New York magazine is a mindset, according to its Editor-in-Chief, Adam Moss, and students in NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute were given the opportunity to probe that mindset during a question-and-answer session with the man who has run the weekly for six years.
“It’s a magazine about a way of looking at the world,” Moss said, as cover images of Lindsey Lohan, LeBron James, and Caroline Kennedy, among many more, streamed across a screen, delineating the magazine’s prolific range of topics. “Even though we’re out there against a sea of other publications, we feel we have something to offer,” Moss said. And those who critique the world of magazines agree. This year, New York won four National Magazine Awards, including General Excellence in its category, 250,000 to 500,000; NYmag.com won a General Excellence National Magazine Award for the second year in a row. Moss and his team of editors achieve such renown through an uncanny eye for putting unique spins on local and national news stories, and by staying one step ahead of the competition.
When one student asked which publications Moss considered competitors, he laughed, saying “Everybody.” In addition to the obvious suspects like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Time Out New York, New York competes on some level with Vogue on fashion, ESPN the Magazine and Sports Illustrated on sports, as well as Bon Appétit on food.
Inevitably, contending with such a wide editorial reach means constant fear of being scooped. “I open The New York Times each morning with horror,” Moss confessed. “You’ll see a story we’ve been working on for months and I have to go the office and kill it.” And then Moss and his team start on something new. “You keep your ideas in circulation,” said Moss, “and you keep refining, refining, refining.” Moss explained that editors take those ideas to their established writers, who then expand them into stories that might be a little edgier than what appears in more traditional counterparts like The New Yorker.
“Our magazine is an experience that is supposed to excite you rather than put you into contemplation,” Moss said. Certain stories, of course, are annual staples and focus on more practical content readers can put to use, such as the Doctor Issue. Moss noted unabashedly that this issue was not one of his favorites. “I could be at my own doctor’s office and he wants to know why he’s not in it,” he griped.
When the subject changed from print to digital, Moss explained that when he first arrived at New York magazine, nymag.com was more of an archive than an ongoing news presence operating in real time. Since then, its growth through diverse channels of information like their food and restaurant blog Grub Street has been astounding. Today, content is refreshed every four minutes. In fact, though New York is preparing an iPad edition, Moss puts greater stock in the power of the web for his readers.
“We believe in the browser,” Moss said. “Our bet right now about where our greatest opportunity lies is on the web.”
by Katie Connors