New York Times kicks off ‘Talks’

Writers, celebrities converge at new Times Center

The 10th anniversary of the New York Times’ TimesTalks, where reporters banter with high-profile guests before an adoring audience, kicked off this week at the paper’s swanky new digs.

To commemorate — and capitalize — on the glamorous new Times Center, this year’s weekend arts fest was supersized into a weeklong event. Guests include alterna pop’s it-girl, chanteuse Leslie Feist; Broadway’s elder statesman, Edward Albee; and Hollywood’s Josh Brolin, who starred in four pics in 2007.

The Gray Lady isn’t the only self-respecting pub to do outreach through arts events. The New Yorker holds an annual weekend arts fest in October that attracts a long list of literary luminaries as well as Hollywood stars, painters and musicians.

“Our aim is to bring the pages of the magazine to life with the festival,” a New Yorker spokeswoman said. “It’s not about making money for us at all; it really is a way for us to reach our readers on a more intimate level.”

For both publication-sponsored arts fests, tickets prices average $25, with attendees ranging from 50 people to several thousand for some events.

New York magazine has sponsored an arts show in past years and does a “taste of New York” event in November that caters to Gothamites.

“If the right opportunity came up for an art thing, then we’d be all over it,” said Keely Schmidt, New York mag’s events manager. “If we made our own event, it would take a while to build something like that. We need the demand from people.”

Pairing print with cultural events has become widespread in the last decade. The Los Angeles Times has held a bookfest each April since 1996 and now attracts about 130,000 people to hear author events and panels at no charge. Barnes and Noble is among the many underwriters and, in exchange, exhibits its wares.

The inaugural edition of TimesTalks in 2001 was a means of inviting the public to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the paper, but the events proved so popular that execs decided to continue them.

“We do it to showcase our journalists and to give people a behind-the-scenes look at what we do,” New York Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty said. “It makes money, and it’s one of our brand extensions.”