Why New York Magazine’s the Cut is expanding at a time when many media companies are cutting costs
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New York Magazine’s women’s fashion and lifestyle publication the Cut is expanding this year, adding four full-time editorial staff, verticals and inventory as it chases new and existing advertiser dollars.
But how can the Vox Media-owned title afford to expand at a time when most large digital publishers are undergoing layoffs?
Vox Media chief revenue officer Geoff Schiller told Digiday the title’s expansion is justifiable due to an increase in advertiser demand (especially in categories such as luxury brands, retail, beauty and CPG) and a need to keep up with that demand. The Cut’s advertising revenue — the majority of the publication’s business — is up year-over-year, though he declined to share by how much. A New York Magazine spokesperson said the company has hit its revenue goals for the first quarter, and the Cut’s average advertiser deal size and number of deals won is up. Schiller and the spokesperson declined to share specific details. Schiller said the company is investing some of that revenue back into the Cut to grow its audience this year.
“There’s been a lot of parts of the Cut that I felt like we could do more on in a way that would meet our reader… and so that has led us to a lot of conversations around what’s possible on the business side for the brand,” said the Cut’s editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples.
The Cut was not affected by the layoffs that hit Vox Media last year. In November, the publisher let go of 4% of its staff, primarily in product, design, technology, advertising, another one of its other women’s lifestyle brands PopSugar, Vox.com and The Dodo. In January 2023, Vox also laid off 130 people, or 7% of its workforce at that time.
When asked why Vox Media was investing in the Cut after the layoffs last year, Schiller said the business is run “based on the marketplace and what secular industry trends are guiding us,” and that previous cost-cutting decisions were reactions to “industry trends.” Last August, Schiller told Digiday the company was seeing a softness in marketing spend in the tech and finance categories.
However, in the case of the Cut, “there continues to be outsize demand relative to supply. So it was very clear… that investment will help grow our audience, will help convert our readers into subscribers and shoppers and strengthen our advertising business,” Schiller said.
For example, a new offering for advertisers from the Cut called “Close Friends” is going into market now, Schiller said. Peoples contracted 15 fashion and beauty influencers to work with the Cut’s advertisers for branded content and other social content (such as red carpet coverage) on Instagram and TikTok. A New York Magazine spokesperson said it was too early to share names of advertisers that have signed onto that offering yet.
Kathleen Brogan, svp of integrated investment at ad agency Dentsu Media U.S., said the Cut’s expansion was “a bit of a risk given the current market.” However, because the company was investing in new offerings while competitors were cutting back, it “has the potential to pay off,” she added.
“The Cut has been working to build out their offering, targeting fashion, luxury and beauty brands. There is some demand coming from luxury and beauty advertisers as clients seek to reach younger and more diverse audiences with a fresh perspective. The Cut is also introducing new formats and placements in the digital space,” which is where luxury advertisers want to be, Brogan said in an email.
Another media buyer at a large ad agency, who shared their perspective on the condition of anonymity said they are seeing consistent demand from luxury clients around fashion content. Several publisher CROs told Digiday that top performing ad categories in the second half of 2023 included fashion, luxury and beauty.
The Cut is also contributing to New York Magazine’s affiliate and subscription businesses, according to Schiller. Click-through rates for the Cut’s e-commerce shop have increased year over year, he said, but he declined to share by how much. A New York Magazine spokesperson said over 50% of New York Magazine’s top converting stories for its subscription (which includes the Cut) are from the Cut each month.
The Cut has added four full-time positions this year, including Chantal Fernandez as features writer, Cat Zhang as culture writer, Julia Edelstein as features editor at New York Magazine and the Cut with a focus on parenting coverage and Marisa Carroll as executive editor (who moved over from the New York Magazine team). Olivia Craighead was hired as a full-time news writer last November. Laura Bassett joined as a contributor to the Cut’s election coverage last month. The Cut has a staff of 32 people.
Two social media editors from the New York Magazine team transitioned to dedicating their time fully to the Cut in January and will be in charge of doubling social content output on both Instagram and TikTok this year, Peoples said.
The Cut is also moving into new verticals in 2024. A women’s sports section was created in January, underwritten by Team Milk, which will sponsor the section until the end of March. The Cut plans to continue sports coverage beyond that time frame, Peoples said. Freelancers and the Cut’s editors are contributing to that beat — a new one for the publication — with Carroll overseeing the section, Peoples said.
“Based on the signs that we are seeing to kick the year off, we are confident and anticipate continued growth for this year as well as in the future,” Schiller said.
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