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Gourmet Magazine to Close

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Blame it on the blogs: Condé Nast to shut down Gourmet Magazine - The Appetizer
post #2 of 21
I think that assumption of cause-and-effect is incorrect. In spite of the many changes made in recent years, Gourmet was still seen as highlighting complicated, exotic food that only really dedicated home cooks should even consider making; you had to know about fine food to enjoy the magazine, at least in most of the time I actually cared to read it. Bon Appétit, otoh, is a dumbed-down, quick-and-easy, minimal effort recipe collection for people who know very little, and don't want to learn very much more about food.

I haven't cared much for Gourmet for a long time, because it seemed to be trying to dumb itself down. I like BA even less. (I copyedited The Bon Appetit Cookbook and spent a lot of time fixing things they got wrong. :mad:) So to me, this is just more proof that the public doesn't want to do any work to have exciting food. But for once, I can't blame blogs and bloggers; I put the cause on the increasingly lazy and dull magazine readership.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #3 of 21
Wow.

Print periodicals of all sorts are suffering huge losses from digital and electronic competition.

Food magazines not only compete with individual food blogs, but sites such as this; commerically operated sites like Epicurious; and visual, non-commercial sites like Youtube; and the Foodnetwork which combines electronic and online visual instruction as well as a rich collection of beginner recipes.

In the partcular case of Gourmet, Epicurious (a property of Conde Nast Digital) not only contains Gourmet's recent canon of recipes, the online versions are searchable and easily reprinted. There seems little reason for Conde Nast to continue spread resources to further a competition which Epicurious has already won. In the meantime, Bon Apetit will continue to provide the glossy pictures -- so coffee tables need not go bare -- at least for the near future.

As long as the internet delivers savvy foodwriters like Suzanne and Ruth Reichl more conveniently and cheaper than a magazine can, magazines will continue to hemorrahage readers. To my mind this more smart than lazy.

Mon deux centimes,
BDL
post #4 of 21
I'm very sad about this. I've enjoyed Gourmet Magazine since I was 22 years old. I remember the day I could afford to subscribe-I thought I was "uptown". Admittedly, many of the recipes I wouldn't even attempt, not because I lacked the culinary skills, but because some of the more exotic ingredients couldn't be found out here in "no where middle America". However, there have been many wonderful recipes from the pages of Gourmet that I have enjoyed through the years. Many techniques I learned from the pages of Gourmet. I will miss Gourmet magazine.
Cheers,
texasflute
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Cheers,
texasflute
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post #5 of 21
I think that assumption of cause-and-effect is incorrect. In spite of the many changes made in recent years, Gourmet was still seen as highlighting complicated, exotic food that only really dedicated home cooks should even consider making;

I both agree and disagree with this. I agree that the stated cause-and-effect is incorrect. But not the niche description of Gourmet. It hasn't been that in a long time. Just think of all those clock icons scattered about, so we would know how quick and easy the dish is to prepare.

There are, of course, all sorts of reasons why magazines fold. And certainly the internet has had a role. But in this case I believe it goes a lot deeper.

When you have only two publications dominating a market segment and one publisher buys them both, there is almost always a leveling effect. We saw that, for instance, with Field & Stream and Outdoor Life, which are virtually indistinguishable from each other.

So it had become with Gourmet and Bon Appetite.

In the past they could both be described as magazines dedicated to upscale entertaining and culinary arts. In general, Gourmet's niche could be typified as formal, French classic, while Bon Appetite was casual, California modern.

Once Conde Nast owned them both there was a melding of the two. Might have been alright if it had stopped there. But, instead, both magazines were, as Suzanne notes, dumbed down, and targeted to the convenience-oriented home cook. As I've said elseware, both could have been renamed "Rachael Ray's Other Magazine," and nobody would have objected. In addition, they had reversed the normal ad/editorial ratio, and the magazines were really starting to look like catalogs.

What happens when you disenfranchise your mainstay market without actually capturing the new demographic you're aiming at? In a phrase, you lose. The old demographic, the one that kept you in business, is gone. But there isn't enough of the new one to pay the bills.

It's not a new story. You can see the same syndrome in the recent fortunes of the Food Network. And those into gardening remember, less than fondly, the abortion called Organic Style, which drove the last nail into Organic Gardening's coffin.

Without knowing all the ins and outs of the decision making it's difficult, at best, to pinpoint how the decision was made. But I'd be willing to bet good money that that's what's behind Conde Nast's decision. They degraded both magazines, only retaining the higher class photography in Gourmet. Then, when at least one of them had to go, it made sense to drop the one with higher production costs.

I'd also bet that they're counting on swinging both advertisers and readers from Gourmet to Bon Appetite, hoping, thereby, to create one viable publication from two failing ones. Will it work? I wouldn't count on it.

