Hipster magazines are hits in the Hamptons while papers consolidate

Food festivals, coffee shops and polo matches are increasingly the keys to success in the glitzy magazine world of the Hamptons.

Just look at Whalebone.

The eclectic hipster magazine, now in its fifth year, has carved out a unique niche on Montauk, where its artsy yet humorous issues have become so popular it has been able to expand into a coffee shop, where you can buy Whalebone-branded merchandise, and an online radio station.

Its print circulation is still small (only 25,000), but its eye-catching covers — featuring a single image with no explanation of what’s inside — have caught the attention of Whole Foods, which sells copies in its stores for $8.

The coffee shop-retail store on Lake Montauk, called The Boneyard, is also expected to increase the magazine’s sales. It opened on Memorial Day.

“We’re sold in boutique hotels around the country, but Montauk is definitely home,” said Eddie Berrang, who described himself as the “president and janitor.” Ad revenue has been “up double digits every year since we started,” he said.

Media Ink also caught up with Purist magazine founder Cristina Cuomo as she was finishing her sponsored Sag Harbor food festival on Wednesday, featuring local chefs and restaurants.

“It’s just about every type of seafood you can imagine,” she said.

In expanding her health and wellness audience, Cuomo dropped “Hamptons” from the official title last year. Now the mag covers a slew of luxury markets in addition to the Hamptons, including Aspen, New York, Miami and Palm Beach, she said.

Purist, with Sarah Jessica Parker on the latest cover, seems to have safely outdistanced rival Modern Luxury’s Beach, which a year ago was trying to follow her into the health and wellness category and this year seems to have returned to general coverage to cash in on the booming real estate and design world.

Social Life, a luxury magazine for Hamptonites headed by Justin Mitchell, said his ad sales are up about 15% due to the hot Hamptons real estate market. But Mitchell also makes money with his upscale events, including a sponsored Hamptons polo match on June 29 — where Christie Brinkley threw out the first ball. A second “Polo Hamptons” event is planned for Friday, July 5, in Bridgehampton, and on July 22, Mitchell plans to throw the St. Barth Hamptons Gala hosted by Charlotte McKinney to benefit the Bridgehampton Museum, he said.

Hamptons Magazine, also owned by Modern Luxury, is the oldest publication in the field. It’s publishing its fattest issue of the year over the July 4th weekend.

“It’s hard to know which is the catalyst, but without the events, ad sales would be a lot slower,” said Mitchell. “Events are the key.”

Nobody knows about selling a magazine in the Hamptons better than Dan’s Papers and its current owner, Richard Burns.

After buying the company in 2010, Burns started his first food-linked event the following year. The publication, founded by Dan Rattiner, now throws eight food-tasting events — climaxed by the Taste of Two Forks in Bridgehampton, on July 20, where tickets go for $100 to $250 each.

“Dan’s has gone through a remarkable media transition,” said Burns. “The flagship paper is still very healthy, but now accounts for just under 50% of our business.”

He’s planning a huge anniversary party at Gurney’s Montauk Resort in Montauk, where Rattiner, editor-in-chief of Dan’s Papers, began it all 60 years ago.

Luxury magazine Avenue, which is now owned by billionaire Charles Cohen, is on hiatus while he redesigns in anticipation of a fall relaunch.

That means Avenue at the Beach, Avenue’s summer edition on the Hamptons, will not appear this year, and its future fate is in doubt.

Let’s merge

While magazines are finding ways to grow, newspapers in the popular beach towns of Long Island are consolidating.

Sag Harbor Express and Press News Group, which owns the Southampton Press and the East Hampton Press, are merging into a single company.

Both have been around over 100 years.

Joe Louchheim, a former Washington Post reporter who has owned the Press News Group since 1997, is going to be a consultant to the newly combined shop.

Officially, it is a “merger,” but insiders said it was a case of the smaller Sag Harbor paper buying the three publications of its neighboring rival.

“We would rather not get into the specifics of the business deal, but my wife and I are now the full owners of the combined entity with Joe playing a crucial supportive role in the years to come,” said Gavin Menu, publisher of the Express, who will now be running things with his wife, Kathryn “Georgie” Menu, the editor-in-chief of the Express.

“We couldn’t have done any of this without him, and we look forward to growing these companies with him by our side,” Gavin said of Louchheim.

The only small casualty so far is a Press News Group bureau in East Hampton, which will be closed, but staffers will relocate to Sag Harbor.

“The South Fork of Long Island [the Hamptons] currently has four newspaper companies serving two towns,” Louchheim, 55, told Media Ink. “And while one may be able to argue that there are readers for all of their publications, I think it will be impossible for all of these companies to survive on their own with the continued margin compression we are all experiencing.”

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