When S.I. Newhouse’s Advance Publications paid $200 million for The New Yorker in 1985, many industry observers thought he’d paid a lot of money for a fading magazine. Ad revenues were declining as it continued to publish “50,000 word articles on grain,” as Steven T. Florio recalls, and continued a liberal attack on President Ronald Reagan.
Florio was installed as president of The New Yorker shortly after the purchase and was charged with making the magazine highly profitable again. The New Yorker business staff was “terribly elitist,” recalls Florio. “It resembled a men’s club-there wasn’t any defined stucture.” By the time Florio had defined the structure to his liking, he had also eliminated most of “the club.”
The changes seem to have worked. In fact, in the first half of 1990 The New Yorker was the only major weekly to show an ad page increase. Florio predicts a 4 percent gain in 1990, a creditable figure in a year when general magazine advertising revenue will probably drop by approximately the same amount.
Editorial quality, says Florio, is still the key. “The entire organization exists to support the editorial product. Sometimes this quest for excellence makes it tougher to run The New Yorker as a business.” Though editorial purists might wince at the term “product,” it seems clear that Steve Florio regards his job as a special responsibility (“I feel like a curator”), and he reportedly works well with the magazine’s new editor Bob Gottlieb.
“Accountability of editorial to business, and vice versa,” Florio says, “has slowly crept into the publishing business over the last five years.” From his side of the desk, he sees new rapport between the business and editorial sides of the magazine, though he claims that editorial policy is still completely autonomous.
Steve Florio, 39, grew up in a middle class town on