New Yorker Hits a New Low

Earlier this week, Maud Newton voiced her concerns about the direction that the New Yorker was heading, specifically focusing on the August 22, 2005 issue, which features a sole sponsor — Target.

While Maud has already pointed to the waning editorial content (perhaps best recently represented by Ken Auletta’s uncritical puff piece on morning talk shows, “The Dawn Patrol,” which appeared in the August 8/15, 2005 issue.), I’d instead like to dwell upon the insidiuous design.

I’ve been a subscriber to the New Yorker for years, but I have never seen advertising that has gone out of its way to blare out editorial content like this. Below are three samples from the latest issue. Note the way that the red in the advertising is of a brighter hue than the red in the headlines. Note also the way that Target has appropriated the New Yorker’s classic art deco look for its advertisement, only to invade this design motif with its odious red targets.

I think, between this and the Auletta piece, this is a clear signal that a magazine which once prided itself on sophistication, lengthy articles addressing multiple sides of an issue and clean design is now more concerned with whoring itself out to publicists and advertisers.

David Remnick oughta be ashamed of himself.

[RELATED: Advertising columnist Lewis Lazare weighs in and he isn’t happy. He calls this issue “[a] 90-page publication where it is almost impossible to discern any line of demarcation between Target’s advertising and the New Yorker editorial product.”]


  1. I’m not a New Yorker reader–maybe I’ve read it a couple of times in recent years, but that’s it. So I can’t comment on the evolution of its style.

    But I will say that your scans show jarring images–the actual magazine may be even more jarring viewing. The images probably pull the eye from the words beside them, IMO.

    The New Yorker seems to be putting a big M-A-G-A-Z-I-N-E into the word magazine. Too many magazines of all kinds seem to be more about glitz than anything else, which is why I don’t often buy them. I’d normally rather buy books.

  2. I also find it hard to believe that the issue’s cover illustration is purely coincidental — it features round, red-and-white beach balls that jump out from the background, clearly evoking the Target logo from the ads.

  3. I agree completely, Ed. There’s nothing accidental about the cover or any of the copy that runs against the ads that aren’t supposed to be overt ads. For years, there’s been controversy about magazines selling out to advertisers but this is the most egregious act by a reputable magazine and, sorry to say, Remnick’s not ashamed of himself at all. The long profiles about little-known but fascinating people disappeared years ago but ad pages are what make a magazine go–and I guess the NYer is gone.

  4. David , that’s a nifty last sentence

    One wonders where you people have been. Remnick is not the first NYorker editor to countenance the breeching/broaching of the once sacred demarcation between church and state —all three, since the legendary William Shawn, have accepted or suffered this.

    Before the lynch mob gathers to villify David Remnick for the ages and all time, please consider whether any of you purer-than-Caesar’s-wife types would have told the publisher and Si Newhouse that this was an egregious act and either they find another way to take Target’s money or they (the editor) would be resigning posthaste?

    Also, I think it is a little acknowledged fact that for years people who otherwise did not read the New Yorker were pleased to do so in waiting rooms around the country, scanning the cartoons and the advertisements.

    So what do we have here, more evidence that civilization declines precipitously? That the consumerism juggernaut is going to trample every last shred of high culture? That the New Yorker which sits in the corporate family of which bastions of high journalism, is now crapola?

    Probably all of the above ( may I add, I think this is what the serenity prayer was created for). Recently Boston’s MFA (that stands for Museum of Fine Arts, remember that!) had an exhibition of Ralph Lauren’s automobile collection. Fine Arts, right? A few years ago the Met had an Armani exhibition ( I have a luxurious slip cased door stopper that attests to this pretension). So folks it’s a little late to bar the gates. The luxury cruises with New Yorker writers and Ben & Jerry and the special advertising sections and the Bruce Weber 120 page Calvin Klein supplements and the unacknowledged irony of Absolut vodka attaching itself to AIDs benefits (when alcohol probably kills exponentially more people than the top five viruses), I’m telling you folks it is toooooo late to rail about this crass shit. Way too late.

