which is why it maintains its NY-centric blogging.

New Technology and Looking Forward

A few years ago, the quality and acclaim of the magazine was increasing, however, a correlating rise in readership did not occur. New York had a content and design overhaul, which it got largely positive feedback for, but the concrete monetary results of that were not seen immediately. As previously stated, the editor claimed that their website–the content from the magazine, additional stories, and five blogs–generate 25% of the magazine’s revenue. The magazine in recent years has been more focused and shaped by those who are working on it, so it does not fall into the same category as The New Yorker, and does not feel like a glossy version of The New York Times, but instead is something more brash, more open, more now. This idea of being both provocative and current is one that permeates everything the magazine does. Their Lindsay Lohan as Marilyn Monroe shoot drew 150 million page views and crashed the website!

New York’s entry into the digital magazine app market has seen not only its magazine app but also iPhone and iPad apps specifically for Vulture and The Cut–two blogs full of rich visual media which lend themselves well to touch screen forms.   It seems like for now, the website is much more successful than the apps are, which is common to many publications as we are still not used to digital media forms (and the idea that now we, again, have to pay for our publications) or big fans of the format of them.

Each issue on the iPad app is $4.99 (the newsstand issues are $5.99–a pretty small difference considering how reluctant consumers are to pay for virtual items rather than physical items we can hold in our hands; e-books have a much greater markdown as compared to their physical paperback versions). In the iTunes store, the app has not received very good reviews (it has a 2-star rating), some cite issues with updates and others say that it just flat-out looks worse on the iPad then it does in real life. This is probably because the iPad app for New York Magazine is a glorified pdf file rather than an actual interactive application, with no custom design features that utilized the iPad’s unique user interface. The only benefit you get to having it on an iPad rather than in print is that they have live-updated feeds from their aforementioned blogs. Like many other magazines, in order for New York to profit more from their iPad and iPhone apps, they need to connect the richness and hyperlink-heavy web format with the sleek and beautiful touch-screen format, to give an experience that truly goes beyond that of the physical magazine or the digital site.

The Magazine of the City, or of the City for the World?

I think New York is on the right track by bringing their news and blogs into the national arena rather than sticking to city-centric distribution. New York City is not only influential to those who are living in it, but the entire country and world. It is a cultural center and media-rich metropolis that has its own perspective to offer, and that New York Magazine embraces and informs. On the cover of the most recent issue, the headlines highlighted stories about the Good Food under $25 (“Cheap Eats”, though New York Magazine reveals their high-end readership by calling it this since $25 is not exactly cheap for one meal to most New York City residents), the Mets, Rupert Murdoch, the Universe, Spike Lee, Reddit, Parenting, and Marc Maron. The stories are diverse but have a distinctively New York flavor, and this is what makes the Magazine a powerful publication with a memorable and easily discernable voice.

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Key Questions!

1. How is the media landscape changing in New York City? How will magazine publishers update their content to adapt to a changing media landscape?

(This question is more about the influence of Independent bloggers)

2. How is technology impacting the publishing industry in New York City? How will publishers modify their business plans and prevailing revenue sources to adapt to technological advances?

(This question is about free articles online, iPad apps, etc.)

3. How will New York City retain its cultural importance in the magazine industry now that journalism is global, in the internet age?

(This is about maintaining or modifying the old guard with the heavy influence of the City on magazines’ content and readership)

Controversial (Recent) Magazine Covers

Overview: History and Future of Magazines in New York

Magazines! The glossy periodicals have delighted readers for over a century, their paperback binding full of big beautiful photographs and intriguing articles. The experience of reading, carrying, and flipping through a magazine is something that many have cherished, and still do;

Most consumers still prefer to read hard copies of magazines… (source)

New York City is undoubtably the center of the magazine industry in the USA, both because it is the home of three massive publishing houses (Condé Nast, Hearst, and Time Warner) and because it is a media linchpin in general, for the nation and the world.

Two magazines that are native to the city and still have strong followings (within and beyond the city) today are The New Yorker and New York Magazine. The New Yorker was founded in 1925 as a “sophisticated humor magazine”, gradually evolving into its current identity as a leader in magazine journalism and literature (source). In recent election years (2004, 2008), the magazine endorsed the Democratic candidates, cementing its status as a publication targeted at the ‘liberal élite’. It is now owned by Condé Nast. New York magazine is a newer publication, printing its first issue in 1968 as a competitor to the The New Yorker (yet their styles and focuses quickly diverged). In 1972, the magazine launched Ms. magazine as a special issue, spearheaded by Gloria Steinem (source). Aligning themselves with feminism, modern culture, and a unique lifestyle/city living hybrid, New York also securely attached itself to liberal ideas and political inclinations. New York is not owned by any of the big three publishing houses, and instead operates under its own corporation.

