What Does It Mean That Being Swathed in Luxury Brings in a Lot More Money Than Honest Journalism?

By Jack Limpert

15cover-blog480Sunday’s New York Times came with two magazines:

The New York Times Magazine, with a cover story on the future, was 90 pages. It had 36 ad pages, 53 edit pages, and a promotion page.

T, The New York Times Style Magazine, with a cover story “Welcome to the World,” was 192 pages. It had 110 ad pages and 82 edit pages.

The NYT Magazine’s section on the future was described this way: “Lots of people pretend they’ve got tomorrow figured out: tech gurus, politicians, C.E.O.s and (yes) journalists. But if we’re honest with ourselves, the view ahead of us has never been murkier. That’s because the problems that most haunt our world today—climate change and pollution, inequality and war—are problems for which technology, long our spur to envisioning better futures, looks more like a cause than a solution.”

T Magazine’s editor explains its “Welcome to the World” cover this way: “The stories in this issue have given me lots of ideas for things I want to do and see, but unlike most travel issues (T’s or otherwise) they’ve also made me think about the meaning of travel, and the many different forms it takes. Travel allows us to see beautiful things, absorb history, connect with another culture and way of living, push our bodies, expand our minds, be swathed in luxury or simply alleviate our exhaustion.”

I asked a magazine ad executive if T Magazine had a smaller, more upscale audience than the NYT Magazine, and thus had lower ad rates and more ad pages. He said no, the two magazines go to the same circulation (1,180,000 in 2014). A four-color page (the general open rate) in the NYTimes Magazine is $107,075; in T Magazine it is $109,215.

Why does T Magazine get more ads? The magazine ad executive says: “Most likely because it’s less newsy and more style-based, which is more appealing to advertisers.” He added that because T Magazine comes out 15 times a year, it can tell advertisers that each issue will have a longer shelf life—readers will likely hold on to it longer—than the weekly NYT Magazine.

As an editor, there are two ways to look at this. The temptation is to bemoan the fact that showing beautiful things and being swathed in luxury sells a lot more ad pages and brings in a lot more revenue than honest journalism that looks at climate change and inequality. My instinct is to congratulate the Times for figuring out how to have it both ways.

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