Symptomatic is the fact that they've choosen to fold Gourmet rather than put it on the auction block. One thing about tightly drawn (we say "vertical" in the industry) publications is that it's easier for an independent to make a go of them than for a major publisher. But it sure wouldn't fit Conde Nast's image if somebody else restored the glory of Gourmet when they couldn't sell it.

Meanwhile, they've driven their real readership away, to publications like Saveur and Food & Wine. Both of those have their problems too (particularly Saveur), but that's grist for a different discussion.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 21
I would expect the circulation numbers and advertising revenues play a big role here.
Bon Appetit and Gourmet Both Exist. Why? - Conde Nast - Gawker
For comparison, F&W's circulation is 950,000 and the Food Network's magazine is 900,000.

Speaking as a moderately ambitious home cook who has subcribed to Gourmet, F&W, and BA for many years, I always found Gourmet's cooking articles and recipes to be the most interesting and worthwhile. OTOH, I think all 3 magazines have moved too far from these core components and have focused too much on travel, ethnic cuisines, and "special issues." Many of these latter types of articles have failed to include recipes. The increasing numbers of ads have also detracted from these magazines' worthwhile content. Too much glitz and not enough substance. Their publishers are driving their long-time readers away, and the casual foodie is more apt to be surfing internet sites and flipping through the Food Network's publications.
post #7 of 21
Although I haven't subscribed for over a year, I still liked the writing in Gourmet better than in most of the others. And I'll be interested to see where Ruth Reichl lands.
Emily

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"If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener." -- J. C. Raulston, American Horticulturist
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Emily

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"If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener." -- J. C. Raulston, American Horticulturist
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post #8 of 21
Their advertising $ dropped 40%. Food and Wine Magi was smart, they teamed up with
food channel and cruise lines and kept their name in the forefront, and was and is more commercial focused. Gourmet was all quality over many years. It is sad.
CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #9 of 21
Actually, Ed, it was 46% just in the first quarter of this year.

Part of that, no doubt, was the general economy. But much of it likely came from the high-end, luxury product advertisers who no longer were seeing their ads as effective, since Gourmet no longer delivered the upscale audience they'd always had in the past.

Bon Appetite did somewhat better, but was still down, as I recall, 26%---a fairly heavy hit.

Part of what you say about Food & Wine is true. But don't forget that F&W is underwritten by Amex, which, among other things, maintains its circulation figures by automatically issuing a subscription when your account is renewed. So F&W is able to deliver the upscale demographic whether people read it or not.

To me the saddest story is Saveur, which had hit the market with a high quality magazine, with really good editorial material and great pix. Now it's degenerated into a catalog, with most of the so-called editorial merely touting goods and services. I don't take it anymore for that reason.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #10 of 21
being IN the print publishing industry, as a whole, I can tell you not a single print outlet, newspapers, magazines, etc...will survive without investing significantly in digital and figuring out a way to make that work along side of print.

Circulation is continuing to fall across the board, where you see a rise, it's likely a shell game with the numbers. (also, many of the ABC - audit bureau of circulation rules have changed recently) along with ad-revenue.

You can argue that it's content, but the best content will not keep it from failing...eventually. Take a look at some of the top reputable "content" publications numbers, they aren't going up much either. (NY Times, WSJ, etc.)
post #11 of 21
RPMcMurphy -- words to live by.

I read a little piece in the NY Times (subscription possibly required) which might be of general interest on the topic: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/08/op...=1&ref=opinion

BDL
post #12 of 21
I received a gift subscription to Gourmet last year, and most of the time I found myself thinking "I'm so glad I didn't have to pay for this". However, their long periods of tedium have been punctuated by sheer brilliance. (I should probably say here, that my opinion is purly subjective---I don't typically get excited about "designer foods"). They can retire the publication knowing that their September 2009 issue will probably never be surpassed, or even matched, by any other food magazine. The entire team did a stellar job on that one!
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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post #13 of 21
I've noticed most of my favorite magazines have been dumbing themselves down.

For years I've loved Scientific American. It was a full two steps up from Popular Science, but with glossy pictures unlike a real journal.

Now, I'm liking popular science better and I don't think popular science has gotten better.

If it wasn't for my waiting room, I'd have no need for any magazines.
post #14 of 21
Not much science left in Scientific American. At its best it was never more than a gloss -- and a glossy gloss at that. In one sense, you really can't blame them -- the level of scientific education is so poor in America, they can't write something that would be interesting to the typical college graduate (always their audience) which would also be interesting to someone with any scientific education beyond physics for poets.

It's interesting to note that the level of education required to read Sci Am has swung like a pendulum over the years from the typical college graduate at one extreme, to the typical college graduate with a good understanding of science at the other.

