Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Condé Nast Brings Gourmet–But Not Its Staff–Back From the Dead

Last fall, Condé Nast shuttered Gourmet, its beloved but unprofitable food title. Now the publisher is bringing Gourmet back, with a new plan to turn it into a moneymaker: Keep the brand, lose the staff.

Condé will revive Gourmet as Gourmet Live, an app/magazine designed to be consumed on devices like Apple’s (AAPL) iPad. In a presentation at the publisher’s headquarters this morning (promotional clip below), Condé executives and consultants talked up the app’s digital selling points, such as social gameplay, e-commerce opportunities, etc.

But they didn’t spend much time talking about the people who were going to fill the app with content. That’s because Condé Nast will be relying primarily on the magazine’s 70 years of archives for that–the demo makes frequent reference to David Foster Wallace’s great “Consider the Lobster” essay–plus whatever a small staff of “producers” rounds up from outside.

Gourmet used to employ dozens of people, many of whom made a lot of money (for editorial types). How many people will be working on Gourmet Live? The number “won’t be significant,” says Condé Nast distribution executive Bob Sauerberg. “You can’t compare the two things because they’re completely different.”

He’s right in at least one way: Condé and Activate, the boutique consulting firm Michael Wolf and Anil Dash launched this year, don’t expect many of Gourmet’s print subscribers to spend time on the app this year–they’re courting tech-savvy users who probably didn’t read the magazine but who may spend a lot of time on Foursquare, etc.

Leveraging brand equity–and decades of content–with a new property may turn out to be a great idea. It’s certainly better than letting all that stuff lie fallow. But it won’t appease people who loved the old magazine. Then again, people who love old print brands are learning to live with disappointment these days.

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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