Murdoch Aims Glossy ‘Guns’ at New York Times
Times Mag Editor Responds: ‘I Am Not Exactly Running For Cover’
Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire media mogul and soon-to-be owner of the Wall Street Journal, has built his News Corp. empire largely on a foundation of ego, gritty newsprint and, with the Fox News channel, "you decide" television. Now Murdoch’s News Corp. is launching a pair of magazines – the New York Post’s relaunch of Page Six: The Magazine this Sunday and the Wall Street Journal’s Pursuits next year – with an eye on high-end advertising and the New York Times firmly planted in its crosshairs.
The Post, with a Sunday circulation of 439,000, originally launched a glossy version of its renowned Page Six – written largely by the newspaper’s existing staff – last fall to tepid reviews. According to Post editor Col Allan, the magazine now has a staff of 20 “and growing,” including editor Margi Conklin, a former editor of Harper’s Bazaar. The first issue, at 96 pages, carries ads from Calvin Klein and BMW.
Today, the Journal announced plans to launch Pursuits, a high-end lifestyle monthly, in September 2008. The magazine will cover “life and luxury of today’s wealthy world” and include regular features on fashion, homes and philanthropy, according to the company. Journal columnist and Richistan author Robert Frank is believed to be the top editor candidate.
"Advertisers have asked for new opportunities to reach our unique audience through a glossy magazine, and we believe Pursuits magazine will engage this audience in a new and exciting format for the Journal," Michael F. Rooney, Dow Jones chief revenue officer, said in a statement announcing the deal. The magazine will be delivered once a month to 800,000 of the Journal’s 1,721,694 print subscribers. The content of Pursuits will also be available for free at wsj.com.
While diversifying revenues may be the result, both launches represent a clear shot across the bow by Murdoch at the New York Times and its Sunday magazines. “The New York Times is as much in our gun sights as the Daily News,” Allan told the Times.
Through June, the New York Times magazine has earned $189,782,971 in advertising revenue on over 1,700 ad pages, decreases of 2.7 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively, over last year’s figures, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.
What the Journal and the Post are going after is luxury advertising — a large and growing category that does much of its spending in magazines. “That’s sound thinking on their part,” Gerry Marzorati, associate managing editor at the New York Times Magazine, wrote in an e-mail to Folio:. “But publishing magazines that people — women in particular — want to read is not an easy thing when you’ve never done it before. The Times has been at it for generations, and we do it very, very well.”
Adds Marzorati: “So if, you know, I am in Mr. Allan’s sights, I am not exactly running for cover.”