Conde Nast Shutters Gourmet After McKinsey Review

Cookie, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride Also Close

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Conde Nast told shocked staff today it was closing Gourmet magazine, Cookie, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, surpassing expectations of perhaps one or two shutdowns as a result of McKinsey's analysis.

Gourmet
Gourmet

The shutdown of titles across the Conde Nast portfolio this morning demonstrated, even more than arrival of the McKinsey consultants hired to deflate the company's massive spending, that the polish was off the luxury publisher.

High-gloss magazines like Conde's are expected to weather the challenge from digital media better than some other traditional titles, partly because of their physical allure and partly because fashion advertisers remain more attached to print than other marketers. But the recession, and the possibility that consumers are embarking on a new frugality, has hit luxury titles from another direction.

So Conde Nast chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. directly informed Ruth Reichl, Gourmet's legendary editor in chief since 1999, that Gourmet would quit print on Monday morning; others publishers and editors learned the news from president-CEO Charles H. Townsend. The New York Times broke the news outside the building.

Brides magazine is going monthly next year from bimonthly as part of the changes.

Conde Nast didn't have an answer Monday for the number of jobs that would be lost as a result of the moves, but the titles' mastheads suggest massive cuts are likely. Gourmet alone lists some 100 staffers, although the company will presumably keep some to help run Gourmet's books, TV and recipes activities, which will continue. It wasn't immediately clear whether Ms. Reichl or VP-publisher Nancy Berger Cardone will stay in some capacity or leave the company. Cookie's masthead numbers closer to 75.

Collectively the moves suggest that Conde Nast doesn't see the upside for the magazines despite a sense among many that the recession's worst is past. Gourmet is the higher-end of its two epicurean titles, leaving Bon Appetit to serve readers and advertisers in that space. Ad pages in the issues from January through September plunged 44.55% at Gourmet, compared with those issues a year earlier, but only 32.95% at Bon Appetit, according to the Media Industry Newsletter.

Cookie
Cookie
Conde Nast introduced Cookie in 2005 as an attempt to serve upscale mothers interested in spending significantly on fashion for their children as well as themselves. Ad pages at Cookie fell 18.26% through September.

Gourmet and Cookie's November issues will be their last; Modern Bride and Elegant Bride's final issues are already on newsstands.

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Read the staff memo from Mr. Townsend:

Date: Mon, 5 Oct 2009 10:16:52
To: Conde Nast Publications-All
Conversation: Announcing Changes within Conde Nast
Subject: Announcing Changes within Conde Nast

We have now completed an extensive review of our business -- an important undertaking given the dramatic changes in the U.S. economy. The review has led us to a number of decisions designed to navigate the company through the economic downturn and to position us to take advantage of coming opportunities.

Conde Nast's success comes from the ability of our publications to attract readers with a wide range of interests, as well as advertisers who value them. But in this economic climate it is important to narrow our focus to titles with the greatest prospects for long-term growth.

As a result of our review, Brides will increase its frequency to monthly to solidify its position as the most important brand in the bridal category, and Modern Bride and Elegant Bride will close.

Gourmet magazine will cease monthly publication, but we will remain committed to the brand, retaining Gourmet's book publishing and television programming, and Gourmet recipes on Epicurious.com. We will concentrate our publishing activities in the epicurean category on Bon Appetit.

Finally, Cookie magazine will be discontinued, and resources that had been dedicated to its publishing will be invested elsewhere.

The editorial and business staffs of Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, Gourmet, and Cookie all have earned their magazines large and devoted followings. We have been proud to publish these titles, and we are grateful to the staffs for their hard work and dedication.

These changes, combined with cost and workforce reductions now underway throughout the company, will speed the recovery of our current businesses and enable us to pursue new ventures. In the coming weeks, we hope to announce initiatives to develop digital versions of our brands that will make use of new devices and distribution channels.

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