The woes of the newspaper industry are well documented and severe. But those troubles are not negatively impacting the influence of the Sunday edition magazines, which PR pros still see as high-effect think pieces reaching influencers and decision-makers.
“They carry a very significant amount of weight. That's one of the few parts of a Sunday newspaper that everybody reads and everybody turns to, so much that it often carries into Monday and Tuesday if [readers] didn't get to it on Sunday,” says Mark O'Connor, SVP of media relations at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. “The weight that those stories carry is hefty, and it's a coup to land a cover story, whether it's The New York Times Magazine, Washington Post Magazine, or the [LA,] Los Angeles Times Magazine.”
That isn't to say that those titles, produced to attract the high-end print advertising that often eludes newspapers in favor of magazines, are immune to the plummeting levels of advertising revenue. The New York Times Co. announced it is cutting the size of its magazine by 9% on June 1, after recent Magazine Publishers of America data noted that its ad pages fell 41% year-over-year during the first quarter. LA, Los Angeles Times Magazine, meanwhile, which saw a nearly 20% drop in Q1 ad pages, last month cancelled the publication of LAetcetera, a weekly spinoff magazine. First-quarter ad page numbers for the Washington Post Magazine weren't immediately available.
But while publishing advertising woes are a widespread problem, the newspapers' in-depth and glossy Sunday magazine content still stands out, O'Connor says.
“What you're seeing with these declines is across the board, and it's happening everywhere,” he explains. “It is not to say that the influence that the stories within these magazines has waned.”
The Sunday magazines, like other high-end magazines, such as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, also have a high degree of influence over other media outlets, adds Ruth Sarfaty, EVP and head of media strategies at MWW Group. Placements can take a long time due to the depth of reporting, but PR pros are willing to wait.
“The New York Times Magazine helps to set the agenda; when there's a story about a [subject]… it becomes mainstream,” she says. “It becomes part of the conversation, and that's probably why [PR pros are] incredibly patient to get it.”