Publishers Grapple with Big Apple

Article excerpt

New York City has always been the heart of the magazine business. But a recent study from the office of Manhattan borough president Ruth W. Messinger serves as a warning to those who might take that fact for granted.

New York's share of market in periodical publishing declined 6 percent between 1977 and 1990, the study reports, citing such factors as mergers and acquisitions, technological advances making it easier to work outside the office, and the high costs and stress of doing business in the Big Apple.

According to 1990 figures, the most recent available, New York City still employs more than one-fourth of the magazine publishing staffers nationwide. That's about 30,000 people--more than the legal services, real estate and education fields. But Messenger's office says the city needs to do a better job of selling itself to publishers, especially start-up outfits, if it wants to keep their business at a time when desktop publishing is spurring growth elsewhere, and when companies are more likely to outsource certain segments of their operations to less costly locales.

"Publishing is the quintessential New York industry," says Adam Friedman, Messinger's director of economic development. "Every day you read how corporations are restructuring or downsizing. We wanted to use publishing as a model to measure that impact."

Just how expensive is it to do business in New York? Alair Townsend, publisher of Crain's New York Business and a consultant to the study, knows all too well. "Every year at budget time, every publisher [at Crain Communications] gets a space-cost allotment per head," he says. "Ours is out-of-sight compared to other cities--considering the rent premium, real estate taxes, 6 percent commercial occupancy tax and higher wages."

The cost of maintaining a Manhattan office does not come cheap. But for many publishers, it's a must. "An office suite in New York City is probably 30 percent more than a Class A office in downtown Cleveland," notes Joan Marston, director of facilities for Cleveland-based Penton Publishing. …