The NYTA is the successor to the Universal Almanac. Its publisher, Andrews & McMeel, decided to discontinue that almanac, with the final edition being the 1997 issue. John W. Wright, the editor of the Universal Almanac, owned the rights to its content. He approached The New York Times Company, who agreed with his idea of creating a new almanac with the newspaper's name on it. Penguin was then brought in as the publisher.
Wright became the general editor of the NYTA, a position he continues (as of 2008) to hold. The 1998 edition of the almanac included a good deal of information from the Universal Almanac, with some members of The Times news staff contributing articles about the major news events of the year, as well as the maps in the book. 2009 edition has 1,004 pages.