Museums New York's Hottest Exhibit: Itself

By Patz, Debby | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, June 15, 1995 | Go to article overview
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Museums New York's Hottest Exhibit: Itself

Patz, Debby, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

From the basement of a rundown brownstone in the Hell's Kitchen section of New York City, on a block that seems a more likely home for a Laundromat than a glossy magazine, comes a title that shows only the best of the city: Museums New York. The digest-size magazine is essentially a listings guide featuring, as its name implies, events and shows at nearly all the city's museums and galleries, plus synopses of must-see exhibits.

Listings magazines have had it tough lately. Many have conceded defeat at the hands of newspapers, cable TV and online services, and have either turned their attention elsewhere or disappeared altogether. But although not yet profitable, Museums New York has made a very promising start - in the process offering a clinic in highly creative circulation- and advertising-building for specialized start-ups.

Desirable demographics

"Sure it's a specific-interest city magazine," says Museums New York's founder, editor and publisher, Larry Warsh. "But this is a large, international city." Warsh 36 is an avid collector whose company, the Art Knowledge Corp., has published two children's guides and a book on the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. His new, region-specific listings magazine serves one of the most desirable demographics around: museum-goers. "The museums market," says Warsh, "is a larger market than people think."

Statistics bear him out: New York City has more than 100 museums and galleries. According to the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau, there were 21 million visits to museums in 1993 - seven million by people who live in the New York area and 14 million from outside the city. By the year 2000, says the New York Tourism 2000 Committee, museum attendance will grow to 35 million. And these visitors, according to surveys by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others, are an educated, affluent lot. About 90 percent have some college education; 79 percent are college graduates. Their median household income is $65,000 and, while in New York, out-of-town museum-goers spend an average of $675 shopping. Indeed in 10 out-of-town museum-goers spent $3.6 billion and local visitors spent $6 billion.

Warsh had to convince advertisers that he could attract these people as his readers. And to attract readers, he had to have a viable product. "Most people at museums need a better understanding of why a piece is important," says Warsh. He conceived of a portable, easy-to-handle glossy whose bimonthly schedule would correspond to the changing exhibits. The descriptions of events would give MNY an advantage over listings in other city magazines, such as New York, Magazine and The New Yorker, which offer relatively little commentary on why an exhibit is worth visiting. "We fill niches the art magazines and the local dailies don't cover," says editor in chief Missy Sullivan. "These are essentially scholarly institutions. We try to make the material as lively and accessible as possible." Plus, reasoned Warsh, with the museums' cooperation, MNY could offer discount coupons to attract visitors to the various institutions and to add value to the magazine itself.

MNY's premier issue, launched in late 1993, had ads from such heavyweights as Chanel, BMW, Tanqueray, Toyota and Absolut. The 70,000 circulation November/December issue also carried a page of coupons offering discounts and two-for-one admission to various institutions, including the Whitney Museum of American Art. MNY went into regular bimonthly production with the July/August 1994 issue.

Even competitors acknowledge that the magazine appears to have found a niche. Edith Newhall, associate editor in charge of museums listings at New York, says that when she first saw MNY, she was surprised that it didn't have better-known writers who would make it more of a must-read. Still, she says, "There is room for lots of art magazines, and there should be more. I would buy it if I were a tourist interested in that market.

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