The three publishing giants have their own stories to share. Condé Nast was founded in 1909 with the purchase of Vogue magazine. The eponymous publishing house passed ownership to the Newhouse family in 1959 and they have owned the house ever since, now as a division of Advance Publications. Hearst, on the other hand, is a mass media group with divisions including Television, Magazines, and Interactive Media. It was founded in 1887 by William Randolph Hearst in San Francisco and is continually acquiring various print and digital media brands. Time Warner, the largest of the three by far, is a combination of Warner Communications, Time Inc., and Turner Broadcasting System (source). Time Warner has the diverse media assets of Hearst, including Movies, Radio, and Publishing, but is a larger corporation.

Before the advent of widespread internet access and the rise of free and abundant online content, magazines were a popular and lucrative form of media. They generate most of their income from advertisements printed in the pages of the magazine. Looking at some figures, it appears that they are doing very well, and that magazines are perhaps stronger than ever! In 1994, total advertising revenue was $8.5 billion, while in 2011 that figure was $20 billion. Even after accounting for inflation this is an undeniable increase. So print isn’t dead after all!

That single figure does not quite tell the full story about the changing state of media. 2012 is the first year that online advertising revenue is expected to surpass ad revenue from newspapers and magazines combined. The amount of money spent on online advertising has skyrocketed, and the overall amount spent on advertising is also on the rise. Perhaps this is due to the multitudes of new media outlets that are created each day with the resources of blogging websites and easily available publishing tools. Increased competition is forcing many magazine publishers to cut back, sometimes on staff, sometimes on entire magazines. Call it creative destruction, but in my opinion, this change is not necessarily a bad one. As the internet allows for the democratization of media and turns everyone with a smartphone or laptop into a reporter, it also gives large media companies many new opportunities and ways to reach out to larger and more diverse audiences than they could have before.

One of the biggest challenges that magazine publishers have in the coming years is figuring out ways to diversify, modernize, and generate real revenue from their content. Internet users quickly adapted to the idea that while books, newspapers, and magazines all cost money, the same articles and images will be online for free. People are slowly adapting to the idea that perhaps we will have to pay small fees for professionally generated digital content, but this must be both cheaper than print and also give us something that paper could not (source). There are many opportunities to do this, including integration with social media, transforming the typical medium into something more personalized that revolves around an all-encompassing brand, and updating the traditional magazine page to include to include videos and interactive elements in an e-reader or tablet app. There is also potential for new methods of distribution, including a sort of “all-you-can-read” model and instantly-updated digital subscriptions. The ubiquity of mobile technology is no doubt a boon to the industry as they look to shift into digital magazines.

Magazines in New York City have a rich history behind them, and a bright future ahead!

Overview Meta: Magazine Publishers of New York City

For the NYU Summer course Cultural Capital: Media & Arts of NYC, I chose to research the Magazines sector. New York is home to the “big three” publishing giants* which each own a variety of popular titles:

Condé Nast (VogueWGlamourAllureSelfTeen Vogue, GQDetailsLuckyArchitectural DigestBridesGolf Digest, Golf WorldBon AppétitCondé Nast TravelerWiredVanity FairThe New YorkerWWD, Gourmet)

Hearst (Harper’s BazaarELLEMarie ClaireCosmopolitanEsquireCar and DriverCountry LivingElle DecorGood HousekeepingHouse BeautifulO, The Oprah MagazinePopular MechanicsRedbookRoad & TrackSeventeenTown & CountryVerandaWoman’s Day)

Time Warner (All YouCoastal LivingCooking LightEntertainment WeeklyEssenceFORTUNEGolfHealthInStyleLIFEMoney, PeopleReal SimpleSouthern LivingSports IllustratedSunsetThis Old HouseTIME)

For my sector Overview, I will be analyzing their history & development for background, but more importantly, how they are utilizing new media to bring publishing into the Digital Age, and how they are differentiating their content in a time of over-abundant information. For my case studies, I will be focusing instead on two magazines which are not owned by these companies. Some magazines with wide distribution that are not owned by the big three are listed here:

Magazines with large paid-subscription-based circulation in the USA which are not owned by these companies include National GeographicBetter Homes and GardensLadies’ Home JournalFamily CircleReader’s DigestParentingESPN MagazineSmithsonianMartha Stewart LivingTV GuideUs Weekly, Men’s HealthNewsweekRolling StonePlayboyPopular ScienceTravel + LeisureFood & WineBloomberg Businessweek, and Forbes. Many of these are owned by the Meredith Corporation, based in Des Moines, Iowa.

Yet my two Case Studies will not focus on magazines from that list, either! The two magazines that I want to look into are New York Magazine, which is locally focused, and Fast Company, which is a rapidly growing business magazine. Both have seen recent updates to their design and content, and have very robust websites. I am interested in seeing how they embraced technology while keeping up their print magazines and utilizing that form, too. Since they don’t have the massive power of these publishing houses behind them, I am interested in seeing how this helps or hinders them. Perhaps they are given more freedom to make large sweeping changes because they don’t have a lot of bureaucracy to deal with? Or they are more dependent on subscribers to make a profit because they don’t attract as many advertisers?

Stay tuned!