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Ruth Reichl Speaks on Losing Gourmet

Ruth Reichl Speaks on Losing Gourmet

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Here’s NYTimes and the Observer with must-reads:

Still, so many of the recipes in Gourmet are rich, bordering on decadent. Why would anyone want to cook, for instance, peanut-butter pie with candied bacon?
We never tried to be a diet magazine. That’s not what people came to us for. But also, if you look at “Gourmet Today,” it is not filled with tons of fattening food.

You’re referring to your new cookbook, a 1,000-plus-page behemoth. Is it an updated version of the last Gourmet cookbook?
No, it’s a completely different book. What this book is about is how to use all the new ingredients you find at both the farmers’ market and the supermarket, including lacinato kale, egg-roll wrappers, frozen edamame and at least a dozen varieties of salsa.

Who collects royalties if the book sells well?
Condé Nast. I’m not making a penny. I did it as part of my job, and it’s a book I’m really proud of.

How did you learn that your job no longer exists? Who told you?

Meaning S. I. Newhouse, who owns Condé Nast Publications. In an e-mail message or in person?
It was not an e-mail.

Sounds like phone.
It was a conversation. I wouldn’t in a million years have imagined this.

Did you ask him why Condé Nast was shuttering Gourmet while keeping afloat some 18 other magazines, including Bon Appétit and such giants of intellectual life as Golf World and Golf Digest?
I was so stunned, I basically just listened.

Do you think he has considered closing The New Yorker?
No. I would bet my life on that. I think that Si loves that magazine, and I think — this is just my opinion — it will remain untouched, and it will be there forever.

Gourmet’s circulation is about the same as that of The New Yorker — you have about a million subscribers, right?
I think it was more than that. It has a legendary renewal rate. They would never tell me exactly what it was. I kept asking: “What does that mean? What areyou talking about?” And they just kept saying: “It’s great. People buy Gourmet forever.”

– from NYTimes

“The business picture was not good for Gourmet,” she said. “It was a magazine that depended on luxury advertising, unlike many of the epicureans. Most of our competition gets a lot of different kinds of advertising. Our main categories were travel, automotive, financial, jewelry—that all went away. That was just the way that it was. I guess at a certain point the company decided that advertising wasn’t coming back. I wasn’t privy to those discussions.”

“I did not anticipate this, I have to say,” she continued. “I did know that this was bad, but on the other hand our circulation had never been better. The editorial product was a big hit with the readers, and I did not anticipate this.”

Though she has doubts about the future of print magazines, she said that they’ll exist in some other form.

“I do think that there is going to be something that will be very exciting and that will incorporate video, instant shopping,” she said. “I think that the rich experience that is in magazines will likely move to another platform. It won’t be online. It will be what magazines are now, tools for living and inspirational and intellectually rich. I think magazines in that sense won’t be going away.”

When reflecting about her relationship with Si Newhouse and her magazine’s demise, she said, “I think he was very sad about this; I don’t think it was a reflection of me or our relationship. They hired McKinsey to come in and they decided to take McKinsey’s advice.” – from Observer