Your Great-Great-Grandparents’ Favorite Magazine Is Making a Comeback
Waiters passed bite-size hors d’oeuvres that were eagerly snatched up by hungry attendees. Busy bartenders poured white wine and whiskey. Editors and writers and advertising salespeople crowded in the corners, grabbing surreptitious glances at name tags. Assistant editors strategically positioned themselves near the coconut-crusted shrimp.
If the scene looked like something from days gone by—back when glossies were flush with revenue and lavish events were a common occurrence—still more jarring was the title of the magazine being feted, its recently redesigned cover, blown up and mounted on foam core, propped up on a stand in the corner: The Saturday Evening Post.
“I didn’t even know the magazine was still around,” a young book editor told us as he stood, sipping a glass of white.
But not only did the title survive the shakeout of a few years past (and numerous other shakeouts before that), it actually turns a profit. The Post, as it prefers to be known these days, still reaches 350,000 subscribers, most in their mid-50s (down from a readership that once topped 6 million), and is fat with advertising, hokey though some of it is.
Editorial director Steven Slon is fond of paraphrasing Mark Twain’s line about rumors of his death being exaggerated. As Mr. Slon, who came to the Post in 2010 from AARP Magazine, admitted, “Our No. 1 challenge is ‘I thought you were out of business.’ If you’re not a subscriber, you don’t know it exists.”
Though perhaps best remembered for its classic covers illustrated by Norman Rockwell, the Post is also the title that let Joan Didion slouch toward Bethlehem and rejected Ernest Hemingway’s early stories about bullfighting. It published Edgar Allan Poe and helped subsidize F. Scott Fitzgerald’s crack-ups. C.S. Lewis, Agatha Christie, William Saroyan, Rudyard Kipling, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and William Faulkner all had bylines in the magazine.