New York magazine is extending its entertainment site Vulture to its first live event. The Vulture Festival, set to be announced today, will consist of 16 events for consumers that are meant to bring the site's pop culture sensibility to life. It will be held May 10-11 at New York's Milk Studios.
Since its launch as a standalone site three years ago, Vulture has grown to more than 8 million monthly uniques, per New York magazine, citing Omniture, making a live event a logical place to take the brand. With a TV-centric slate of programming, the festival was timed to capitalize on the Upfronts, which kick off the TV ad buying season.
Ben Williams, digital editorial director of Vulture parent New York Media, said the Vulture Festival would offer everything from interviews to live discussions to performances, with a heavy focus on TV but including music and theater as well. Asked how it will compare with the New Yorker Festival popular with cultural elites, he said, "it's going to be more popular, more playful."
"If you think about the highbrow-lowbrow sensibility that you get in the Approval Matrix, it's going to be along those lines," he said of the magazine's popular back-of-the-book cultural approval grid.
Publishers have been looking to live events and conferences lately to reach new audiences and tap new revenue to make up for flagging print dollars. New York magazine already has as signature events New York Taste, New York Weddings and New York Culinary Experience.
The Vulture Festival will make money from sponsors and ticket sales; sponsors committed so far are Viceroy New York, Persol and Bridge Lane Wines. Publisher Larry Burstein said that assuming a certain level of ticket sales (events will be priced at $25 to $50 per ticket) based on the caliber of talent expected, the festival would be profitable in year one.
"We always felt like we could do this, based on the voice of Vulture and the type of audience we have," he said. "It's going to be a very strong event and a profitable one."
The expansion of Vulture comes as New York magazine has scaled back its print presence to 29 issues a year from 42 to help get the company to profitability this year. At the same time, it's added resources to verticals like Vulture and The Cut—ones which, because of their narrow content focus and national appeal, are often better positioned than New York itself to draw national advertising.
Burstein said he didn't see events like the Vulture Festival necessarily being a "magic wand to change the fundamentals of the business." But as another revenue stream, he said, they are "one more piece of the puzzle."