Esquire Launches an Expansive, Paid Digital Archive to Mark Its 1,000th Issue

Making old content profitable again

For its 1,000th issue, Esquire is reaching back into its storied past.

Esquire debuted in the autumn of 1933 with contributions from Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos and Dashiell Hammett. Over its 82-year existence, the famed men's magazine has featured stories from other literary heavyweights including John Steinbeck, Norman Mailer and Stephen King.

"Most people have never read the 17 or 18 F. Scott Fitzgerald stories we ran," David Granger, the magazine's editor in chief, told Adweek. "They've never read the David Foster Wallace stories that we ran."

Now they can.

To help kick off its landmark October 2015 issue, Esquire has launched a digital archive, Esquire Classic, that will house all previous 999 issues of the magazine. The subscription product costs $4.99 per month (with a free month to start), or $45 per year for non subscribers and $30 for current Esquire subscribers. Esquire Classic presents the old issues, page-by-page, as they were when they first ran—including classic advertisements.

"We wanted to look into ways of getting more value from the work that we do," said Granger. "We've spent a lot of time over the last 82 years creating great stories and great editorial."

Most of Esquire's current readership was not alive in the 1930s when Fitzgerald's stories were first published in the magazine. Granger hopes Esquire Classic will give those old stories new life for generations to come. "This is all completely fresh content to the vast majority of people," he said.

The encyclopedically organized 1,000th issue highlights the people, places and important events from the magazine's 82-year history. Jack Essig, svp and publishing director, said this structure allows advertisers to integrate their products with certain letters of the alphabet, such as:

  • "C" for cocktails. Ketel One (celebrating its 325 anniversary) will get a custom gatefold featuring classic cocktails to celebrate the brand's heritage.
  • To honor the history of men's facial hair trends and maintenance, The Art of Shaving purchased a custom gatefold unit adjacent to "S" for shaving.
  • Timberland chose "M" for man via a special custom unit called "Modern Trail," connecting "essentials for the modern man with timeless style."

Essig said the publication sold eight different customized units for this issue, which is up 50 percent in advertising revenue over last October.

Esquire also connected the digital archive to the commemorative issue with the help of the app Shazam. Readers will find the Shazam logo on nearly every page of the magazine; when they snap a photo of the logo with their app, their mobile devices will pull up some of the magazine's most popular content over the years, including advertisements. 

"We used this issue as a way to launch, basically, an entire new business," said Granger, on the digital archive. "This is meant to be an ancillary business to Esquire."