There is a good reason why the magazine business has been referred to as “the third- toughest business” — after mining and tripod manufacturing. The constant churn of readers, advertisers, and media outlets means that any company must be prepared to adapt to new circumstances at a moment’s notice. The New Yorker may be one of the most recognizable magazines in America, but that doesn’t mean it is immune from the tumultuous conditions of today’s publishing world. Over its 90-year history, the publication has had its fair share of ups and downs, seeing circulation highs and lows along the way. The New Yorker has seen its subscription base dip to 90,000 subscribers several times in recent years — a drop that almost cost it its independence in 2010. But it also once boasted an impressive 1 million subscribers in the 1980s (almost double today’s numbers).
Why is The New Yorker struggling?
The New Yorker has weathered many eras of disruptive technology, but the current climate is particularly turbulent. The rise of social media and digital advertising has disrupted the entire publishing industry, and print publications are reeling. The New Yorker has seen its subscription base dip to 90,000 subscribers several times in recent years — a drop that almost cost it its independence in 2010. But it also once boasted an impressive 1 million subscribers in the 1980s (almost double today’s numbers). Citing internal numbers, The New Yorker said that almost half of its readers now access the magazine digitally — with numbers climbing steadily every year. The magazine has responded to the changing landscape by ramping up its digital offerings. In 2017, it introduced a “membership program” that allows readers to access its archives, stream live events, and receive other exclusive content.
Print vs. digital publishing
The transition from print to digital has been a painful one for many publications, with some succumbing to the pressure of falling advertising revenue and dwindling subscription numbers. Newspapers such as the Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer are just two examples of publications that were forced to close down due to a lack of financial viability. The New York Times has managed to stay afloat, but it has been forced to downsize its staff and scale back some of its operations in an effort to remain profitable. The New Yorker has tried to hold onto its print readership while also investing in its digital offerings — with mixed results. The New Yorker has always been a prestigious publication, and it has long relied on that prestige to drive readership. For decades, the magazine was a must-read for the New York City elite — with its print readership reflecting that fact. But the rise of the internet largely shifted readers away from print and toward digital content. Publications like The New Yorker that had long been reliant on print began to shift their strategies to accommodate their readers’ new reading habits.
The magazine has also had to deal with the instability of the advertising market. Although print ads have historically been the mainstay of many publishers’ revenue, the rise of the internet has largely shifted advertising away from print. The New Yorker has reportedly been hit particularly hard. An October 2010 article in the New York Times claimed that the magazine had been forced to make radical changes in order to stay afloat. The publication had to cut its staff, close its Paris office, and reduce the number of pages it published each week. And although The New Yorker’s numbers have risen in recent years, they have remained relatively stagnant.
The New Yorker may be facing readership and financial challenges, but it has managed to stay afloat by shifting its focus to digital content and catering to a new generation of readers. The New Yorker has been forced to make sacrifices along the way, but it remains one of the most well-known publications in the world — and one that continues to produce award-winning journalism. The New Yorker may be facing readership and financial challenges, but it has managed to stay afloat by shifting its focus to digital content and catering to a new generation of readers.