Chasing the Rich, Rich Richest

The New Republic writes on the love affair between big media and the super rich. The story began with a report on the NY Times Shopping Writer Alex Kuczynski’s new $5000 shearling coat, and how ‘glad she was that she had already paid her credit card bills.” The writer couldn’t resist including this detail in a recent column.

Luxury porn has blossomed over the past decade, driven in part by the proliferation of city-based “controlled-circulation” magazines–ad-driven glossies distributed gratis to households meeting certain economic criteria. (In the past year, not one but three such publications were launched in Washington, D.C., alone.) Other magazines, such as Millionaire (with its annual special issue, Billionaire), hawk the luxe life on a national scale, while still others focus on a particular category of consumption.

Elite Traveler, in which featured accommodations often top $10,000 per night, instructs its readers (households with incomes over $1 million) on how to procure their own private island. Robb Report puts out a handful of luxury guides on subjects like home entertainment, vacation homes, and “ShowBoats.” Similarly, Millionaire produces more than a dozen online magazines/shopping guides, each spotlighting a subset of extravagance like art, wine, cars, yachts, and private jets.

These publications’ business model is to attract advertisers with the richest readership possible. Ad buyers aren’t promised a lot of eyeballs, just the right ones. (Why blow your budget tantalizing some schlub who cannot possibly afford a $42,000 Speedy Twilight watch from Louis Vuitton?) The stakes are high. The Times itself has reported that, by decade’s end, Americans are on track to drop an estimated $1 trillion a year on luxury purchases.