The rich will always be a good bet in publishing. First, they have the money, at least most of it. Second, they have the time, by far the biggest luxury of our age.
So until the rich hire other people to read for them, a magazine is a good way to get their attention. Particularly now, it turns out.
Last week, a new Trump Magazine was announced by Ocean Drive Media Group. The week before, The Wall Street Journal announced Pursuits, a magazine supplement, which will compete with the baldly named How to Spend It from The Financial Times and the cryptically named T magazine from The New York Times.
Forbes, a publication that would seem to know a thing or two about rich folks, began publishing ForbesLife Executive Women in September. Conde Nast Publishing is currently investing many millions in Portfolio, a business-inflected lifestyle magazine that suggests that the rich and powerful like to read about the rich and powerful.
Coming on top of magazines such as The Robb Report, which is full of impossibly expensive goods, magazines such as Gotham and Hamptons from Niche Media and the Modern Luxury chain of moneyed local publications, it would seem that while the rest of the industry is scrambling to fight off the Web and irrelevancy, there is a bull market in wealth.
“Luxury continues to be a lush tropical island in a sea of complaints in the publishing industry,” said Reed Phillips, a media investment banker.
What gives? And, more important for the magazine business, will it last?
There is, as has recently been noted in The New York Times, no shortage of swells. The number of millionaires rose by 26% from 2000 to 2005, a total of more than 303,000, which is a lot of rich people.
Part of the flight to luxury magazines is simple me-too, the most persistent trend of all in publishing, and maybe that alone should tell us the end of the boom is near. But luxury also represents one part of the business that will not succumb to the Web anytime soon.
But it is not just about rich people. “People want those things that give them a feeling of luxury in all sorts of products and at all kinds of income levels,” says Robert Burke, a consultant on luxury in New York.
Excessive wealth is providing fuel for an otherwise impoverished industry. Like fossil fuels, it is bound to peter out at some point, but no one knows exactly when. In the meantime, let them eat Coach.