Condé Nast to Close Gourmet, 3 Others

In a sweeping reorganization following devastating advertising page declines, Condé Nast said it would close four magazines: Gourmet, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and Cookie.

“Condé Nast’s success comes from the ability of our publications to attract readers with a wide range of interests, as well as advertisers who value them,” Condé Nast chief executive Chuck Townsend said in an e-mail to staff sent Oct. 5. “But in this economic climate it is important to narrow our focus to titles with the greatest prospects for long-term growth.

Staffers had been sweating bullets over expected job losses since the company brought in consultants from McKinsey & Co. to help reevaluate the magazine publisher, which has been known for its free-spending ways.
The company previously had mandated 5 percent cuts in expenses and closed some of its underperforming titles, Condé Nast Portfolio, Domino and Men’s Vogue in the face of the ad recession. But internally, the company was believed to be committed to publishing its remaining magazines.

Condé Nast said Brides, its surviving bridal magazine, would increase its frequency to monthly from six times a year. It plans to continue Gourmet’s book publishing and TV programming and focus on its other food title, Bon Appetit.

There was no word on how many people would lose their jobs as a result of the magazine closings.

The toll could near 20, though, as 180 people were employed by the four magazines combined. Higher-ups confirmed to be leaving are Pilar Guzman, editor of Cookie; Antonia van der Meer, editor of Modern Bride and Elegant Bride; and Jennifer Hicks, publisher of the two bridal titles.

A company spokesperson wasn’t sure as of early this afternoon if Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl and publisher Nancy Berger Cardone and Cookie publisher Carolyn Kremins would be staying.

The rep later said that Kremins would stay at the company as publisher for Brides. She’ll replace Alison Adler Matz, who will leave the firm. Matz was named to the position a little over a year ago.

All four titles had been on company followers’ watch lists for closing, albeit for different reasons. Gourmet and Bon App were widely seen as vulnerable because of the redundancies associated with having two food titles.

As a new title and an anomaly as a niche parenting magazine, Cookie won fans among buyers, but faced an upward climb in becoming a business success. And despite the company’s efforts to differentiate their audiences, in a time when bridal planning is moving online, three, standalone bridal magazines seemed unsustainable.

Broadly, Condé Nast has suffered deeper ad page declines than many of its peers in this downturn, hurt by its reliance on luxury advertising. Gourmet decreased 43 percent through its October issue while Cookie was down 23 percent. Elegant Bride was down 42 percent through its fall issue while Modern Bride declined 24 percent.

Townsend said in the memo that the magazine shutdowns, combined with cost-cutting and layoffs throughout the company, would enable it to focus on its digital business — one that’s been knocked as being slow to embrace the Web and develop same-name online versions of its print magazines. Townsend said the company hoped to announce digital versions of its brands that would use new  devices and distribution channels.