As The New York Times slowly works its way toward a narrower broadsheet in 2008, the paper has another new format in development: a tabloid for the younger generation.
On Dec. 15, executive editor Bill Keller mentioned a tabloid “prototype” during one of his occasional “Throw Stuff at Bill” sessions for the staff, a combination state-of-the-paper address and Q&A free-for-all.
“It’s way too early to talk about it,” Mr. Keller wrote in an e-mail Dec. 18, when asked about the tabloid. “It’s one of many projects that are still in the noodling stage.”
The subject arose during the middle of one of Mr. Keller’s three sessions on Dec. 15, in the paper’s ninth-floor auditorium, with publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. and managing editors Jill Abramson and John Geddes in attendance. A staffer asked about local coverage, and Mr. Keller mentioned new or planned electronic products, plus a “possible print product” that would be “aimed at younger readers.”
The noodling about the tabloid, according to a source familiar with the project, has been taking place in a Times committee that first convened this past April to generate ideas about marketing and boosting circulation. After a string of weekly meetings, the group—which includes members from the paper’s editorial and business sides—has settled into a less rigid schedule.
So far, the concepts emerging from the group suggest that Mr. Sulzberger’s “platform-agnostic” approach to packaging content is yielding something more like platform Unitarian Universalism—taking inspiration from whatever tradition is handy. The first of the committee’s ideas to reach the public was Urbanite, a daily e-mail newsletter launched Nov. 3, listing goings-on around the city.
Because a Baltimore-based magazine named Urbanite already existed, on Dec. 15 The Times redubbed the newsletter UrbanEye. A Times spokesperson wrote via e-mail that the company “felt we should create and trademark a name that would be exclusive and distinctive to The Times.”
The tabloid idea hasn’t reached the naming stage, let alone the renaming stage. The source familiar with the project described its condition as more a collection of loose pages than a full prototype. In the question-and-answer session, Mr. Keller said that the new publication could be distributed either inside the paper or on its own.
Whatever form the new project takes, there are plenty of precedents for a broadsheet spinning off a tabloid. The Times itself launched a free publication, MarketPlace Weekly, in June 2005. It was a drab creation—consisting mostly of classified ads and articles taken from the regular paper’s real-estate, jobs and automotive sections—and it got a drab reception. It was killed without fanfare, announced during a Times Company second-quarter conference call this past July.
Other broadsheet dailies have had zippier ambitions for their tabloids in recent years. The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times went head to head in 2002 with youth-targeted titles called RedEye and Red Streak, respectively (Red Streak shut down at the end of 2005). The papers packaged the news in short bits, tuned to their target audience’s expected attention span. The Washington Post did the same with a commuter-targeted tabloid called Express.
There’s always a new way to distribute Sudoku!
But the proposed Times tabloid would not go head to head with amNewYork or Metro on the stairways to the No. 1 train. The idea is for it to be more like a hard-copy relative of UrbanEye than an easy-read news digest. It would be a weekly, heavy on event listings—like The Village Voice, or the New York Press, or Time Out New York or New York magazine or the front end of The New Yorker, for that matter.
The tabloid will need at least another six months to get off the drawing board, the Times source said. Meanwhile, the committee will stay busy with another outlet for the paper’s newly New York–centered ambitions: a Web site that would gather together city-related stories from various parts of the newspaper, such as the metro and culture desks, and integrate them with service features. Movie reviews, for example, could be accompanied by restaurant reviews of eateries near a particular theater.
The Northern Republic: Frostback Conglomerate Raises Stake in Peretz Mag
Canadian media giant CanWest, which currently owns a stake in The New Republic, is expected to increase its share in the magazine, according to TNR sources.
Editor in chief and part owner Martin Peretz said that negotiations are taking place, but declined to get into specifics.
“I think there’s going to be a change in some percentage of ownership,” Mr. Peretz said by phone from Cambridge, Mass.
Mr. Peretz said that since The New Republic is a private corporation, he is not obligated to discuss the percentage of each shareholder’s investment.
“There’s certainly no news here,” Mr. Peretz said.
Mr. Peretz, who purchased the magazine in 1974, has a history of dismissing buyout rumors.
“I’m not now in negotiations with anybody,” Mr. Peretz told the Daily News in November 2001. “There is nothing to report and I don’t foresee anything reportable. There’s nothing going on.”
Weeks later, Mr. Peretz sold two-thirds of the magazine to financiers Roger Hertog and Michael Steinhardt.
Mr. Steinhardt and Mr. Hertog, both investors in the right-leaning New York Sun, had their politics placed under a microscope after they bought part of the perpetually rightward-tacking liberal magazine. Mr. Hertog is chairman emeritus of the Manhattan Institute and a trustee of the American Enterprise Institute; Mr. Steinhardt is a prominent Jewish philanthropist and a founder of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.
According to one staffer, the new owners refrained from micromanaging things on the editorial side. The staffer said they hadn’t been seen around the Washington, D.C., headquarters since a 2002 meet-and-greet session ended with an office evacuation, after a smoldering cigarette butt tossed by senior editor Lawrence Kaplan ignited a garbage can.
Asked whether Mr. Hertog and Mr. Steinhardt will remain investors in the magazine, Mr. Peretz said, “That’s also not clear.”
The CanWest conglomerate—which publishes titles including Canada’s National Post, the Ottawa Citizen and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix—joined the growing ownership group in January of 2006. CanWest’s chief executive, Leonard Asper, joined the other three investors on board of directors. Laurence Grafstein, a managing director at Lazard Frères (and former TNR writer himself), became the fifth member of the board, serving as a tiebreaker, according to a TNR staffer.
At the time the deal was made, Mr. Asper told the National Post that his company was especially interested in the magazine’s archives and Web site.
Mr. Asper, Mr. Hertog and Mr. Steinhardt didn’t return calls seeking comment. Mr. Grafstein declined to comment.
One TNR staffer predicted that employees would be nervous if a huge corporation like CanWest assumed more control of the magazine, which has historically been run as a small shop.
Regardless of any change in ownership, Mr. Peretz said he would remain as editor in chief.
But there is one change on the table: The magazine could move from a weekly publishing schedule to a biweekly one.
“It’s something that we’ve been talking about for a long time,” said Mr. Peretz of the biweekly schedule. “A decision has not been made.”
When might the negotiations be finalized?
“We are still just talking,” said Mr. Peretz. “And I’m not shitting you.”
After Harvard, What? Miller Leaves 02138 for Wolff Start-Up
“It was my idea of fun,” said former New York magazine editor Caroline Miller, of working as editorial director of 02138.
Ms. Miller put in nine months at the new Harvard Hall–of-mirrors glossy magazine, which is principally bankrolled by Atlantic Media head David Bradley. The second issue came out this week with no editorial-director position on the masthead.
Ms. Miller is now working on developing a news Web site with Vanity Fair media writer Michael Wolff.
“It was not intended to be a long-term arrangement,” said Ms. Miller, who spent two to three days a week in Boston, organizing a team that included several staffers recently out of college. She said the young staff had reminded her of editorial stints at New York and Seventeen.
“It was Bom [Kim’s] idea for a magazine,” she said. “It was my role to put lots of things on the table for him. To create lots of possibilities. To help him bring in a team.”
“We envisioned an editorial-director role in the early stages,” Mr. Kim said, by phone from Korea. Mr. Kim said that 02138 had started with a “very lean team,” but he will be adding editorial staff in the future.
The cover of the new issue features a black-and-white photograph of New York Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer and his wife, attorney Silda Wall, eyeing each other lovingly, to illustrate a feature on Harvard “power couples.”