    The latest consumer egregiousness to accost me is my local supermarket now had TV monitors in the check out lines. Recipes and products, just what needed—the Enquirer and the Star and US and the rest of the arborcidal bunch weren’t enough. Are you ready for this? More impressions your aimed at your being. More buy, buy, buy. And guess what you can’t turn in off and if you ask for it to be turned off guess what the vibe is? Anyway, there is a service that this blatant in your face marketing provides— it does remind us, ala Tom Jefferson,that eternal vigilance is the price of our liberty and our vigilance was traded in for recreational shopping long ago.

  5. Wh… why Ed? Why are you poop-mouthing the New Yorker and not Harper’s or that one that begins with the letter “C”? The institution you once slurred to me as you used your forehead against a bannister for balance, “Between my sister and an issue of the New Yorker, I would have a difficult time choosing which to save first from Dan Rather.”

    Poop mouth. Poop mouth!

  6. I’ll respond to Bobbie B’s musings later, but, Tom, good christ did I really say that in a drunken stupor that I can’t remember? It’s quite possible!

  7. Thanks, Robert. We aim to please. Having been a NYer reader for nearly thirty years (awful as that is to imagine), I’ve seen a steady decline in the magazine, especially in fiction but also in the fact articles. In the old days, the NYer was so sought after that it didn’t even accept fulfilled subs but rather made everyone pay upfront the full price if they wanted the book. Then Newhouse came in and everything changed but what really mattered is that the number of ad pages dropped precipitously. Any magazine or newspaper, no matter how distinguised, lives as an advertising vehicle and so the deal with Target makes some sense–for both parties–even if offends our literary sensibilities, which it does. Yes, the NYer is for sale; and no, it’s nothing new.

  8. Re; The New Yorker 22 August issue.

    Yes, I believe that the thin red line has finally been breached. And that merchandising The New Yorker brand is certainly a program for profit beyond ad revenue. The recent invitation to become a special participant in a ‘survey’ so blatantly for advertiser fodder was also insulting to at least this very long- term reader.

    So saying, does any one else remember when The New Yorker’s comp subscription list could be bought by media advertisers (including newspapers and powerhouse radio stations in those ur-media days when I was in the media department at BBDO)?

  9. Wait, I’m confused . . . are people really saying that they’re having trouble telling the textless images packed with Target logos apart from the articles and the cartoons-with-captions? Methinks that the Guardians of New Yorker Propriety do protest WAY too much, here.

  10. I was weaned on The New Yorker, some 62 years ago, and am as slavishly devoted as a Chicagoan can be (which is extremely, since it serves me as a lifelong symbol of the entire Manhattan zeitgeist). My 93-year-old mother alerted me to the controversial issue (in both senses) with a phone call: “Your father and I can’t figure out this issue. There are all these line drawings all the way through…”
    So I was prepared for SOMETHING different — perhaps an extension of the “Mad” magazine-like sequenced captionless cartoons that have cropped up lately; but when I saw the big’ol Target logo throughout, I laughed out loud. I’m not offended — far from it! Ad revenue is important, and if Target thinks it can enhance its image as an emporium for sophisiticates by snuggling up to Eustace, it’s fine by me. This is called “synergy”, if you’re a marketing type; or “symbiosis”, if you’re a biologist and fond of fungi. Either way, it’s the real world, and since I’m fond of both the store and the magazine, I have no problem with it.
    Now if every ad had been bought by, say, The Multinational Direct Mail Galleries of Thomas Kinkaide Resin Art, I’d be the first to turn in my subscription. As it is, if Target can help my favorite magazine flourish, so be it. I haven’t noticed any waffling by Hendrik Hertzberg; and they keep on publishing George Saunders. Until they replace Roz Chast with “Love is…” they can count me in.

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