ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER REDESIGN: The New York Times Sunday Magazine has yet another new look and direction under editor in chief Jake Silverstein, who took the helm in May. The redesigned magazine makes its debut today, along with a podcast called The Ethicists, which is produced in partnership with Slate.
Prior to Silverstein’s appointment, editor Hugo Lindgren, who was dismissed seven months earlier, was under fire for the editorial direction of the title, which had been losing advertising dollars to sister glossy, T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Silverstein, who arrived at the Times from Texas Monthly, told WWD that he has set out to create a more “luxurious” reading experience, without focusing on stories about luxury, i.e. T’s bread and butter. The editor explained that this means putting more of an emphasis on photography, paper stock and high-end content, which will include more literary features and poetry.
The magazine’s logo also is slightly updated and moved back to the center of the cover. The first issue is certainly heavier compared with many of the anemic issues of recent months, with 220 pages, 121 of which are ads. In the initial redesigned issue, very few of the ads are ones that would appear in T. They include First Republic, Patron, Cadillac, Diesel, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch.
“The overlap is very minimal. I would define them both as luxury magazines,” said senior vice president and advertising publisher Andy Wright, explaining that T isn’t a competitor, as it publishes 15 times a year to the Sunday magazine’s 52 times.
Silverstein emphasized that point: “It’s not about them [T] eating our lunch. We’re actually eating the same lunch. They are getting a bunch of ad pages. That’s actually helpful to us.” He didn’t say how.
Beyond any rivalry between the two in-house titles, a more pertinent question is the place of the Sunday magazine itself. As the Times features more longer form, investigative pieces in its pages, where does the magazine fit in? “There’s a difference between a newspaper feature and a magazine story. There’s a certain way of structuring narrative,” Silverstein said, while conceding that in order to differentiate his title, his “vision” is to make the magazine a “more literary” read à la The New Yorker.
“The way that we kind of look at it is The New Yorker on one side, and Vanity Fair on the other,” the publisher said. “The New Yorker is obviously known for great literary writing, Vanity Fair for beautiful photography, not so much for literary writing. We’re sort of in the middle of that, bringing in great literary writing, photography and design.”
In order to accomplish the literary bit, Silverstein has added a poetry section, which will be edited by poet Natasha Trethewey. It will accompany a rotating column on one of the four subjects: photography penned by Teju Cole, money by Adam Davidson, clothing written by Slate’s Troy Patterson and nature by Helen MacDonald. Other sections include the “Lives” section, which will feature an “as told to” page that showcases eclectic stories by non-writers told to the magazine’s reporters, as well as a “First Words” page on commonly used words or phrases.
When asked if the literary push, plus the serious features, deters more high-end advertisers, Wright said that 15 of the 52 issues are themed to lighter subjects such as “food” or “great performances.”
“A great story is a great story,” Silverstein said.