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Ken Sheldon
Ken Sheldon

The lights dim. The hip and young crowd holds its beers aloft and cheers as the com­edy trio Stella takes the stage. People in the VIP balcony mingle, quaff mixed drinks and help themselves to passing hors d'oeuvres while awaiting musical sets by local bands — all in celebration of New York's 40th year in print.

The anniversary party exemplified the cutting-edge pop culture edito­rial for which this regional — though nationally read — magazine has become known since it was founded in 1968. The sold-out crowd of 3,000 also proved that the magazine's consumer marketing efforts in several channels have succeeded, increasing paid sub­scriptions by 13% since 2005.

“There are clearly a lot of new ways that we're selling print subscriptions,” says Ken Sheldon, circulation direc­tor for New York. “Some sources have been around for decades, going back to when the magazine was launched, including inserts, newsstand and direct mail, and we've grown all of those. But we also have sources that are growing for print, like online and partnerships and events.”

Special events drive recognition

Events, in particular, have won the magazine a great deal of press and subscribers lately. The New York by New York events series, which began with a half-dozen New York-sponsored events in 2007, offers subscriptions as part of the ticket price for concerts, barbecues and other gatherings. The magazine has seen such success with these parties that it recently launched a more official events division.

“We're definitely doing more events now, and we're looking to grow more of that business,” Sheldon says. “In some cases we've sold subscriptions, and in others not, but the brand has gotten involved and gotten exposure, whether by selling subscriptions, gen­erating newsletter sign-ups or even just driving people to NYMag.com.”

The magazine is also holding “40 Nights” — 40 events squeezed between March and December— as part of its anniversary celebration. 40 Nights features fully sponsored New York events as well as several part­ner-sponsored happenings. Not only do the events work to drive brand recognition and subscriptions, they help New York cater to an audience that skews slightly younger than its traditional reader base.

“Events with young New Yorkers are something we've been heavily involved in, and our MRI [Media­mark Research & Intelligence report] shows that our readership has got­ten younger,” Sheldon explains. “Our general goal is to grow audience, but when we do take it a little further, we would like to reach more affluent, younger readers.”

The magazine's target audience, aside from being young, is also a “typ­ical New Yorker — like Sarah Jessica Parker or Carrie from Sex and the City,” he adds. Its editorial appeals to more liberal, pop culture-savvy urbanites. The audience also skews slightly female — 55% — with a median age of 39. Readers have a median income of $78,000 per year.

Though 75% of New York maga­zine's 425,000-count print circulation is in the New York metropolitan area, two-thirds of the magazine's Web traffic hails from outside the region. Online readers help contribute to the magazine's declining median audience age and provide plenty of growth opportunities for print marketing opportunities outside of the maga­zine's regional marketing focus.

“A good amount of my consumer marketing efforts are focused in the New York area, especially direct mail,” Sheldon explains. “One benefit of sub­scription agents is that they are very national, which lets us find subscribers in Texas or Oklahoma that would be cost-prohibitive to mail ourselves.”

Reaching national readers online

By working with national partners such as Mediabistro, The Vault and Amazon.com, New York has been able to reach far-flung online readers.

Amazon shoppers, for example, may now receive e-mail blasts pro­moting New York subscriptions, if the site records New York as their home address or sees that they've bought other New York-related merchandise. Sheldon reports that, since actively partnering with Amazon, subscriptions through that site have quadrupled.

New York is actively growing sub­scriptions and brand recognition on its own site as well, Sheldon says. “The biggest change we're concerned with right now is the growth of the Web,” he explains. “Even in the past few years it has been tremendous, and the audience there is technically bigger in terms of readers and visitors and is growing at a tremendous rate — and it's only going to get bigger.”

Visitors to NYMag.com can sign up for print subscriptions and newslet­ters, and are encouraged to leave com­ments. These interactions allow New York to send more e-mail marketing messages to more targeted consum­ers. Sheldon points out that prospects pulled from the site have already sought out the magazine's content on their own, so they are more likely to respond well to offers.

As New York plans for its 41st year, the Web will continue to hold a prime position in its marketing mix, but its marketing team will continue to test venues including cross-marketing strat­egies with parent New York Media's recent acquisition, MenuPages.com.

“The biggest changes in 2009 are all going to be Web-related,” Shel­don agrees. “Consumer marketers are definitely moving well beyond selling print — many are responsible for selling audience, which includes traffic and newsletters.”

That means Sheldon will be work­ing a lot more on selling audience for all New York properties, specifically with conversion of traffic on NYMag.com, he adds. The magazine wants to find out “what we can do to get their e-mails, get them to sign up for newsletters, get them to become print subscribers, and get them to be dream consumers who get the print and go online every day and get the newslet­ters,” he says.

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