Friday, October 9, 2009

Post Mortem

Now that the initial shock of Gourmet's closure has worn off, people are starting to ask "what happened?," and "what's next?"

There's been plenty of Monday-morning-quarterbacking in the past few days, most of it focusing on the Internet, and food bloggers especially (gulp!), as a primary cause of Gourmet's demise. As Amanda Hesser put it, there was "nothing wrong" with Ruth Reichl's "stewardship" of Gourmet. "What was wrong with the magazine," Hesser says, "was its medium: print." Hesser says that people want content fast, and they want it on the Web. But, more importantly, "they don't want the master talking to the servant." They want to be part of the conversation. Chris Kimball, of Cook's Illustrated, disagrees. He says that "the world needs fewer opinions and more thoughtful expertise," and they're willing to pay for it. That's why, he says, his no-advertisement, subscriber-financed business model is doing just fine, thank you very much.

There's even been a fair amount of not-so-nice "I told you so"-ing, including a cutesy piece in The Boston Globe, a "Recipe for Obsolescence." Talk about the pot calling the kettle obsolete! Only a few months ago the Globe's parent company, the New York Times, came dangerously close to shutting down the Globe for very much the same reasons that Conde Nast closed Gourmet.

But no amount of hand wringing and second-guessing will bring Gourmet back. Or will it? Venture capitalist Kylie Sachs has started a one-woman campaign via Twitter to resurrect Gourmet under a Cook's Illustrated-like business model. It seems like a long shot, but, as of today, savegourmet has 648 followers (including yours truly).

Barring a Lazarus-like resurrection, what will become of Gourmet's current subscribers? According to a notice on Gourmet's web site (which will go dark after a "transitional period"), subscribers "can look forward to receiving Bon Appetit magazine for the remainder of their subscription." I, for one, plan to say "Thanks, but no thanks!" to this offer, and in fact, I also intend to cancel my subscriptions to other Conde Nast magazines (GQ and Details).

A little birdie has told me that I can expect to recieve a subscription for Cook's Illustrated for my birthday, which is right around the corner (hint, hint). It won't be the same, but Cook's Illustrated, will fill at least part of the hole in my mailbox left by Gorumet's passing.

1 comment:

The Mediocre Cook said...

While I might be a little biased, I am a fan of Cook's Illustrated and love the magazine which is a nice, no frills, informative guide. I also subscribe to the website which is a wealth of information.

It's sad to see the end of Gourmet but the times are definitely changing.