Being Rich, Being Poor: The New York Times and Its Sunday Magazines

By Jack Limpert

Here’s an interesting USA Today column by Michael Wolff about the New York Times and its two very different Sunday magazines. He sums up the conflict between the two magazines this way:

“If the Times’ traditional brand was precise, one of the most honed and developed in the history of publishing, online it is a different sort of content generator and aggregator, catholic or indifferent in its tastes—yet an uncertain model and future.

“The Times, as much as any media organization, openly struggles with the conflicts of the new journalism economy and generational divisions within the journalism world. But to date its struggle seems to expose more contradictions, its odd two magazines, juxtaposing gas and flash, a regular reminder of the Times’ ever-increasing inability to resolve journalism’s most basic questions: Who do we really want to be speaking to? And who will actually pay for what we have to say?

“And yet, at least in terms of its Sunday magazines, is it so hard? The Times Magazine is a blowhard money loser; T is a vapid money machine. Put them together—with readers probably grateful for a little less of both—and the mix might both profitably edify and entertain and join their audiences in relative harmony.”
For added perspective on the two Sunday magazines, here’s a link to a November 18 post: “What Does It Mean That Being Swathed in Luxury Brings in a Lot More Money Than Honest Journalism?”

These were the ad page numbers for the Times Magazine and T Magazine:

“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.”

As a longtime magazine editor, my experience was that more ad pages meant more pages for stories and more money for writers, so I summed up the differences between the two Times magazines more positively:

“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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