This Weekend’s New York Times Magazine Won’t Be Filled With Words

The upcoming issue will be heard, not read

New York Times Magazine

You’ll listen to, not read this week’s issue of The New York Times Magazine.

With a sponsorship with GE, The New York Times Magazine’s “Voyages issue” will feature stories told through audio that correspond with full images without captions in the magazine.

“We have really just reinvented how you work your way through a magazine and the kind of experience you have,” said Jake Silverstein, editor of The New York Times Magazine.

For the print product, that means downloading the audio as a podcast or going to the website to listen to each of the 11 stories (with three ads, told as their own stories, from GE). Online, the audio will be seamlessly integrated into the storytelling and played as the images are viewed.

GE, Giant Spoon and NYT’s T Brand Studio collaborated on the project. “How would it work, when we paired two mediums together to create a third unknown experience?” Trevor Guthrie, co-founder of Giant Spoon, said they wondered.

The result was this weekend’s magazine, featuring stories from places throughout the world, told through sounds from destinations to animals that “have an interesting sonic story to tell,” Silverstein said. That ranges from the sound of lava flowing to a lemur singing.

“They’re not really narrative stories,” Silverstein said. “The whole concept of the issue is giving readers a new understanding and appreciation for how much there is to learn about the world … with the sense of sound.”

GE’s pieces will showcase an offshore wind farm in the North Sea off the coast of Germany, a grid solution in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile and a hydropower station in Uganda.

“Everybody knows what a wind turbine looks like, but do they know what it sounds like?” Guthrie said. There will be a GE logo on its stories and a wrap on the cover of the magazine denoting the partnership.

The New York Times has teased the special issue all week with a simplistic, striking image of two ears and a message to “listen to the world,” featuring a “supported by GE” note at the bottom. GE and The New York Times Magazine have partnered in big ways before, including about two years ago when they partnered with Google to distribute Google cardboard viewers to launch a virtual reality edition.

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to talk about our own innovation,” said Linda Boff, CMO, GE. “We really love audio. There’s an intimacy to audio that’s very special now.”

The magazine also has a little something special for the crossword fans, too. Though, as Silverstein as quick to point out, “people love their crosswords, we don’t mess with it because we know better.”

For the first time, the Times has produced a bonus crossword puzzle in which more than half the clues will feature audio clues.

The clues will be given by NYT crossword editor Will Shortz and could include Shortz playing a snippet of a song, then asking listeners to fill in the next lyrics.

The issue was described by Silverstein as an “exciting and exhausting” process, that also included significant work from audio producer Kara Oehler, the magazine’s director of photography, Kathy Ryan, with a design by Matt Willey, art director for The New York Times Magazine.

“Everything was totally reinvented for this one experience,” Silverstein said.

@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.