Gourmet Magazine: Still Heartbroken

October 5, 2009

Picture 25

I’m heartbroken by the news that Gourmet is closing.

My Demographic Just Got FLUSHED

What makes me saddest is that the closing of Gourmet comes after months of research by consulting firm McKinsey which means that somehow there aren’t enough people like me to keep my favorite magazines alive (Blueprint, Gourmet).  In fact, I’m sure that the bean-counters at Mckinsey even have a name for my demographic (design-aficionado-aesthetically-minded-blogger-with-a-graduate degree-who-loves-to-cook) and they knew I’d be upset about closing but that I won’t subscribe to other magazine.  But, there were other demographics, who the McKinsey folks know will make the switch to other Conde Nast pubs (probably because those demographics don’t really cook so they don’t really care) and so my demographic JUST GOT FLUSHED.  It really makes me feel lonely.

As someone (studying to be a design historian, btw) who spends a lot of time reading now defunct periodicals for my thesis, I guess I wish there was someway to keep the Gourmet brand alive — since I really felt that its brand promise “the magazine of the good life” was one that I aspired to. I always felt when I opened up Gourmet that I was getting closer to the life I *want* to lead. And I guess I feel that somehow my aspirations have been taken away from me by some soul-less nerd at McKinsey WHO DOESN’T EVEN COOK.

The Internet Is Ultimately Unsatisfying

Now that I’ve started this RANT, I should finish it: while I love blogs and read them, the aesthetics and sensibility are very different than print media.   There is something satisfying about reading an article in the New Yorker that I’m sure you are not getting from reading this essay on this blog. I’ve been feeling recently that the internet and blogs are ultimately unsatisfying because as a reader you can never “finish” the internet the way you can finish a good book or a magazine.  I miss that sense of satisfaction when you close the last page of a book or recycle a magazine.

I feel that the bloggers I read are my “peers” and I deeply respect their ideas and options.  However, for the most part, the blogs I read are not written by experts.  That is what I most enjoy about print media and most worry about losing — that these magazines are effectively the “adults” in the room, the experts in my life.  I get a lot of reassurance out of reading the opinions of those that are older, wiser and more experienced than me.  I loved that the recipes in Gourmet had been tested by many many people who really knew their way around a kitchen — I trusted that collective experience and let it guide me in my own kitchen.  I guess I really feel like a trusted mentor has died and I fear losing the other “mentors” in my life — the New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist. These publications are like people to me, I trust them like I would trust a parent.

And Please, What About Reading on the Toilet?

While I agree that the nature of print publishing has to change, has already changed etc etc, as a consumer I still want to be able to read my favorite magazines on the toilet and in the bathtub (where I did most of my Gourmet reading), in bed at night, on the subway, in the middle of the deep forest where there is not internet.  I want to be able to read something that I can drop in the tub, that doesn’t get hot in my hands or need charging.  I’m beginning to suspect that I’m alone in these desires, or, at least, my demographic isn’t large enough or spend enough money on the right products to be worthy of attention.

No One Is Archiving The Internet

We all know that blogs and the internet are so ephemeral, for better and mostly for worse.  I don’t think that someone is going to print images of my blog out in thirty years and hang them in her kitchen, as I did with Gourmet covers from the 1970s.  I bet in 10 years many of our favorite blogs today won’t even still be hosted — at some point it is just going to be too much content to wrangle — the content won’t generate enough interest to pay for the cost of hosting it. There aren’t any libraries archiving blog content (I know the internet archive project is doing something, but, again, that is electronic). I don’t mind the ephemeral nature of the internet, because there has always been print to anchor history.  At what point does the way history is recorded fundamentally change because of the internet?  I’m being a bit hysterical, I know, but, I guess I have an inkling where this is going to end and I don’t like it.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

please sir October 13, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Refreshing and honest post. You really opened my eyes to the decline of our generation’s print media. I get excited when a new magazine comes in the mail and yes…I’m an avid toilet reader too! I enjoy the internet for instant and always updated appeal, but I also enjoy a good magazine for lasting worth. Hopefully things will turn around…your voice is a great way to start.

