In the ever-changing world of publishing, a new deal emerges as Vox Media agrees to acquire New York Media, the owner of the biweekly New York Magazine and related media assets – the Cut, Grub Street, Intelligencer, The Strategist and Vulture. Pamela Wasserstein, CEO of New York Media, has been looking for a buyer for more than a year, reports The New York Times. She began talks with Vox this summer.
Wasserstein will remain with the company, serving as president of Vox Media and as a member of the Vox Media board. David Haskell, New York Magazines editor-in-chief since April, will continue to manage the print magazine and the companys other titles. Melissa Bell, co-founder and publisher of Vox Media, will continue to manage editorial for Vox and report to Jim Bankoff, CEO and chairman for Vox Media.
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This spring, New York Magazine laid off 16 full-time and 16 part-time employees and freelancers, representing about 5% of total full-time staff. They marked the beginning of a larger restructuring. The cuts were mostly affected the areas of video, audience development, and copy and fact-checking.
In a memo to staff this March, Wasserstein said, …we have grown and diversified our revenue by investing in promising initiatives, including affiliate ecommerce and our digital subscription production, while continuing to develop a differentiated advertising business. Though we fell short of our financial goals last year, we established a strong foundation for the business going forward and moved closer to reaching our full potential as a leading modern media company. As part of our long-term planning process, we took a hard look at our existing structure and roles in an effort to most effectively organize our resources around our business strategy.
Wasserstein also said she felt the restructuring was necessary to put the company on firm footing and shift the companys focus. Bankoff said there would be no editorial layoffs, nor would any of the publications – online or print – be shut down, reports The Times. However, as Peter Kafka of Vox/Recode, points out after interviewing Bankoff (who is his boss) and Wasserstein, Bankoff did not say he would not consolidate other operations of the two businesses.
We see a lot of mergers that are done for the wrong reason: because one or two companies might be desperate, or for financial engineering, said Bankoff in an interview. Weve been struck by the lackluster ambitions of a lot of the other tie-ups, and the lackluster rationales. What was important to us both was making sure that the market knew that this was something different.
New York Magazine was launched in April 1968 by editor Clay Felker and graphic designer Milton Glaser. For a time the magazine was owned by Ruport Murdoch. It was purchased by investment banker Bruce Wasserstein in 2004, who formed New York Media as a publishing company. When he died in 2009, the company revereted to the Wasserstein Family Trust. Now New York Magazine and its related sites publish 100 stories a day and have more than 100 million readers each month across all platforms. Vox launched as Vox Media in 2014 by founders Ezra Klein, Melissa Bell and Matthew Yglesias. Vox owns The Verge, Vox, SBNation, Eater, Polygon, Curbed, Recode and now New York Media.
In a joint announcement by Bankoff and Wasserstein, the company says the beloved editorial properties will remain distinct and as ambitious as ever. This includes being able to offer a wide array of advertising capabilities to other businesses, including video, audio, events, print, lead gen and display ads.
Combined, our editorial work will be unrivaled in its breadth and quality, whether watched, read, or heard – on websites, TV, and streaming services; in podcasts, at live-event stages, and on social platforms; or in digital and print magazines. Anywhere that modern audiences gather, well be there to ignite the conversations that matter through journalism, service, entertainment, and community, said Bankoff and Wasserstein.
Considering New York Magazines plans to restructure, this move is not a huge surprise. Like Vox/Recodes Peter Kafka, we have some questions, but we can also see the value in combining two companies with similar missions. What we dont quite understand is where the synergy and financial benefits will come from if they continue with distinct, editorially separate properties. Some of the New York Medias subject matter overlaps that of Vox. It doesnt make sense to keep them separate, unless they each have unique audiences and are profitable on their own. It will be interesting to watch as this merger unfolds to see what changes Vox makes.