Avenue magazine’s new billionaire owner Charles Cohen has big plans for the about-to-be relaunched publication and it’s much more than its traditional Upper East Side socialite reader.
“One of the first things I wanted to do was to eliminate the socialite profile image that the magazine had,” the real estate mogul-turned-movie producer-turned-publisher told WWD.
He acquired the magazine in December 2018 from Manhattan Media and wasted no time in making changes to the 43-year-old publication, replacing its whole staff and working over the past few months on shaping its new identity.
That includes appealing to a much wider audience than when the magazine was launched in the Seventies, targeted at wealthy housewives living in some of Manhattan’s most exclusive buildings on both sides of Central Park and detailing their social and philanthropic events. Now he wants it to also be seen by the eyes of different neighborhoods, different cities, different countries, different ages and more men, moving beyond Manhattan’s one percent, but still keeping them happy.
“We intend to expand our readership beyond Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn and to other emerging and up-and-coming neighborhoods, as well as other cities in Europe such as London and Paris and also airports and cruise ship lines and things like that,” said Cohen, who will publish six issues a year.
“I think we’ve gone out of our way to embrace New York in an inclusionary fashion and our first issue covers Harlem and other minority-related aspects of New York life and this is not something that would have been covered in Avenue in its previous incarnation,” he added.
The magazine was traditionally distributed in the lobbies of luxe buildings in New York, as well as in the Hamptons and Palm Beach on a seasonal basis. That will still happen, but it will be in many more locations, including hotels and restaurants, with the print run doubling from around 20,000 to 40,000. There will also be a subscription option, as well as a big digital presence.
Helping make Cohen’s dreams a reality is a plethora of former glossy magazine staffers, led by editor in chief Kristina Stewart Ward. The one-time Vanity Fair society editor and Harper’s Bazaar executive editor was brought on as editor in chief in March, succeeding Michael Gross. When the entire staff was let go, he remained, but resigned in March.
Other recent Avenue hires include digital director Maggie Malone, previously associate editor at Town & Country and Elle Décor, and features director Heather Hodson, who had a stint as Harper’s Bazaar’s features editor in the early Aughts.
On why he changed the entire staff, Cohen explained that it was a cost-saving decision as the design company Pentagram informed him it would take a long time for the redesign to be ready and he realized there would be nothing for them to do.
“We took our time to do it right and therefore there was nothing for that staff to do,” said Cohen, adding that the magazine has been dark for over a year. “It was just cost effective to close that part of the magazine down while we got our stuff together. There was no reason to have a staff and I think the staff we have now reflects the magazine the way it should be.”
But, at the same time, he noted that a “relaunch is a relaunch and relaunch is not just the same old magazine again put together by the same staff so it’s an opportunity to start fresh and that’s the way we look at it.”
As for what exactly the refreshed Avenue looks like, it begins with an illustrated cover by Danish artist Cecilia Carlstedt, who will design the first six covers. The first appears to depict someone ice skating in New York and, according to Cohen, they have been designed in a way to “not polarize someone from picking it up because they don’t like who’s on the cover.”
Inside, a number of well-known writers were tapped to pen several lengthy features. Among them, Amy Fine Collins produced a feature about Misty Copeland and Calvin Royal III as the new stars of ABT’s “Romeo and Juliet” (the duo are also on the digital cover), while Constance C.R. White looked to the likes of Dapper Dan and Marcus Samuelsson for her 4,000-word piece on how tastemakers are heading to Harlem, building on the cultural capital’s rich legacy.
“Our goal in every issue is to do a deep dive into a neighborhood and help New Yorkers to see the range of what it means to be a New Yorker — economic diversity, ethnic diversity, gender diversity,” said Stewart Ward.
There’s also a feature on British men living in New York, and South Florida content as the title strives to appeal to both more men and wealthy Palm Beach residents, as well as the usual cultural, fashion and design elements of a magazine.
But the old Avenue is not completely dead as there are still some features that will keep its bread-and-butter audience happy, including advice on prep schools and a round-up of who’s who at the big socialite events.
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