Conde Nast: Flushing brides, extra food

October 5, 2009

Your Reuters media writers got a little flushed on Monday morning when we saw that Conde Nast was going to close some magazines. Would we see The New Yorker and Vanity Fair pulped? No such luck for us vultures who were craving a big murder-in-the-first-degree story. This appears to be more of a mercy killing.

Instead, here’s what we get:

  • Consolidation in the bridal business. No more Modern Bride, no more Elegant Bride. Instead, we get a monthly edition of Brides magazine, the kind of phonebook-sized tome that it seems will pay for itself. After all, people love to get married, and many these days like to do it twice.
  • Calorie cutting in the food format: Gourmet magazine gets purged, while the brand lives on. Or, as Media Memo’s Peter Kafka put it, it survives “Zombie-like” on TV and the Internet. Bon Appetit survives, meanwhile.
  • Speaking of food, no more Cookies. Cookie magazine, the “stylish parenting magazine for the new mom,” dies. So much for news-you-can-use stories like “Parents and pot: Do you think it’s okay to smoke weed at a play date?”

Stephanie Clifford of The New York Times got an interview with Conde Nast CEO Chuck Townsend, who gave her the details of how this is going down. Since we’re not sure if Chuck will have time for us today (we’re hoping the phone rings presently), here’s what he said:

None of the about 180 employees of the magazines, including the Gourmet editor-in-chief, Ruth Reichl, are expected to stay with the company… The employees will receive severance packages this week and be out by the end of the week.

Other layoffs may be in the works. Mr. Townsend has asked editors and publishers of each magazine to meet certain budgets, and the executives can choose whether to lay off staff to get there. The executives’ plans are due in 10 days, Mr. Townsend said, and all layoffs should be completed by the end of the year.

This is it for magazine closures, he said, although he said three or four magazines were considering reducing their frequency.

“These businesses should be 25 percent net margin businesses,” he said. “We have had some underperformers, but not businesses that have cost us money to run except for launches and businesses like Gourmet that, with the economy, have slipped into the red.”

It would be nice to think that this is the end of the pain at Conde Nast, which already dumped Portfolio and home decor title Domino (the demise of the latter aroused much more indignation among Media File readers than I suspected it would), but it probably isn’t. Conde (our neighbor across the street in Times Square) is a publishing house full of big expense accounts and bigger reputations. It likely will do its best to protect marquee names such as The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, but some recent college graduate working for McKinsey as an expert consultant will figure out before too long that writing about expensive lifestyles can be done for less money. That’s something that your stylish but frugal Media File reporters have known for years.

(Reuters Photo: This is our favorite Vanity Fair magazine edition because it features Reuters founder Paul Julius Reuter, described in this 1872 profile as a man of “power and great wealth, possessing a fine house and wife and always ready to show a magnificent hospitality.”)

5 comments

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[...] Conde Nast just announced the news today. I’m sad. Hopefully they will keep their online presence, but who knows. And Conde Nast, please don’t send me some lame magazine in the place of Cookie, ’cause I still have eight months left on my subscription! [...]

“Simple, easy, and familiar.” Yeah, we are entering the fast-food, cheap eats, never, ever do anything that requires effort or dedication, throw it all away, world. Shallow is as shallow does, and I have just canceled my subscriptions to every single Conde Nast magazine I take.

I am SO furious I cannot sit still. How DARE Conde Nast kill such a stellar magazine, in favor of a piece of lightweight, shallow recipe-ism?

Gourmet wasn’t just pictures of
food, and recipes: it was poetry and fine prose, beautiful travel
essays… and culinary history. It was artistic excellence and
philosophical depth. I am a culinary history scholar (M.A. in American Studies) and have always found the writing and research in “Gourmet” to be top notch.

Bon Appetit is just shallow picture
spreads of Beautiful People eating. Food and Wine is too directed
towards the food industry. Saveur is full of itself. Gourmet had both
intellect AND a conscience, and their travel articles were astounding.

Posted by Becky | Report as abusive

In this time of economic hardship and rising unemployment throughout the US, is it really so tragic to see the closure of a publication such as ‘Cookie’? This monthly celebration of over-priced goods and indulgences aimed at spoiled, urban, middle-class parents with spoiled and indulged children was most likely offensive to most ordinary working Americans when the economy was faring better. But in the present economic environment – when millions are struggling merely to provide food, shelter and basic health care for their families, such a magazine seems even more woefully out of touch and elitist than it did. Maybe Conde Nast would do better to start a parenting magazine that explained how to feed and raise a family on the current US minimum wage – or perhaps one dedicated to kid friendly budget recipes in an effort to combat the increasing likelihood that parents cannot afford to provide their kids with a nutritious diet – never mind $200 hand-knitted sweaters? Just a thought.

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive

[...] MediaFile » Blog Archive » Conde Nast: Flushing brides, extra food … [...]

What they aren’t telling you is they are coming out with a new magazine. Gourmond Magazine. It’ll be more in-tune with the current generation. It will cover mostly snakcs and junk food.

Posted by Ed Circusitch | Report as abusive

This is pretty bad stuff. I’ve never heard of any of these magazines except Gourmet (it sounds like the people working at Cookie should be in jail not just out of their jobs anyway) – but I’m certainly scared for The New Yorker. I mean The New Yorker is maybe literally the only good thing that is currently being done by the 300 million-strong population of the United States. Sure, their glowing profiles of rich people and their economic analysis is often disgustingly reactionary, but nevertheless in general The New Yorker is still one of the most amazing institutions in the world with generally brilliant journalism and research writing coming out pretty much every week for, what, 50 USD a year? You can’t get anything like it for love or money anywhere else.

This company chief maybe is being reasonable by axing most of what he just axed, but it’s hard to say what they are going to end up doing. I mean anyone who thinks that any sustainable business should be 25% net profit, let alone businesses that are primarily about creativity and serious research and journalism, is frankly a foolish idiot. 25% net profit? Whatever happened to running a functioning organization that can pay for itself sustainably? I mean if he wants 25% net profit he should rob a bank not try to run an organization, where the point is supposed to be to put food on everyone’s table and still be there next year to do the same. I mean I’m just some kid who doesn’t know the first thing about executive leadership — but even I know the people trying to work at these companies for a living need to get rid of this irresponsible fantasist before he takes them all out. Being in the red is one thing but what’s wrong with 3% net if you have reason to think you’ve built a sustainable revenue stream that can still pay the bills next year?

I like “Nick” ‘s idea for the magazine to replace Cookie. “Minimum Wage” magazine – since nobody knows how to feed their kids on minimum wage this would be instructive and a good public service. And actually a service Conde Nast could inexpensively provide for the people they are firing. “Well, guys, it’s not like you’ll be getting a pension or health insurance – it’s 2009 not 1950, baby – but how does a free subscription to our new rag The Max on Minimum sound? It’ll be news you can use to keep from starving (maybe)!”

Posted by Christopher Gill | Report as abusive