It’s taken a while, but now you can buy more than an annual desk calendar from The New Yorker.
There are playing cards illustrated by cartoonist Edward Steed, socks featuring the magazine’s monocled mascot Eustace Tilley, coffee mugs, pencils and notebooks, T-shirts, a hoodie, a beanie and even a new baby onesie. For the intellectual infant. But one thing you won’t find on the magazine’s new e-commerce site, which is separate from its editorial web site, is a tote bag.
“The totes are one piece of apparel that’s off limits to us,” Nicholas Blechman, The New Yorker’s creative director, said. “That’s owned by consumer marketing. And we’ve had some ideas for bags and it’s been, ‘No.’”
Almost ubiquitous on the New York subway, the magazine’s tote launched in 2014 and has become something of a calling card for the magazine. Buying one secondhand on Etsy will set you back around $40. The magazine has had certain products for sale, before now, but never on a dedicated e-commerce site and they’ve been very limited. Like a single umbrella, a hat and an annual desk diary. The last being a product few people under 40 can likely visualize.
Blechman, who in 2015 joined The New Yorker from The New York Times, said he’s been wanting to launch a dedicated store since he started, so this wasn’t a specific mandate from executives at Condé Nast, the magazine’s publisher, to do so. Still, Condé Nast on the whole is going deep into e-commerce, with publications like GQ and Bon Appétit operating their own microsites for shopping, and others like Vogue and Wired working in more and more shoppable stories online and in newsletters to drive affiliate and ad revenue, as the company continues to struggle with profitability.
But mandate or not, the true New Yorker fan now has plenty of merch to get his hands on. And more is likely on the way.
Blechman said the store is a project led by him and his art department, with little to no influence from longtime New Yorker editor David Remnick. “It’s very much an initiative of the art department and then the licensing team at Condé Nast,” he said.
And the team has some ideas for other products.
There could be more card decks, depending on how this first set sells. Tea towels with illustrated cartoons from inside the magazine are a possibility, as are general art supplies featuring some element of the publication or its history. Even a kite is possible, as are collaborations with more people and artists.
“We want to tap into these quirks and little pieces of art in the magazine,” Blechman added. “We’d really like to ask cartoonists and illustrators what they would love to do.”
But how much business The New Yorker store will bring in doesn’t seem to be the bedrock of the effort. The New Yorker is one of the only Condé publications to have a real online subscription business (not to mention the only title left with its own dedicated art team), having launched a paywall in 2014, which brings in an estimated $120 million in revenue, sources have said. It even managed this year to increase subscriptions. With its stature in media and Condé, the magazine has long operated as much as it can outside the direct oversight of any Condé executives.
“We’re just putting this up and out there,” Blechman said, “and we’ll see what comes of it.”
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