MediaWeek, under its new boss, Michael Wolff, asked a bunch of us what we’d advise the New York Times Magazines’ new boss to do. Here was my full answer:
Their Q: The New York Times Magazine has a new editor, Hugo Lindgren. If you could make one suggestion for how he could improve the Times Magazine what would it be?
My A: Ask me whether I care. I don’t pick up the magazine. I do read stories out of it when I see links and discussion. The magazine — like the newspaper — is unbundled. Or to pick another metaphor: its content is atomized, and then some of the free atoms find their way into new molecules not through editors’ packaging but through readers’ recommendations.
Other real (read: standalone) magazines at least have some worldview and community of shared interest gathered around them. The Times Magazine has a weaker identity and weaker ties; it’s not a magazine so much as a slick paper on which to print more Times stories.
So why have a magazine? Slick advertising. So I’d put the reporting where it belongs — in the paper — and let the fluffy speciality magazines with good endemic ad categories — fashion, travel, home — take over.
Or here’s another idea: Turn the magazine into a curation of great content of the week from the web. Become a molecule-maker.