Sally Singer Ends Grungy Reign at ‘T’

Title has struggled to grow ads, despite luxury boom

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Two years after leaving Vogue to run the New York Times’ style magazine, T editor in chief Sally Singer's tenure has come to an end. The Times confirmed Singer is planning to leave T at the end of this week, and no successor has been named. It's not clear why Singer is leaving, but her editorial picks have gotten mixed reviews, and the advertising numbers have been soft.

Singer headed Vogue’s fashion news and features departments for more than a decade before moving to T. (In a trade of sorts, her predecessor, Stefano Tonchi, had left to become editor in chief of Condé Nast's W several months earlier.) Singer's aesthetic proved markedly different from her predecessor’s: While Tonchi had embraced luxury and elegance, Singer’s T was a “kind of neo-grunge” affair, as described by one industry insider, and became “the anti-fashion fashion magazine.” Singer put downtown icons like Patti Smith (and, more recently, Lana Del Rey) on her often black-and-white covers, and within, readers found an intellectualized version of the standard fashion book. 

That departure from its glossy roots seemingly didn’t help matters on the ad side at T, which was a cash cow for the Times Co. under Tonchi. According to WWD, salespeople complained that Singer’s T was a difficult sell, leading Times executive editor Jill Abramson to chastise Singer late last year. And despite the luxury ad boom that’s bolstered most high-end fashion books in 2012, T’s numbers have been soft: The magazine's pages were down 4 percent through May 20 from the same period last year, according to Media Industry Newsletter.

At the same time, T’s biggest rival, The Wall Street Journal's luxury magazine WSJ., has seen serious growth in recent months. While WSJ. sold fewer than half the thousand-plus pages T did in 2011 (when T published 15 times to WSJ.'s nine), WSJ.'s pages have increased 51 percent from March to May of this year versus the year-ago period. 

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.