Did you buy the paper this morning, or perhaps have it delivered to your stoop or front door, depending on the sort of place you live? Maybe it was heavier than usual, even for a Sunday, and you paused on the third landing of your fourth floor walk-up to wonder, winded. Perhaps you should have had a Red Bull® before setting out to grab the paper, giving yourself an extra pep in your step, or as they say, “wings.” (You could have just read it online.) But, really, this whole thing is Red Bull’s fault; they stuffed the paper with almost 100 extra pages, calling it The Red Bulletin. It’s an advertorial publication, “an almost independent magazine.” It says that on the cover. The Bulletin is a “partnership” with the New York Times. Hopefully it was very expensive.
There is likely no reason to. This entire arrangement is hard to fathom, but Red Bull is happy to explain at their website:
630,000 copies of the magazine will be inserted into the New York Times on June 13, ahead of the fifth race of the current Air Race series – which takes place in Liberty State Park, Jersey City on June 19 and 20. An additional 70,000 copies will also be handed out on the race weekend itself.
Similar deals exist in England, with the Sunday Telegraph and the Independent, along with distribution in Austria, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, Poland, and Ireland. Red Bull must be selling very well, somewhere.
Inside the magazine, the Bulletin hopes to “bring to life the creative and adventurous world of Red Bull through spectacular photography and features.” One feature is about M.I.A. “I’m only gonna buy clothes from Wal-Mart from now on,” she says, [eating a truffle-flavored French fry]. (Page 66.) Another feature is about Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Elsewhere, there is a woman in a bikini and a shirtless man or two.
As noted by Daily Intel, Red Bull’s bullshit is about twice as long as the accompanying New York Times Magazine. Baffled readers are left to wonder, “Is this my fault?” If I spent more money purchasing quality journalism instead of skimming it for free, like a pirate, could these mega-invasive, bastardizing ad-buys be avoided? How can we help, Mr. Sulzberger?
“This Magazine did not involve the staff of the New York Times,” the fine print insists. And so however misguidedly, we’re left to blame ourselves.