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.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: