Thoughts on the End of Gourmet from a Bloggers Perspective

October 6, 2009

As a passionate subscriber of Gourmet magazine for many years, and a writer for an online food encyclopedia, it’s only natural for me to have mixed emotions about the closing of a legendary print publication like Gourmet.

Just this summer, Gourmet’s circulation was still at its decade- long high peak of 978,000. So what was the real deciding factor to suddenly shelve a 68 year-old, beloved cooking magazine that for some, our great grandmother’s subscribed to? Was it because Gourmet needed to turn its focus to an online audience and balance its advertising between the two? Or is this just another example of how times are changing, for better or for worse?

I’m sure there are more than a couple reasons behind Conde Nast’s decision to stop the presses on Gourmet, but one of the main reasons for sure is that Conde Nast also publishes Bon Appetite, another cooking magazine which has a larger subscription base, and according to the L.A. Times, tends to focus on more economical recipe driven content.  No one can argue that there is a growing need for cheap meals, I understand that.

But, as much as I can agree that each Gourmet magazine must have cost a fortune to produce, I don’t agree with the statements that Gourmet spoke only to an elite audience that cared solely about luxury hotels and four star restaurant reviews. Not too long ago, I was a broke culinary student ear tagging Gourmet recipe pages and circling menu ideas in bold red pen because I was so passionate about a recipe that had inspired me. For many culinary students, Gourmet was just another text on our required reading list.

Besides writing only about caviar and molecular gastronomy, those who have read Gourmet in recent years can also attest that Ruth Reichl devoted several full page articles in recent editions to the farm to table movement; including interviews of humble farmers and lengthy pieces on the importance of eating local.

New media brings with it, new advertising possibilities and to print, advertising dollars mean everything. Nostalgia aside, if someone were to ask the question “So is online media to blame for the death of print?”  My answer would be “Advertising dollars say yes.” What’s more, people are consuming media in new ways, for example instead of a press release from Conde Nast being announced on the radio or learning about the end of Gourmet in a farewell issue,  Gourmet’s readers are learning from a Twitter post  re-tweeted from a friend that the magazine will no longer be published. So from an advertiser’s perspective, I can understand where the advertisers would want to place their ad dollars.

The ability for companies to see the click through rate on their ads, and receive measurable results on exactly how many people have viewed an add, and then discover the amount of people who purchased a product directly from their ad is something that traditional media has a hard time proving.

As much anguish as I feel about the end of a print publication that has affected millions, I am writing this on a food blog and posting it to the web.

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Jeremy Warner's picture

We are current subscribers to Gourmet although only because it was a freebie with the purchase of a Kitchen Aid mixer. Obviously giving away subscriptions wasn't a sustainable business model.

And while it was enjoyable, there seemed to be too many recipes with too little discussion and very few articles (although I'm completely in agreement with respecting them for tackling some tough food-related issues recently).

Ultimately an advertising driven model just isn't going to work anymore, which makes me nervous for some of the other periodicals I read and enjoy. There are other models - look at Cooks Illustrated, for example.

Melissa Peterman's picture

Hi Jeremy,

I know exactly what you are saying, and I do like what Cook's Illustrated has done. I wouldn't be too surprised to see other magazines following suit.

munich's picture

I love that picture!

Devon's picture

We can't read blogs on the subway. For someone who spends a lot of time underground reading Gourmet was a way to learn about food while off the grid. I will miss that glossy in my mailbox.

Melissa Peterman's picture

Hi Devon,

I agree, there is something wonderfully intimate about flipping through a glossy magazine like Gourmet at your own pace and getting inspired.

Claudia's picture

I feel Gourmet was no longer relevant to any aspiring and/or successful healthy eater. It is impossible to cook and bake with the ingredients required in their recipes and be in any way resonsible for correct weight and health. I enjoyed reading Gourmet but never considered actually cooking from their recipes.

RVGoddess's picture

As a big foodie and Gourmet devotee, I am quite sad... especially as Ruth Reichl had really stepped-it-up on the social/political front since taking charge at Gourmet. But as a paid-in-advance subscriber, I feel a bit ripped-off too.