Last spring, when Pamela Wasserstein took the reins as chief executive officer of her family’s company, New York Media, she arrived with the mission to grow alternate revenue streams beyond advertising.
While that mission isn’t a revolutionary one — most media firms are in the process of expanding beyond their core competencies — it is a more aggressive stance for New York, which has largely played a more cautious role as competitors took bigger bets on video, iPad apps and Snapchat, among others.
But times are — slowly — changing. New York, which operates its namesake magazine and a slew of homegrown sites such as Vulture, The Cut and Grub Street, launched e-commerce site The Strategist on Tuesday and there are more projects on the way. According to New York, the new vertical includes testimonials from editors at The Strategist and sibling New York sites on their favorite products from e-tailers across the web. New York gets an affiliate fee for every purchase made. It’s a model the company has been testing out since March, according to deputy editor David Haskell, who has been promoted to the role of editor for business and strategy.
Although the company wouldn’t provide revenue projections, Haskell said The Strategist has the potential to bring in meaningful revenue.
“We’re a small company so, often we try to test things at first,” he said, noting that click-through and conversion rates on product recommendations were at least four times above industry standards. “Our bet that our editorial voice would pay off did.”
He explained that The Strategist is an editorial product, meaning that recommendations aren’t swayed by advertising, and that it harkens back to the magazine’s tradition of service journalism. He said the site will take a “journalistic” bend to its recommendations, and cited an upcoming package of interviews with people who are hard to shop for, such as a 10-year-old or a grandmother.
As part of his new job, Haskell, who will still edit on a limited basis, will work closely with Wasserstein to develop alternate projects. They will include TV and film projects, the expansion of The Vulture Festival, and a series of events leading up to New York’s 50th anniversary in April 2018. Haskell is also looking to create a live event or video series for The Cut, and said he intends on extending New York’s brand via the books business. The editor stressed the importance of Wasserstein having an editorial partner, but it should be noted that the company is also in search of a business executive following the departure of longtime publisher Larry Burstein this month.
Burstein was able to help bring digital to 60 percent of New York’s total advertising revenue. (The company declined to provide figures.) That focus on digital began with editorial, as editor in chief Adam Moss and his team developed a strong digital voice across various verticals, which according to comScore, collectively amassed an average of 16.8 million unique views from March to August of this year.
In order to streamline communication across the company and grow traffic, New York has promoted the magazine’s executive editor Lauren Kern to executive editor for New York Media. Kern cited Gabriel Sherman‘s news breaking investigative stories on Roger Ailes and Rebecca Traister‘s political commentary, which appeared digitally first, as the impetus to further develop digital storytelling.
“We realized that as a company we spend a lot of our resources on the print magazine. It is very important but also a smaller part of the whole enterprise,” she said. “My job is to try to bridge the values of long-form magazine-style stories to the web.”
According to the Alliance for Audited Media, the bi-weekly print magazine’s circulation for the six months ended Aug. 31 totaled 406,237 with single-copy sales of 53,443.
“I think part of the thing we happily discovered is that quality does really well online. I think that for a while there were a lot of companies trying to do long-form online and a lot of those companies are doing less of it now. It’s expensive to produce…you need very talented editors and writers to make those kinds of stories,” Kern said. “We’re now facing one of the biggest stories of all our careers, covering the Donald Trump administration and figuring out how those stories will live their best life in digital and in print.”