Ask the Expert: A Magazine Industry Vet Weighs In

Ever since McKinsey & Company finished up its three-month review at Condé Nast a few weeks ago, the publishing giant has been busy cutting costs, closing down four magazines and laying off staff at most of its remaining titles. But perhaps instead of hiring the pricey consulting firm, Condé should have traveled to the front lines to talk to one of the guys who sells magazines for a living? To gain some insight into the future of printed media and find out what sells (and what doesn't), we headed over to a newsstand on Third Avenue to chat with a kind gentleman named Naseer. You'll find his thoughts on the layoffs and career advice for unemployed journalists below.

Q: What do you think about all the layoffs going on in the publishing world?

A: I haven't heard too much about it, but magazine sales have been slow for the past year. Very slow. But everybody everywhere is getting fired because business everywhere has slowed down, so I'm not surprised.

Q: What are your best-selling titles right now?

A: Nowadays... [long pause] Well, basically just Us Weekly and People. Anything to do with gossip.

Q: That's it?

A: Yeah, that's really it. And, well, some fashion magazines. Vogue sells the best.

Q: Is your life easier now that Vogue is half the size? They were pretty heavy a year ago.

A: Sort of. It depends on the month. Sometimes the special issues are still very large. But I'm strong. September is still thick, but it's not a real pain for me because it's the delivery guy who has to deal with it. Actually, when they are thicker, we sell more copies.

Q: Do you have more space in your stand now that the issues are smaller?

A: A little. But it doesn't matter to me. I adjust. I just don't have to keep as many magazines outside now.

Q: I see. Okay, back to Condé. Did anybody ever buy Portfolio?

A: No. [Laughs] I haven't seen it for awhile now.

Q: And you probably won't be seeing it again. How about Domino?

A: I used to sell a lot of them. I'd sell about 4-5 copies every month.

Q: Were you disappointed that Gourmet closed?

A: Oh, yes! A lot of people have asked me about it in the past month. They were trying to get copies of the last issue, but the delivery guy never even sent them to me.

Q: Did you hear that Ruth Reichl [Gourmet's former editor]was let go by Si Newhouse on the phone? What do you think about that?

A: That's just awful. It's not nice. She'll find another job, I hope.

Q: Are future brides bummed that Elegant Bride and Modern Bride are no longer available?

A: What, they're closed, too? Oh, boy. Yeah, I bet they will be. But I used to only sell one issue of those per month anyway.

Q: Who is your favorite celebrity to see on magazine covers?

A: Oh, definitely Jennifer Lopez. I like Jennifer. She's the best-seller.

Q: Which celebs never sell?

A: It's hard to say.

Q: Do you think Olivia Palermo does any real work at Elle?

A: Who? Palumbo?

Q: Nevermind. So do certain magazines get prime placement?

A: Us Weekly and People because they sell all the time. Oprah sells pretty good, too, but it depends on the issue. Shape sells better than Self for me. I sell a lot of those fitness ones around the holidays.

Q: Are you sick of hearing about the Gosselins?

A: Who? Oh, the ones with 12 kids? I don't read all that gossip. [Waives his hand in the air] Every week there is something new.

Q: What do you prefer to read?

A: Time and sometimes Newsweek.

Q: What advice would you give to magazine editors who are out of work?

A: They should try anything they can get. Anything. They should try a job working for the city, in an office. Those jobs are permanent. They never lay people off.

Q: Interesting. Are you hiring?

A: [Laughs] No.

— Molly Fahner

Note: The photo above is of another magazine vendor. Naseer didn't feel like having his picture taken.