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Gourmet back, in print, but for how long?

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I blogged last April that Gourmet magazine, which Condé Nast shut down in Oct., 2009, might spring back to life, not just as an online publication but even in some newsstand format.

Now, it’s actually happened. “Condé Nast has announced that it will indeed bring back Gourmet in print form,” says this article in the online zine, FishbowlNY.

It’s worth reading between the lines to see if we can infer any lessons to be learned in (a) why print publications die, (b) how they can continue online and (c) if they can actually pull a Lazarus and return to print form after they’re dead.

In my April blog, I wrote that, if Gourmet did return to print, it might do so as an advertiser-driven publication, one that straddled the tenuous border between “straight” journalism and what’s called, in the trade, an “advertorial.” So, I wrote, the new Gourmet “would be ‘Gourmet by Kraft.’ Could we expect to see recipes based on Oscar Mayer bologna, Oreo cookies and Philadelphia Cream Cheese?”

Such information as is available on the new Gourmet is scant, to say the least. What we know from the early reports is that the first issue is called Gourmet Quick Kitchen,

it will be 128 pages long, contain 81 “fast and easy recipes,” and will hit newsstands Sept. 7, at a cost of $11 — which seems pricey for a magazine.

But that’s about all Condé Nast has told the world. What we don’t know is whether the magazine really will be advertiser-driven, or whether it will be pure.

We also know, via the New York Times, that all of the recipes in Gourmet Quick Kitchen “were published in Gourmet before its demise,” and the first issue “has no paid advertisements…”. That’s pretty interesting, but before you come to any conclusions, the Times article also said that “future editions might” contain advertisers. You can only conclude that, when the Times reporter was given access to the Condé Nast P.R. person who broke the news, the P.R. person wouldn’t rule out the possibility of future advertising.

Knowing how advertising works, I suspect that potential advertisers are holding off for now, waiting to see if the new magazine actually sells.

What else is part of Condé Nast’s plans for Gourmet? The magazine “will see another iteration on the iPad and other tablets later this year with the launch of Gourmet Live,” reports min online. What is Gourmet Live? Condé Nast’s president and CEO announced it in an online press release last June 22. He called Gourmet Live “an entirely new digital content product” that will offer readers “articles, menus, photos, videos and more,” while bringing “monetization structures new to Condé Nast.” It’s not clear whether Gourmet Live will carry advertising. The company made a YouTube promo for it, but there’s no clue about advertising, or what those new “monetization structures” will be.

So it looks like Condé Nast is taking a multi-platform approach that incorporates print, newsstands, online, social media in all its aspects (there are also a Facebook and Twitter pages), and creating buzz through giving “insider” access to selected media, like the Times. Which is pretty much about all any publisher can do in these uncertain times.

Reaction, by the way, to the new Gourmet by old Gourmet Magazine fans has been less than enthusiastic. Here are some typical reader comments to the Times article:

Eleven dollars (plus tax) for a magazine? I would hope they wouldn’t have advertising at that price. You could almost buy a book for that.

Gourmet Quick! sounds like they’ve taken all of the quality out and left us with a Rachel Ray look alike.

I miss the old Gourmet…I’m not looking for quick recipes from Gourmet. I can find a 100 of the same thing on the shelf already.

Seems like cashing in on a well-loved name…Rerunning old recipes with new photos? I can go to Epicurious if I want to find old recipes.

It’s so sad to see a repackaging of old content and dare to say they are “bringing Gourmet back”.

Anyway (this is Steve again), it seems to me that Gourmet has a long, hard road ahead, and believe me, I wish them well. They’re one of the more conspicuous victims of the recession and the online revolution, but they’re hardly alone. It will be educational to watch Gourmet and see how they navigate the treacherous waters ahead.

  1. $11?

    Uhm… No, thanks.

  2. I know. I already have about 100 cookbooks, a couple dozen old food magazines, a box full of recipes, and I can find anything I don’t have online in 3 seconds, for free. Why would I spend $11 for a magazine of fast food recipes? Doh!

  3. Bill Smart says:

    An $11 magazine? That must break some kind of record for most expensive magazine or something. Do they think we’re in 2007 or something? I don’t get it.

  4. Sergio Traverso says:

    Because I know the publicizing business only from the consumer side, I have several questions in this case that I wish you could address: couldn’t a 128 pages magazine with no advertisement fall very well into the category of a book? And if you see it from that perspective would eleven bucks be fair price for a full color book even if it is a paper back? I also notice that the cover says “Special Edition”, therefore, the question is will the price be a more sensible one for the regular issues?

    Leaving my most important question for the end: do you know if the “new” Gourmet will include the subject of wine along side the recipes?

    Somehow, I would dare to guess that the subject of “Quick Kitchen” could be aimed to college students and young professionals (ergo the text on the cover that reads “Recipes for Busy Weeknights and Super-Easy Entertaining”) and if that’s would be the case, wouldn’t be great if Gourmet Quick would also help this crowd of very young adults choose easy going wines for their entertaining? Sort of “best $4.99 wines to go with pizza”?

  5. I miss Gourmet the magazine. While the recipes were good, it was the writing that attracted me. Sorry, I won’t be buying this “magazine”

  6. Well, I was all excited about the “return” of Gourmet until I read the entire post here. I loved the original magazine and was sorely disappointed when it went away, especially as I had finally subscribed to it after buying it on the newsstand for years. And what happened when I made the commitment to an actual subscription? Two months later I’m reading about Gourmet’s demise! Sheesh, good timing, right?
    Its great appeal was the whole package — beautiful photographs, wonderful writing, dense and meaningful essays, and oh yeah, recipes.
    I’m another one who likely won’t be paying $11 for the new version.

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