Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

The Web Helped Kill Gourmet? If So, Now I Hate the Internet!


Say it ain’t so.

Having fully embraced the Internet–sometimes to much disdain from old media colleagues back in the day–since the early 1990s as the way of the future in publishing, and even going to far as to abandon a career in print forever some years ago, BoomTown is bereft at the news yesterday that Gourmet magazine was being shish-kababbed.

Gourmet has been, since I started reading it as a young girl, one of the more perfect magazines–full of glamorous travel locales, stunning photos of food and sumptuous prose, all beautifully edited.

Let’s all agree first to blame owner Condé Nast, the famed magazine unit of privately held Advance Publications, for deciding to shutter the elegant and iconic Gourmet–which has been around since 1941–after the November issue.

While circulation remained steady at Gourmet at just under one million monthly paying subscribers, Condé Nast Chief Executive Officer Chuck Townsend pointed to a fall-off in advertising spending by luxury brands that resulted in a money-losing mess.

But, in a follow-up piece in The Wall Street Journal, titled “Gourmet Magazine’s Demise Gives Readers Empty Feeling,” plunging newsstand sales were also noted, apparently due in part to the impact of the Web.

“Gourmet has had to compete with food-related Web sites, which are often free and contain up-to-the-minute content,” said the Journal article.

In other words, the same thing that is occurring in all arenas–from food to tech to fashion to news–was left unsaid.

As in: The scourge of the Internet, laying waste to all those it comes in contact with.

But I dearly hope that this episode with Gourmet does not become another one of those death-by-digital cautionary tales, a case study that no one can sustain this kind of highbrow, expensive-to-make print media anymore, even the free-spending types at Condé Nast.

I am not sure that’s exactly true, though, since the analog experience Gourmet provided was not the same as what’s on the Web, which is what probably kept its circulation steady over the years.

It was clearly an issue of the econalypse–obviously helped along by the fact that people’s reading habits are shifting to online, thought that’s not the root issue.

That’s why Townsend added that Gourmet might live on in books, on television and, most likely of all, on the Internet.

That Gourmet already has a dullish Web site was not mentioned since it is free and not particularly different from the magazine–a decent repurposing, but a repurposing nonetheless.

Now that there is no magazine to fill that Web void, it will be interesting to see if more could be done online with the iconic foodie brand.

Or not.

(That September cover picture above is a quince, by the way, which most would never really know without–um, er–the help of Gourmet.)

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik