The Observer’s Next Target: Chinese Tourists

Company to launch first Chinese/English NYC luxury lifestyle mag

Since Jared Kushner bought the Observer Media Group in 2006, the business has focused heavily on generating advertorial supplements and ad-heavy verticals—from NYO Magazine, NYO Home, and NYO Tennis to Luxury Rentals, Observer Philanthropy, and The Observer's Hamptons.

Now, the Observer is targeting the high-end Chinese tourist market. On Nov. 12, it will launch YUE, a Chinese/English bilingual magazine marketing New York City luxury to Chinese visitors. YUE, which is the second Chinese character in Niu-Yue (New York City), is being launched in partnership with China Happenings, a multimedia platform published by Chiu-Ti Jansen, who started writing a column for NYO Magazine last year.

“A lot of retailers and brokers are very focused on how to market to the Chinese tourists,” Kushner told Adweek. “We have the pieces necessary to do that well, but partnering with Chiu-Ti helps us deliver a superior product.”

You don’t have to crunch too many numbers to see why a project like this makes sense. “New York has been ranked as the No. 1 tourist destination for Chinese tourists," Chiu-Ti said. Plus, those visitors—whether they're here for tourism or business—are generally willing to spend some money. "Ninety-four percent of people from China ranked shopping as their No. 1 priority in New York City, according to New York & Company," Chiu-Ti said. "One theme we constantly heard was that business visitors—CEOs, tycoons, or investors—usually come here, assuming they are male, with a shopping list from their wives,” she added, pointing to the project’s potential.

And both Kushner and Chiu-Ti emphasized that this is a largely untapped market. “It’s generally a mom-and-pop industry, so nobody is doing it well,” Kushner said.

As Adweek reported earlier this year, the Observer’s emphasis on ad-heavy verticals was a source of anger among former editorial and sales staffers, who feared that Kushner and his publisher, Christopher Barnes, were turning the once journalistically oriented company into a sales-focused organization.

“I am not surprised that some former employees did not welcome fiscal responsibility at the Observer,” Kushner countered at the time. “We believe that you can have a good business and a great editorial product.”

Should YUE succeed, the Observer has plans for a West Coast version of the magazine targeting Chinese visitors in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. A website and mobile application are scheduled for early next year.

Initial distribution for the first issue will be 35,000; it's expected to feature a lot of high-end advertisers. 

“This is going to be a very thick issue,” said Kushner.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this article stated that much of Observer revenues came from its advertorial supplements. In an email to Adweek following publication of this article, Kushner wrote: "Under 5 percent of our revenues comes from our supplements—most of our revenue comes from digital, paper, and [C]ommercial [O]bserver—that’s at least 85 percent. Also—as a company—we are up 30 percent in revenue this year—after being up 35 percent last year in revenue."