The trajectory of Gourmet magazine is starting to sound like a Celine Dion song. Conde Nast may have shut down, but Ruth Reichl will go on. The former Gourmet editor was a well respected food writer and editor before her tenure with Conde Nast, and she is bringing her association with the brand with her as she goes forward with her career.
The author is currently on a book tour for her book “Gourmet Today,” and her public television show “Gourmet’s Adventures With Ruth” premiered on Boston's WBGH on Oct. 17.
Those projects were already in the works when Gourmet shuttered earlier this month, but they point to a fact that many in the publishing business would rather not spend much time on: there's no reason that a brand has to die just because its main product ceases to exist.
Gourmet may not have any ad pages anymore, but advertisers are still interested in working with the brand.
Rick Wilbins, managing director for brand and advertising at American Airlines, works with TM Advertising and signed on to sponsor Reichl's new TV venture. He told The New York Times:
“TM, talking with Gourmet, had suggested that there were opportunities to be more directly involved in the production of a series. We’d be open to that, and since we also have had a strategy of engaging with our, we call it our best fliers, our premium and frequent travelers, that one of the ways we engage with them is through food because food and travel are intrinsically linked. So this is a perfect link.”
American agreed to buy 30-second ads at the beginning and end of the cooking videos, as well as ads on Gourmet's website and Gourmet's TiVo channel. Two weeks before the premiere, Gourmet was killed off. But American is still working with the brand.
In its wake, Gourmet magazine has received plenty of good press. And publicity about the magazine’s closing may have an upside in terms of associated projects. According to Publishers Weekly, sales of “Gourmet Today,” the mag's new cookbook, have spiked since the publication’s closing. Meanwhile, the blog Eater offered to publish articles slated to appear in the magazine's upcoming issues.
But it's not all dying embers that have been given an escape route. Perri Dorset, a Condé Nast spokeswoman, tells the Times that Conde is "looking at a number of other expressions of the Gourmet brand. We’re engaged in very interesting partnership ideas around Gourmet — these are very much on the front burner for 2010.”
Lagging ad sales do not erase the fact that Gourmet was a very popular magazine — and it's editor highly respected. While the magazine had to compete with other food titles at its publishing house, the brand of Gourmet may live on in any number of other iterations — both online and off. Its assets could continue to benefit Conde Nast, whether it be through recipe books, online video or branded content.
Shuttered publications like Radar magazine and Vibe have died only to resurface online again. In the case of Radar, the new Radar online is a shell of its former self, while private equity investment fund InterMedia Partners bought Vibe Magazine and is working to ressurect the brand online.
If the Gourmet brand can retain Reichl and continue to make high quality products, it can add to Conde's other titles and help the publishing house bring in additional revenue. Brands that close their main business can run into trouble when they start on smaller projects due to a lack of focus, but Conde has the benefit of multiple titles, meaning that it can bring in Gourmet only on high end projects that will benefit and add to its other brands.
Conde Nast may not have been able to succeed with Gourmet as a magazine, but the brand could yet do them a lot of good.