With Gourmet Gone, You Know There’s a Recession

By Thomas Temin

If General Motors and Lehman Brothers can bite the dust, why not Gourmet magazine, for so many decades the Bible of chefs and foodies alike? A Wall Street Journal story on Oct. 6 noted that being reviewed in Gourmet could make a chef’s reputation.

Also out the door is Modern Bride, for a while some years ago part of the Cahners stable. The late Cele Lalli was the editor then, and at the editors’ meetings – back when they still had chief editors gatherings in nice resorts or conference centers – she was always a joy to hang out with. Maybe it was the fact she had earlier been editor of Amazing Stories that made Cele so cool and unpretentious.

In those days, Modern Bride might have been chasing Brides – which Conde Nast will continue publishing – but there was advertising enough that they could both have 600-page issues. Those of us in the electronics and engineering magazines would be gaga at the amount of advertising carried in such a seemingly frivolous topic as wedding planning. Cele used to say that readers would continue their subscriptions for six months or a year after getting married.

But even the bosses at Conde Nast must have been dreaming to think that they could publish both Brides and Modern Bride (and Elegant Bride to boot) and sell some differentiating story to advertisers. The acquisition of competitors under a single roof – has there ever been a successful stunt like that where both survive long term? Certainly not in a market where, as in so many markets, ad pages are dropping 25 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent.

Conde, like other publishers, is focusing ever more resources on digital products. In a market like bridal fashion, planning and accessories, the digital possibilities are rich, for sure. Brides.com has all sorts of online toys, such as the fun, if somewhat useless, Create a Cake to full-scale financial and party planning tools for the Big Day. Where else but in a bridal blog might you find out about a new necktie for “hubby” from Thomas Pink that incorporates an i-Pod pocket?

But I suspect this is a market where there will always be at least one dominant print product. Print is still the best way to display the gorgeous wedding gowns and resort destinations, and where a reader can fantasize about her wedding day while lying across the bed instead of sitting at a desk.

Thomas R. Temin is a consultant with 30 years of publishing experience in media and information technology products and services. He is co-host of “The Federal Drive” with Tom Temin and Jane Norris, a weekday morning news and talk program on Federal News Radio AM 1050 in Washington D.C. You can see his weekly column on the op-ed page at www.federalnewsradio.com and contact him at tom.temin@gmail.com.

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