David Remnick estimates he was in his job as editor in chief of The New Yorker for “five and a half minutes” (or so) when he was pitched the idea to start a festival around the brand.
The New Yorker’s Rhonda Sherman, who now directs the event, sketched out what a festival for the magazine would look like—to present The New Yorker in three dimensions—and it was “off to the races,” Remnick said.
The New Yorker Festival, now in its 20th iteration, will kick off Friday with presenting sponsor Land Rover, returning for its third consecutive year. “It brings the reader in closer contact and into the same room with The New Yorker, and the range of people we’ve had over the years gets better and better. It’s astonishing,” Remnick said.
This year, The New Yorker will have more than 50 events, including panels, live performances and master classes around New York. Guests booked for the event, which runs through Sunday, include Nancy Pelosi, Paul Rudd, Zadie Smith, Florence + the Machine, Sarah Silverman and Pete Buttigieg. Panel discussions are hosted by New Yorker staffers.
The festival will be held in and around the Lincoln Square area, with a special nearby headquarters that can serve as a meeting place, with a display version of the Range Rover Velar.
As the event has evolved over time, so has the magazine brand. “We’ve evolved digitally, as a website, where we’re publishing many things a day and in different forms. We’ve experimented with all kinds of digital storytelling. We have a radio show and a group of podcasts,” Remnick said.
It’s been a well-advertised event for the magazine brand, with ads in subway stations in the Lincoln Center area and on top of taxis. Sponsors have taken note, too. The New Yorker’s event sponsorship is up 58% compared to last year (though exact figures weren’t provided).
HBO, Inside Access from Chase, and the Nature Conservancy are also sponsors of the event and will include special bonuses for attendees like sponsored panel discussions.
The New Yorker is anticipating 20,000 attendees, and five days away from kickoff the event reached a milestone and sold the highest ticket volume in its history (though The New Yorker wouldn’t say just how much that was). Tickets were purchased from fans in 49 states and more than 20 countries.
“In the old days when we were a more traditional publication company, The New Yorker started this to be a benefit to readers to see their favorite writers and editors in addition to seeing the talent on stage,” said chief business officer Chris Mitchell. “We focus so much more on events and monetizing events with Condé Nast than we used to, in part to diversify revenue streams. … It’s interesting that they’ve been doing it for so long.”