Condé Nast Closings Hint End of Magazines' Gilded Era

Condé Nast's decision to shutter Gourmet and three other glossies suggests profit may now trump prestige

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This morning, magazine giant Condé Nast announced it would be shutting down Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride. Closing publications is nothing new in this dismal media economy, but Condé Nast's decision to shutter upscale Gourmet over Bon Appétit, a similar magazine with less prestige and lower operating costs, drew gasps of shock across the media world. Has Condé Nast, long the gilded Mecca of magazine journalism, abandoned the spare-no-expenses approach that symbolized the glamor, and sometimes the decadence, of magazines?

  • 'Profits-Over-Prestige' Felix Salmon asks, "Is this profits-over-prestige decision the real end of Conde culture?" Salmon sighs, "I guess this is what you pay McKinsey for: the decision to axe Gourmet rather than Bon Appetit. Ouch." Richard Florida answers, "Managing this tension between profits and prestige, $$$ and reputation seems to sit at the core of most creative businesses."
  • Decline of Serious Culinary Writing? Gabriella Gershenson laments the post-Gourmet food world, dominated by reality TV. "What will young people today who love food aspire to? Cheaply won celebrity chefdom? Dumbed-down cable programming? Blogs that feed off of restaurant gossip rather than a love of food and the people behind it?" she asks. "There's good stuff still out there--Saveur, The Art of Eating, Art Culinaire, the Edible magazines--and I hope the existing titles find a way to survive and flourish. I am also sure I am not alone in feeling bleak about what motivates some of the more popular food content these days."
  • Not Necessarily The End for Gourmet The Atlantic's Corby Kummer, in a heartfelt eulogy, explains that Gourmet may have a second life. "I refuse to believe that the magazine will be gone long. I'm an optimist. Conde Nast closed and then brought back House and Garden, another venerable title, and even if that folded again I choose to think that Gourmet, which like the recently closed Portfolio will apparently live on on the Web (I hope with Estabrook and Shapiro!), will reappear in print, too."
  • Strategy Shift for Media Empire The New York Times's Stephanie Clifford explains the surprise over 69-year-old Gourmet's end. "The moves are significant for the publisher. It has never been quick to close titles, and in the last year or so has closed only newer titles, Condé Nast Portfolio and Domino, along with folding Men's Vogue into Vogue. Condé Nast tends to hold tight to its prestigious titles, making the Gourmet closing all the more startling. In an interview in February, even Paul Jowdy, publisher of the in-house rival Bon Appétit, said that such a closing was unlikely."
  • Blame McKinsey for Financial Focus Gawker's Hamilton Nolan points to McKinsey, the consulting giant Condé brought in to help cut costs. "This, then, is the fallout from McKinsey. The company had floated the idea that its turnaround could be accomplished without any magazines going under," he writes, "but that was always impractical. Gourmet and Bon Appetit both had horrific recent ad declines; it was logical that one of them would go." Greg Mitchell thinks this demonstrates that newspapers are not the worst off in the media today. " As I've long warned: Mag biz in worse shape than newspapers."
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