New York makeover aims to pump sales

Primedia splurges with mag redesign

NEW YORK — Primedia Inc. may be shedding assets and staff as it redefines itself as a trimmer, more streamlined magazine publishing company in the wake of CEO-chairman Tom Rogers’ resignation, but the company’s magazine darling, New York, is getting more generous treatment. Next Monday a redesigned New York will hit newsstands in celebration of the mag’s 35th anniversary.

The familiar New York logo will remain the same, but an expanded table of contents and front of the book will debut, along with a reformatted listings section renamed “The Week” from “Cue,” a name inherited in the early 1980s when Cue magazine was folded into New York. Also added will be “Ask New York,” an interactive element that will tie in to a weekly column that answers readers’ Gotham-oriented questions, and a bigger “Smart City” consumer section.

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“The goal is to make the heat of what’s in the magazine more explicit, and to make the intensity of the information more visible from the very first pages,” said editor-in-chief Caroline Miller.

The brush-up comes at a time when the 433,000-circulation mag is being bandied in the press as the possible next sale for Primedia — which is majority owned by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts — alongside names of potential suitors including Rolling Stone owner Jann Wenner, American Media CEO David Pecker, U.S. News and World Report owner Mortimer B. Zuckerman and ex- Primedia CEO William F. Reilly.

As yet, no deals have been struck.

“In the six years I’ve been here, there has been constant chatter about New York being sold,” Miller said. “We’re concentrating on putting a magazine out. Whatever happens happens.”

While still considered a must-read for Gothamites seeking insider cred, New York is a less-dominating force than it was under founder Clay Felker in the 1970s. In those days there was little competish in the urban savoir-faire category as there is now in publications like the New York Observer and Time Out New York.

Ad pages were down 11% through May compared with the same period in 2002, and the mag’s profit last year was reportedly $1 million to $2 million.

Time Out, in particular, has stolen some of New York’s steam with its dense, attitude-heavy listings for dance, theater, music and movies.

“When New York bought Cue (an entertainment listings publication) it became the place to have listings, but now Time Out is the listings bible,” said Chip Block, vice chairman of USAPubs Inc. “To some degree I think they’ve hurt New York in that area.”

Cyndi Stivers, prexy and editorial director of Time Out New York, said that when Time Out launched in 1995, New York similarly redesigned its listing section. “They said that they were doing it as a pre-emptive strike against us.”

Stivers said New York is “nowhere near as comprehensive in the way they do listings. In order to do that you need a staff of 40.” (Some of those are part-time employees.)

Time Out New York has a circulation of 122,000.

Miller said about 10 staffers worked on listings at New York.