This week, Conde Nast announced the shuttering of four magazine properties. Of these, one was something no one ever heard of (Cookie? What the heck is — or was– that?), and two were brides magazine, which aren’t really magazines at all, but fantasy catalogs with editorial thrown in.
But the fourth is one of the most famous magazines of all time, Gourmet. Not only was Gourmet the first and foremost among foodie mags, it was one of the leading luxury/lifestyle pubs in the world.
In the wake of declining ad revenues, however, Conde Nast used McKinsey & Co. as a screen for jettisoning an unprofitable property. There it goes, under the waves, pearls and all.
Here’s the irony: In an age when marketers are encouraged to behave like publishers (i.e., create content), shouldn’t the reverse apply as well? If the people at Gourmet had thought of themselves as marketers, rather than just publishers, could this still-esteemed brand have been saved?
Think of it this way: What if Gourmet had repositioned itself as a lifestyle consultancy service, a kind of online concierge to the rich? What if they had developed and leased mobile applications for finding superior restaurants and hotels, and for making reservations? What if they continued to create branded Gourmet editorial, but put it up for for a la carte sale to other media outlets/brands?
I could go on and on, but the point is this: if Gourmet had defined its value beyond ink and paper, it may have found other ways of making real money. But as long as it was locked into one way of thinking, as a publisher, it was doomed.
As many publishers are doomed. Unless they start thinking of themselves as marketers.
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