Underscoring the difficulties facing print media, New York magazine today confirmed speculation that it’s going biweekly. Starting with the March 3, 2014, issue, the 45-year-old magazine will publish 29 issues annually, down from 42, while expanding its online presence. In print, New York will feature three new special issues devoted to single topics (best doctors, gift guide, food and drink); 20 percent more editorial content; a new fashion section, the Cut; and new columnists. Nymag.com will grow its coverage of verticals like Vulture and the Cut with 15 new hires and introduce a new Instagram channel, along with additional mobile and native advertising opportunities.
The magazine's leadership positioned the changes as better serving readers and advertisers alike, despite the fact that readers will effectively be paying more (the sub price for 29 issues will stay the same as 42 issues, $29.97, while the newsstand price will increase to $6.99 from $5.99) and advertisers will lose the appeal of a regular weekly product with which to get their message out. Publisher Larry Burstein said he expected readers to accept the effective price increase because they would be getting a better product. "There'll be more content, and it'll be sort of a bigger product." As for advertisers, he said they've "totally embraced" the print frequency cut because "the ads will be around longer."
New York is celebrated for its reporting and design, regularly winning handfuls of National Magazine Awards under its editor Adam Moss and making news with provocative covers like this one featuring disgraced pols Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner. Despite its name, New York has a substantial following outside its home base; about one-third of its 408,000 circulation comes from outside the New York DMA, and 80 percent of its Web traffic is non-New York.
At the same time, New York has been a digital trailblazer. It’s significantly expanded its website with new verticals devoted to culture, food and fashion, reducing its reliance on print more than most magazines. The brand’s total online audience has soared (rising 40 percent to 18 million monthly uniques in the past year, per the company, citing Omniture SiteCatalyst), and the magazine is on track to get more than half its revenue from digital next year, The New York Times reported). Earlier this year, New York introduced an enhanced iPad app that, in a fresh alternative to the replica model, included daily content from its blogs to encourage repeat usage.
Still, with print dollars translating into digital dimes, all those moves haven’t been enough to offset the economic realities of print publishing that have been particularly tough on weeklies (exhibit 1: Newsweek). Burstein said the overall company would be profitable this year (and save $3.5 million from the frequency cut), but regardless, the print ad picture is grim; New York’s print ad pages declined 9.2 percent to 1,475 through the first nine months of this year, per Publishers Information Bureau. And New York faces growing online competition from the likes of BuzzFeed (which, coincidentally, had its own announcement today, that it had reached 130 million unique visitors in November). In another auspicious event, in 2009, New York lost its benefactor Bruce Wasserstein, who bought it in 2004; at the time, the magazine called him a “perfect owner.”