The New Yorker's Audience
Ross imagined a magazine whose avid, cosmopolitan readers were intelligent, ambitious upwardly
mobile men and women professionals. The New Yorker was aimed at an elite
readership, but was created by a group of editors and writers, many of whom came from middle-class
provincial America, to reach a sizable audience of middle-class readers with upper-class
aspirations. The affluent middle-class professionals who read The New Yorker constituted an
insecure and anxious elite, who through their own entrepreneurship continued to progressively move up. They had enough disposable income to purchase luxury items, but had probably not inhierited them. The bright, urban public took up The New Yorker because they saw it as a mirror of their yearnings for sophistication and style. The advertisements that graced the pages of The New Yorker commodified the elite culture, selling virtual participation in elegant New York high society life even if actual involvement was not possible.
By seeking a New York audience, the new magazine could be produced fast enough to preserve the freshness of its humor and commentary. Additionally, the limited scope of its readership enabled it to publish what Ross though was the most successful type of humor, humor with a local flavor. In 1925, virtually all of The New Yorker's readers lived in New York City. The magazine obsessed over its home city during the early years. Between 1925 and 1930, fifty four pieces of prose and poetry whose titles began with "New York," "New Yorker," "Manhattan," or "Metropolitan" appeared in the magazine. However, as the magazine was busy giving its unstinting attention to everything "New York," its readership was expanding geographically - confirming the prospectus's prediction of a "considerable national circulation." By 1930, a full 30 percent of The New Yorker's 82,000 readers lived outside the metropolitan area. Two years later, over half of its readers lived outside of the city, and by 1945 the figure had grown to 73 percent.
With the extension of its market, The New Yorker became a "fixture on the American literary and cultural landscape" with its singular cosmopolitan sophistication and outstanding fiction, journalism, and humor. The New Yorker's quick and substantial success is in part a result of Ross's idea to target a specific niche - affluent, educated readers who were likely to hold passports, drink alcohol, own binoculars, enjoy gardening, smoke cigarettes, and if they lived outside of Manhattan, visit the city. The New Yorker influenced the opinions of readers capable of having opinions in the first place. "It provides intellectual delight to those capable of intellectual pleasure."