Some of us on staff were shocked to hear of Conde Nast's decision yesterday to shutter Gourmet magazine. I can't say I'm a foodie—my cooking skills are rudimentary at best—but I love to page through the magazine, especially for the travel pieces and especially at Christmas time.
But the deep and prolonged recession took its toll on Gourmet; its editorial content was famously expensive to produce, and ad pages dropped a precipitous 50 percent this year. Magazines across the board are looking for ways to trim costs, which the Los Angeles Times notes is now "suddenly in style. ... 'I don't think we'll ever see the heyday again,' said Roberta Garfinkle, director for print strategy at TargetCast tcm, which buys advertising for large companies. 'The business will come back as the economy starts to rebound, but certainly not to the levels it was once.' "
David Carr of The New York Times sees the apparent end of publishing's Gilded Age, and the ramifications will reach far beyond magazine expense accounts: "The age of the big, bold new magazine to fill a hole in the printed marketplace is over and now publishers will spend their days cutting costs at remaining titles to compete in a new world of commoditized advertising, no matter how luxurious the context, doing battle against digital upstarts that have none of the legacy costs of traditional publishers. Older titles need to justify their existence, and new ones? There may not be any."
Ad Age columnist Bob Garfield sounds even gloomier in The Washington Post: "Your content can be flawless and you can still fail. The Internet has created a nearly infinite supply of content ... which leads to declining revenue and declining ad prices. What you have is a spiraling vortex of ruin."
James Oseland, editor in chief of Gourmet competitor Saveur, notes in The New York Times that the end of Gourmet ""has a certain doomsday quality because it's not just a food magazine. It represents so much more. It's an American cultural icon."
Gourmet's offices were closed immediately; editor Ruth Reichl sent a Twitter message to fans: "Thank you all SO much for this outpouring of support. It means a lot. Sorry not to be posting now, but I'm packing. We're all stunned, sad."
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