Observer C.E.O. touts gains ahead of relaunch

Observer C.E.O. Joseph Meyer and publisher Jared Kushner. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
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As The New York Observer braces for the most radical design overhaul in its 27-year history, employees are chewing on a message from the chief executive of its parent company touting recent successes and future prospects.

In an internal memo distributed this afternoon and obtained by Capital, Observer Media Group C.E.O. Joseph Meyer wrote that Observer Media Group, which also owns a commercial real estate trade publication, a society magazine and several websites focused on politics, art and tech, "has taken great strides as a business" in the past year.

"[O]ur collection of properties has never been stronger," Meyer wrote, noting a combined total of roughly 4 million monthly unique digital visitors across the company's various sites, which he said are supported by tony advertisers like Dior, Valentino, Chanel, Tiffany and the Metropolitan Museum.

Tomorrow, newsstand readers and subscribers will get a look at the Observer's relaunched print product, which is a smaller, tabloid-format, saddle-stapled publication that will trade in its distinctive salmon hue for white paper.

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Capital first reported the Observer's surprising decision to ditch its famously pink pages back in December, which prompted a wave of observations from alumni and long-time readers about how much the paper has changed since long-time editor Peter Kaplan left in 2009. (Kaplan died late last year after a battle with cancer.)

Observer.com has also been redesigned in a new format.

Some readers were surprised to see that the new homepage does not include links to the standalone sites Politicker, BetaBeat and Gallerist, or to a landing page for media, which had once been an area the paper covered obsessively, but word is that additional navigation tabs will be rolled out in the coming days. (For now, you can find media here.) We're told a new vertical called TV Download, to be overseen by lifestyle and entertainment writer Drew Grant, is in the works.

The Observer has been in a race to stanch the flow of red ink since it was purchased by real estate scion Jared Kushner for $10 million in 2006.

Meyer, who is Kushner's brother-in-law, suggested in his memo that growth would be achieved through "digital innovation," as well as the type of premium and luxury advertising that's long been the stock-in-trade of the Observer's business side. He wrote that the debut of the new format is more than 100 pages, with ads from Ralph Lauren, Wempe, Bloomingdales, Chopard and Leviev. He also wrote: "we are redoubling our commitment to style coverage," which is ripe for lucrative adjacencies.

Apart from its financial outlook, the Observer has come under intense criticism recently for two articles that were perceived as being agenda-driven.

In one, Ken Kurson, the paper's sixth editor-in-chief since Kushner took over, wrote a brutal feature on The New York Times' opinion pages that Times executive editor Jill Abramson called a "crazy rant" in an email to Capital.

The other was a takedown of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that was widely believed to be a retaliatory strike in defense of Kushner's father-in-law, Donald Trump, against whom Schneiderman had pursued litigation.

You can read Meyer's full memo below:

Subject: New Yor [sic] Observer Relaunch

Dear Team,

Over the past year Observer Media has taken great strides as a business. Whether in speaking to founders and funding in technology with Betabeat or leaders in real estate with Commercial Observer, our collection of properties has never been stronger. Our sites are growing, reaching almost 4 MM monthly unique visitors while our social channels are growing over 9% monthly. At the same time, advertising has kept pace, as we distinguish ourselves by attracting premium advertisers like Dior, Valentino, Chanel, Tiffany and the Metropolitan Museum into our collection of properties.

This week we will debut the redesign of the print New York observer on March 19th, and re-launch our website at Observer.com. As the only New York weekly, The New York Observer will focus on what it was created to do—cover the most important people, doing the most important things in the greatest city on earth. Our new print format, redesigned both in size and form is accessible, and contemporary, allowing our editors to direct our readers to the big idea of story. Our covers and three feature wells enable us to highlight important New York topics and personalitites and write more long-form, investigative pieces, with more room for opinion pieces and columns, as well as richer photography and more illustrations. Observer.com, the digital companion to our print product, is now optimized for social and mobile to better serve our national audience, allowing us to grow our contributor base, and offer more extensive and timely coverage of news, real estate and culture. Both our print and digital formats showcase our philosophy of using great design as a vehicle for telling great stories.

As part of the relaunch, we are redoubling our commitment to style coverage with the addition of Sarah Kennedy as a full-time editor. There will be style features and adjacencies in every week’s Observer, as well as monthly blowout coverage and a new online vertical devoted to style. Demonstrating the strength of our brand, the debut issue of the new format is over 100 pages and includes advertising from Ralph Lauren, Wempe, Bloomingdales, Chopard and Leviev among others.

We are excited to build on our past to ensure an exciting future for Observer Media. By focusing on digital innovation, we will grow our collection of premium publications targeting audiences in the areas of innovation, commerce and luxury. Thank you so much for your continued hard work and dedication.

Yours,
Joseph