Peter Kafka

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Here Are the Condé Nast Cuts: Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, Gourmet, Cookie Closing

conde-nast-buildingHere are some of the long-awaited cuts that Condé Nast has been mulling: The publisher is shuttering Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, Gourmet and Cookie.

It’s not a huge shock to see some of those titles go: Cookie, for instance, wasn’t a prestige title for Condé–like Domino, which the publisher closed down earlier this year, it was founded in 2005.

But Gourmet is one of Condé Nast’s most famous titles, and editor Ruth Reichl is one of Condé’s best-known editors. Most observers would have figured that Bon Appétit would go instead. CEO Chuck Townsend says the Gourmet brand will live on, zombie-style, via TV and publishing deals.

Condé has long cultivated a reputation as the magazine world’s most glamorous outpost, impervious to the petty concerns that bedeviled lesser folk. But the double-punch of the ad industry’s move away from print titles and a recession that pole-axed the luxury brands Condé depends on, has staggered the publisher. (Disclosure: I do some free-lance work for Condé title Vanity Fair).

Signs of trouble showed up late last year when the publisher made uncharacteristic staffing cuts. And in 2009, it began shuttering magazines: In addition to Domino, it closed Portfolio in April, just two years after a high-profile launch.

By July, Townsend had brought on consultants from McKinsey and Company to help figure out where else it could trim; the news that September ad pages would be down anywhere from 17 percent to 47 percent made it clear that other titles would be going.

I wouldn’t expect this to be the last big set of magazine cuts, by the way: Time Warner (TWX), for instance, has made it clear that it wants to hang on to Time Inc. but that it thinks the publisher employs too many people who produce too many titles.

Here are the details on the Condé cuts, via an internal memo (intended for public consumption) from Chuck Townsend:

From: “Townsend, Chuck”
Date: Mon, 5 Oct 2009 10:16:52 -0400
To: Conde Nast Publications-All <>
Conversation: Announcing Changes within Condé Nast
Subject: Announcing Changes within Condé 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.

Condé 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 We will concentrate our publishing activities in the epicurean category on Bon Appétit.

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.

Condé Nast is now in its 100th year of creating the most respected and iconic brands in the publishing world. These changes will ensure that our unique publishing company will continue in its preeminent position for many years to come.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus