Play Out: NYT Shuts Sports Mag

The New York Times sports mag PlayThe New York Times is halting publication of Play, its quarterly sports magazine, according to, which first reported the news. Editor Mark Bryant said the decision to cancel the magazine was made only recently--in the last month--as a result of the sudden, steep decline in the general economic situation. 

Play was launched by the New York Times on February 5, 2006 to coincide with Super Bowl Sunday. In keeping with the New York Times' brand, the glossy sports mag was somewhat more cerebral than its consumer magazine competitors. For example, a recent article on the magazine's Web site covered the resurgence of Russia in international athletics, drawing parallels between the renewed U.S.-Russia tensions and a rivalry between the NHL and Russia's new CHL.



According to Bryant, the magazine broke even in 2008, and was scheduled to publish four issues in 2009 until executives at the beleaguered newspaper pulled the plug. The demise of an apparently viable publication is a sign of growing desperation in the newspaper industry--as corporate owners struggle to keep their businesses profitable in the face of a secular shift to the Internet, as well as a cyclical downturn in the economy.

The New York Times Co., while better-positioned than some newspaper publishers, has still taken it on the chin during the last couple of years. In 2007, ad revenues fell 4.9% to $2.05 billion in comparison to 2006, and in the first nine months of 2008, advertising revenues have fallen an additional 11.3% in comparison to the same period in 2007, to $1.3 billion.

Despite the closure of Play, the company is forging ahead with the launch of new print publications with niche appeal in an effort to shore up tumbling ad revenues. In late October the Boston Globe, one of the company's big revenue drains, launched a "g" daily magazine-style section covering arts, culture, entertainment, people, and lifestyles. In September 2008, the newspaper also launched OT (for Our Town), a new sportsweekly. It has also launched Lola, targeting young women, and Design New England.


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