Get Togetha October 15, 2009 at 11:07 am

This is such a heartfelt response to the blogsophere’s elephant in the room: that we are in part responsible for helping to kill the old guard of paper media…It’s like we love our jobs as bloggers but we also hate that we are a bit of the problem as well. You can’t turn back the hands of time or try to defy technology, but it certainly is a sad day when the print mags we love are facing extinction.

Somehow, somewhere, someone, or some genious has to come up with a business model that can overcome the hit that electronic media has given to traditional mediums…

Will share this with readers….

*gemmifer* October 15, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Well said. I agree with you on all points. Although I wasn’t a Gourmet reader I have seen many other fine publications go the way of the dodo and mourn for them all. Even with the loss of all these magazines there still seem to be hundreds and hundreds available at my local bookstores and newsstands. It makes you wonder how so many very obscure-sounding titles not only come into existence but manage to survive in this economy. It doesn’t matter how many people love a periodical in the US if said periodical cannot drum up the advertising rates to compete with other, possibly lesser-quality magazines. It’s always down to money, isn’t it?

Ruth Gyuse October 17, 2009 at 9:33 am

Thank you so much for this post and for your comments about the internet and blogging. I am exactly as you are: still heartbroken. I’ve been a Gourmet subscriber for 7 years and I haven’t had the courage to unwrap my October 2009 issue of Gourmet because I know that I will get depressed knowing that it is my second to last issue. Is there something we can do? Rise up and write letters to Conde Nast? Obviously they don’t care. The idea of Bon Apetit with all its pedestrian recipes and silly articles about overcoming the fear of eating kale (puh lease)… the idea of it showing up in place of Gourmet in my mailbox makes my blood absolutely boil. I just wish there was something we could do, I feel helpless and to echo what everyone has said, alienated by the “bottom line” attitude of our society that places profits over quality or for that matter, posterity…

Sarah Jio October 19, 2009 at 6:58 pm

I feel the same–so depressed about this news. (I work for Glamour–also Conde Nast). In memory of Gourmet, I posted something on my personal blog about my Gourmet articles as kitchen art. Here’s the link: http://www.sarahjio.com/?p=554

xo

clf October 21, 2009 at 3:42 pm

.

Abbey-
If you love to cook, I urge you to reconsider and support Bon Appetit. (Btw folks, if you really want to support a magazine you love, and want to make sure it keeps publishing, buy it at the newsstand.)The recipes are excellent and thoroughly tested. You have no idea how much hard work and love goes into developing them (full disclosure: one of my friends is a longtime, frequent contributor).

I realize the magazine is not as brainy or elite as Gourmet, not as anal as Cooks Illustrated (good CI gets on my nerves sometimes) and not as sexy as Food & Wine. But it offers solid recipes and information and the art direction has changed in the last year or so. So it’s getting hipper.

Conde Nast just laid off 7 staffers at Bon Appetit today. (Meanwhile, has Anna Wintour taken a pay cut?) There are real human beings behind these magazines, people. Anytime a magazine is shut down, not only does the staff lose their jobs, but hundreds of peripheral people do also, from photographers and writers to food stylists, fact checkers and researchers, and the folks who do color separation at the printer, etc. etc. This sort of thing is devastating to tons of people.

joslyn October 23, 2009 at 10:00 am

Abbey
you so perfectly and beautifully articulated every. single. thing. I’ve been feeling since this last blow to the print world. when i think about the fact that the magazines I eagerly awaited just a year ago (house and garden, blueprint, domino, gourmet, cookie…) are all gone… well i feel, as you said alone. I can’t believe there are so few of us in this demographic.

and yes, i want my magazines to be aspirational If I’m going to sit down (taking time away from my family, my other obligations, my other hobbies) to read a publication, I want it to be something beautiful, inspiring and aspirational…not 10 ways to organize your toilet paper cabinet.

I’m right there with you sister.

mln October 29, 2009 at 10:45 am

Abbey, I heartily agree with you on your comparisons to the other food magazines- they just don’t do it for me. Every time I read food & wine I’m disappointed. Gourmet was beautiful, practical, and well, just fit me (& my demographic) to a t. The sad thing is, the enormous sums Conde Nast paid to McK consultants to analyze whether or not the magazine was viable could have been better spent on something else that may actually have kept it running. What a loss.
And it’s true, archiving is so important, and that you’ll never get with an online source.

nicole October 29, 2009 at 3:57 pm

i’ll give you an amen.

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