Nicolas Barajas, who’s in the newspaper business and is qualified to analyze things like this, runs the numbers on my “outrage”: (I really wouldn’t call it that — I’m not angry when I see an ad in an iPad magazine, just dissatisfied with my purchase.)
Let’s say you’re going to reinvent The New Yorker, but as a modern, digital-only version.
I appreciate the illuminating numbers that show that it’s probably possible, but very difficult, to pull off a New Yorker-like digital magazine without ads.
I can nitpick over the numbers — $90,000 per year for every one of those employees sounds high — but the bigger issue is that I actually don’t want all of that content.
Obviously, this is a personal detail, and it’s not The New Yorker’s problem, but I skip the Goings On section and most of the Reviews. I don’t need most of the Talk, and I wouldn’t notice if half of the illustrations were missing. Less than half of the proposed staff is working on content that I’ll read: mainly, the feature articles.
I’m probably not in The New Yorker’s target market if I skip half of the magazine, so my opinion about its specifics is irrelevant. But I wonder what portion of any magazine’s audience really does care about all, or even most, of its content.
Maybe this is a bigger part of the problem than I realized. Certainly, you can’t cut anything from an existing publication without angering some of the subscribers. But creating a new magazine today with so much “content overhead” would probably seem too broad and unsustainably wasteful.
It made sense in a time when there were very few magazines. If I wanted to read long, interesting, general-audience articles written for non-idiots in 1991 (or even 2001), there were very few options, so there was more demand for these broadly targeted magazines. But today, the internet provides an effectively infinite supply of interesting articles to read (some from these very magazines’ websites), so I don’t need to subscribe to a general-purpose magazine just to enjoy select portions of it.
It’s no wonder ad-free traditional-style magazines are so difficult to fund. But that doesn’t change my dissatisfaction with flipping past ads every few pages as I’m trying to read the articles I paid $4.99 for. The problem isn’t that magazines and newspapers are greedy or badly run, but that the demand for their content and the economics that fund it have shifted so far away from what they do.