Why Gourmet was not shopped

Reader comment on: Gourmet, Hot Dogs, and Anti-Trust

Submitted by Mark Zanger (United States), Oct 7, 2009 00:25

1. The most obvious answer is the punchline to the oldest joke on Wall Street, "To Whom?" You have a food magazine with 900,000 circulation, two TV tie-ins, books, and a 59-year-old brand, that Conde Nast can't afford to publish amid plummeting display advertising. It's not like Rupert Murdoch is going to buy it and turn it around with a more tabloid approach and cheaper writers from out of town.

2. The reference to COOK'S ILLUSTRATED is fraught with unintended irony. Christopher Kimball set up that magazine not to have advertising, so his ads can *never* plummet by 40%. He had decided that there aren't enough food advertisers to support a food magazine in good times, and so food magazines end up running travel stories and other non-food material. He wanted to do a magazine about food and cooking, not one like Gourmet. He learned this lesson by starting a food magazine with advertising called Cook's. It developed to a certain point, and then he sold it to... Conde Nast!

Conde Nast bought Cooks from Kimball solely to fufill it's subscriptions and put Gourmet's circulation over a million so they could use that to get advertising. Conde Nast was so cavalier about Cook's that they did not even bother to renew the trademark, which Kimball re-registered a few years later for $150 or so. This is what Kimball will write in his op-ed.

3. A reasonable surmise about why Gourmet was not shopped was that Conde Nast *does* want to hold on to that excellent trademark, and 59 years of copyright material (recipes themselves, of course, have no copyright), if only for Internet use.

4. So the moral of this story is not about class nor probably about anti-trust law, but about business models during a recession. In all previous recessions, circulation of newspapers and magazines have increased, as people seek information and entertainment, and have the time to read. Serial titles that are supported by circulation without advertising, such as COOK'S. Taste of Home, or Consumer Reports, should thrive, and other so will adaptable periodicals that can survive with minimal advertising. They are likely not to look much like Gourmet. They will be thinner, uglier, not so shiny, and perhaps more shoddily produced. But newspapers and magazines will not die out.

Disclosure: I am a former editor at COOK'S ILLUSTRATED, a friend of an editor at Gourmet, and have published in articles in two Conde Nast magazines that are not Gourmet.

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Other reader comments on this item

Title By Date
⇒ Why Gourmet was not shopped [412 words]Mark ZangerOct 7, 2009 00:25
hallucinating [26 words]PandyOct 6, 2009 23:25
Coo Coo [20 words]Bill Wellington, EsqOct 6, 2009 13:19

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