Just last summer, Brooklyn had a whole stack of glossy magazines devoted to chronicling the borough's supposed renaissance. Since then, all of those magazines have run out of money, and today, the only one still standing is the Brooklyn Rail, a nonprofit that gets most of its operational budget through arts grants.
The latest to fold is the Brooklynite, a free, glossy quarterly that has called it quits after just one year due to lack of funds. Until a few months ago, the editor, Daniel Treiman, had been planning to publish a third issue, but financial woes forced him to shelve the project and instead settle for posting online the material already written.
The Brooklynite joins a graveyard full of other failed Brooklyn magazines, including NRG, the self-proclaimed "Pulse of Brooklyn," which ceased print publication last year; BKLYN Magazine, a lifestyle book that went on indefinite hiatus last month, and Brooklyn Bridge Magazine, a general-interest periodical that folded in 2000.
Mr. Treiman disclosed the end of the Brooklynite at last weekend's Brooklyn Blogfest, an event dedicated to the borough's blossoming local blogosphere. His announcement had been reported first on a blog. But according to Mr. Treiman, who lost thousands of dollars with every issue, it was not blogs that sank his ship, but Brooklyn itself.
"It's not its own metropolitan area, but at the same time it's too big to be a neighborhood. It's an awkward in-between stage," he said. "Brooklyn is both subsumed within the larger New York media market and a very disparate collection of neighborhoods."
The borough is so diverse, so fragmented, and so big, he explained, that local merchants are reluctant to buy advertising in magazines aimed at the entire area.
For all the talk about its cultural renaissance and shared identity, Brooklyn remains quite provincial.
The editors of all the fallen Brooklyn glossies spoke to the Sun about this problem as if in unison.
The founder and editor of Brooklyn Bridge Magazine, Melissa Ennen, said that despite her 38,000 subscribers and 10,000-strong newsstand circulation, the magazine could not sustain itself.
"We had 22 employees, but that is nowhere near enough employees to put out what we were putting out, which is about 138 pages a month," she said. After four and a half years, Ms. Ennen slowed Brooklyn Bridge to a bimonthly schedule, but the dearth of advertising from local merchants was fatal.
"Our readership was all over Brooklyn, no doubt about that," she said. "The problem is that there is not a sufficient advertising base for the spread of readers. We had a lot of hospitals, utilities, and banks, but still, the bulk of your advertising would be local advertising."
The editor of NRG, Gail Johnson, said she originally marketed her magazine as a local periodical for Clinton Hill and Fort Greene. As soon as she expanded her circulation, things started slowing down.
When last she put out an issue of NRG, she distributed copies all over Brooklyn - as well as lower Manhattan; Washington, D.C.; Miami; Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. In another effort to expand, she changed the magazine's subtitle to "The Pulse of New York," but this hurt her advertising efforts even more.
The lack of advertising has rendered the possibility of another print run very unlikely, according to Ms. Johnson. She said she was hoping to launch an online-only edition of NRG in a month.
Joseph McCarthy, who purchased the thick, glossy bimonthly BKLYN in 2004, shortly after the magazine's first birthday, expressed similar frustrations.
"We saw ourselves not only as a Brooklyn magazine, but a vehicle for high-end advertisers in Manhattan," he said. "But people don't understand the value of the market out here."
At its peak, BKLYN was being mailed to 80,000 high-income households, Mr. McCarthy said, but advertisers were nevertheless reluctant to advertise.
"We had a publisher visit from a large city in the Midwest who publishes a city magazine, and he came out and looked at Brooklyn, and it just blew him away," he said. "But he asked me, 'Where's the high end mall?' I pointed across the East River and said, 'It's over there.' Advertising really is local."
According to the display advertising director for Courier-Life Publications, which publishes more than 10 community newspapers across the borough, Howard Swengler, Brooklynites don't mind trekking across town for a nice restaurant or an outdoor cafe with a view of the water. But if it's a hair salon or a pizza place, he said, they're more likely to stay where they are. Courier-Life sells ads in bundles, Mr. Swengler said, offering merchants discounts on space when they advertise in several newspapers at once.
If the Courier-Life newspapers have succeeded where the Brooklyn magazines failed, it's because the business model allows merchants to choose which neighborhoods they want to reach. A restaurant owner can try to attract customers from nearby neighborhoods while avoiding the ones that are far away. It's a choice the Brooklyn glossy magazines, meant to reach the entire borough, could not offer their advertisers.
For Mr. Treiman, the collapse of the Brooklynite is not just the end of a personal project, but a blow to his vision for the borough.
"I think Brooklyn deserves a magazine that is not afraid of tackling the serious issues - that really displays an interest in the entire borough, not just the trendy neighborhoods that are close to Manhattan," he said. "It deserves a magazine whose editorial interests are as wide as the diverse spectrum of the people who live here: newcomers, natives, and immigrants. That's what the Brooklynite tried to be."