Like Pop Sci or Nat Geo, at least it's a step better than the newspapers and television news almost all of which are just horrible.

The same Sci Am editorial staff which dumbed the magazine down on this particular pendulum arc declared the era of important basic research dead -- because they thought string theory was the TOE. They even wrote books about it. They also, very clearly, didn't understand string and 'brane theories, or why Hawking was wrong (in fact, if you took a poll over there they'd probably still tell you he was on to a good thing); but were taking someone else's word for it. Someone very smart and very nice no doubt, but still...

It's not my favorite magazine, but I'm sure not going to pay for Nature. So, every month it's there in the mailbox.

BDL

PS. Next year's Scientific American Swimsuit Edition is supposed to be great. Also the calendar.
post #15 of 21
On another note, in the publishing world....if "there isn't an app for that" it's almost certainly not going to be profitable. I'm talking even the bible salesman are hurting...

and by "app for that", I mean iPhone, Kindle, mobile, digital portal, etc.

Look through the projects and spend of all publishing companies that are keeping their heads above water, there is a "mobile" or "digital" something or other project on the docket.

Now, I'm not saying every outlet that has an "app" will succeed, the content has to be there too, however, I don't care if you have Pulitzer prize winning content, your circ and ad-rev is going to decline if you still living in the days of only print publication.
post #16 of 21
RP, I don't think anyone even peripherally related to the industry is suggesting that print-only is the way to go. Nor has anyone here suggested it. So I don't understand why you keep beating that horse.

It's a far cry from a mix of print & electronic to print alone. And the fact remains there will always be a need and desire for print magazines (that's one of the reasons that small houses and independents can do a better job with vertical pubs, btw).

However, to imply that Gourmet falls in the print-only box is just silly. Epicurious.com, from the day they bought Gale's List, has been the electronic side of the Gourmet/ Bon Appetite coin.

Anybody who both reads the magazines and is a member of Epicurious is fully aware that the website emphatically does not replace the magazines. It's a different kind of content, much of which does not appeal to Gourmet's orginal demographic.

There is no question that electronic media has contributed to the decline of both magazines. But to put the blame there overstates it at best.

The be-all and end-all of publishing is advertising. Nothing else matters. Even subscription fees, as a revenue stream, aren't in the running. The way you maintain advertising is to deliver buyers to the advertisers. And that's where Gourmet' has been failing. They gave away their upscale buyers, so the quality advertisers fled as well. The question is, where did they flee to?

Do you really think that 46% of revenues---or even a significant portion of that---in one quarter transferred to electronic media? If so, please show me the culinary website that carries ads for Jaguar touring cars and Swarovski crystalware.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #17 of 21
I agree, sorry to beat the dead horse, I guess I've just been hearing the argument re: gourmet closing centering around it's content, which I think is the farthest thing from being the reason of it's demise. I get the impression though, that some people, still think you can be successful just in print and that it's the content that's king.

Epicurious, Hmm. I consider myself more interested in food than most and didn't know they were related. Guess they didn't strike that good balance with complimenting each other enough to keep the magazine afloat, which, isn't easy. You mentioned the website doesn't appeal to the magazine demographic. That to me is a problem. the demographic for print, is generally older, and digital, younger, hard to find a way to pull either in the other direction.

I write a little biased too, as my career is in publishing for a pretty significant company and unforunately have to deal with these "strategy" issues daily, looking at numbers, the shell game, the projects, and initiatives...15 years down the road,etc. Sorry for beating the dead horse. :blush:

Be all and end all of course is advertising, but if the circ isn't there...due to the content.....waterfall waterfall. Jaguar doesn't care how it's ad reaches its people, as long as it reaches more people, and even better, if you can get some demographic ad data in return (via online advertizing). Evident by Akamai, DoubleClick, surviving the bubble, the recession, etc.

How do you think they gave away thier upscale buyers? or are you saying because they are closing?

in regards to where the 46% went? It would be silly to point to a single site, unless...of course I had a big finger simply pointed at "the google" or " the internets" :D
post #18 of 21
post #19 of 21
Yes, I'm too cheap for Nature or Science too.

What really annoys me with SA is they decided to go full bore political, if I wanted political commentary I have PLENTY of places to get it, just talk about the black holes. If I want their opinion about Bush or how evil people who dare question anthropomorphic climate change are, I'll get a news week, as its the same opinion :lol:.

Ah well back to the food!
post #20 of 21
Tried to reply to the man on why his magazine doesn't acknowledge the use of scales/ measuring ingredients by weight. His website has shut down the reply/comments feature.......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #21 of 21
I am so saddened by this. Gourmet was such a great magazine!
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