Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl reflects on the shocking closure of her magazine, which still had 1+ million paying subscribers.
Specifically, she blames McKinsey. And the fall-off in luxury advertising.
To which we say:
What on earth is McKinsey thinking?
Couldn’t Gourmet diversify its ad base? Was there NO WAY to build a business out of 1 million paying subscribers? How about some cheaper content? Won’t luxury advertising ever come back?
Although Ruth was blindsided by the decision to close Gourmet, she says print magazines are toast. She also says, however, that they’ll exist in some other form, but not online. Which begs the question: What form?
From an interview with John Koblin of the New York Observer:
On the future of print:
“That kind of luxury that we all had [at Conde Nast] is probably a thing of the past. The new business realities have changed the life at Condé Nast. I think print magazines as we know them will cease to exist…“
“I do think that there is going to be something that will be very exciting and that will incorporate video, instant shopping,” she said. “I think that the rich experience that is in magazines will likely move to another platform. It won’t be online. It will be what magazines are now, tools for living and inspirational and intellectually rich. I think magazines in that sense won’t be going away.”
OK, now we’re curious. If this new form will incorporate video and instant shopping but it won’t be online, what will it be?
“The business picture was not good for Gourmet…It was a magazine that depended on luxury advertising, unlike many of the epicureans. Most of our competition gets a lot of different kinds of advertising. Our main categories were travel, automotive, financial, jewelry—that all went away. [FOREVER? Why?] That was just the way that it was. I guess at a certain point the company decided that advertising wasn’t coming back. I wasn’t privy to those discussions.”
“I did not anticipate this, I have to say…I did know that this was bad, but on the other hand our circulation had never been better. The editorial product was a big hit with the readers, and I did not anticipate this.”
On who made the decision to scrap Gourmet:
When reflecting about her relationship with Si Newhouse and her magazine’s demise, she said, “I think he was very sad about this; I don’t think it was a reflection of me or our relationship. They hired McKinsey to come in and they decided to take McKinsey’s advice.”
We don’t understand the Gourmet decision. Unlike BusinessWeek and Newsweek, Gourmet is not news-driven. The content has a shelf life, sometimes one that lasts for decades. The content is often better in print form than online. And there were still 1+ million subscribers, about as many as The New York Times!
So we just find it hard to believe that there was no way to restructure the magazine into a sustainable business.