Gourmet’s Closure Sends Shockwaves

Of the four magazine closings Condé Nast announced earlier today, Gourmet was by far the biggest shocker.

Of Condé Nast’s two food titles, Gourmet had been aggressive in extending its brand in recent years, with its Gourmet Institute cooking school, cookbooks and its popular Diary of a Foodie TV show on PBS. Acclaimed for its photography and design, Gourmet collected three National Magazine Awards over the past five years under Ruth Reichl, the famed restaurant critic and its editor of 10 years.

But Gourmet was the more luxury-oriented than sibling Bon Appetit, which made it an ill fit for today’s budget-crunched times. Instead, those titles thriving in the space are new, celebrity-focused entries with mass appeal, like Hearst’s Food Network Magazine and Reader’s Digest Association’s Every Day with Rachael Ray.

Not surprisingly, of Condé Nast’s two food books, Bon App has fared better through the downturn. This year through October, it was down in ad pages 32 percent to Gourmet’s 43 percent decline, per the Mediaweek Monitor.

As for circulation, Bon App’s declined 1.4 percent to 1.35 million in the first half of the year with a 12.4 percent decline in single-copy sales. Gourmet was essentially flat at 978,037, but with a 25 percent decline on the newsstand. (Figures are from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.)

“It’s not surprising given the economy we’re in that Bon App is the book that survives, because it’s the most approachable, it’s the most realistic of the books,” said Roberta Garfinkle, svp, director of print strategy, TargetCast. “The flip side is, if people have been shutting these magazines that are leaders in editorial, that’s what’s so sad.”

While Gourmet saw food as going hand in hand with other fine enjoyments like travel, wine and spirits, Bon App has gone the friendly and accessible route. In light of the shift in consumer habits, Bon App may expand its circulation in the wake of Gourmet’s closing and reposition increase its appeal.

“They’re going to need to be more competitive with the new Food Network Magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray and Everyday Food,” Robin Steinberg, svp, director of print investment and activation, MediaVest, said of Bon App.