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NYTBR cuts back on reviews, expands bestsellers

The New York Times Book Review is revamping its bestsellers lists and cutting back on the number of reviews, reports Crain’s New York Business.

In the Sept. 23 issue, the NYTBR will launch two separate bestsellers lists for mass-market paperbacks and trade paperbacks, which are currently ranked on one list. Each list will include 20 titles, up from 15.

The NYTBR will also expand its Advice, How-To, and Miscellaneous categories from five to 10 titles each. All told, the NYTBR will list 110 bestsellers, up from 70.

The expanded listings will cut into space currently allotted to reviews, which editor Sam Tanenhaus says could be recouped if the ploy generates increased ad revenue. He’s quoted in the article as saying: “It’ll be a week-to-week question if the support is there to give us bigger sections.”

The move is reportedly aimed squarely at advertisers, not readers:

Business considerations at Times are also playing a role in the changes. The paper has seen a steady erosion of advertising revenue in the last few years. Book publishing insiders say that adding a third page of lists is clearly aimed at boosting advertising.

That said, it’s surprising to read later in the article that ad revenue at the NYTBR is up by 10%, not down, and is “on track to grow another 10% this year.” Does that mean that NYTBR editors are responding to pressure to compensate for the paper’s net losses? Or is the publisher simply being greedy? In any case, the old adage may prove true: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.