The first wave of cuts at Conde Nast following an outside evaluation by McKinsey came fast and furious: Four titles are closing -- most notably Gourmet, one of America's best-known epicurean titles since its launch in 1940. Conde Nast is also closing Cookie, a popular parenting magazine, and two bridal titles, Elegant Bride and Modern Bride.
Altogether, about 180 employees will lose their jobs as a result of the closings, and Conde Nast is also considering a reduction in the frequencies of four other titles, per The New York Times.
The decimation, revealed in an internal memo by CEO Charles Townsend, sent ripples of surprise through Conde Nast and the magazine business in general, where conventional wisdom held that the high-end publisher would close one or two titles to cut costs by 25%. The big shocker is Gourmet, long a heavyweight in the epicurean category, which will cease publication after its November issue.
According to the Media Industry Newsletter, through its October issue, Gourmet's ad pages are down 42.7% for the year-to-date -- making it worse off than other leading titles in the epicurean category, where Conde sister title Bon Appetit is down 32%, Food & Wine is down 25.8%, and Saveur is up 8.3%.
Through the first half of the year, total ad pages in the food and food products ad category were down 16.7% to 6,152, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. In his memo explaining the decision to close Gourmet, Townsend said: "We will remain committed to the brand, retaining Gourmet's book publishing and television programming, and Gourmet recipes on Epicurious.com."
The company will concentrate its "publishing activities in the epicurean category on Bon Appétit."
While not as venerable, the closing of Cookie is also something of a surprise, given the attention it received from Conde Nast since its launch in 2005. In the following years, it saw off competitors like Child, Wondertime, Disney Family Adventures, Nickelodeon, and Nick Jr.
But recently, the Bonnier Corp. has shown its determination to revitalize the Parenting franchise it acquired from Time Inc. in 2007. For the year-to-date, Cookie's ad pages were down 23%, to 465, according to MIN.
The closing of Elegant Bride and Modern Bride leaves Conde Nast with just one bridal title, the flagship Brides. In the first half of 2009, Brides saw ad pages fall 18.1% to 1,235, compared to a 21.5% drop at Modern Bride (to 857) and a 32.5% drop at Elegant Bride (to 175). The wedding industry, like the rest of the economy, has taken its lumps in 2009. Industry forecasts predict the average amount spent on a wedding to decrease 9.1% from $22,000 to $20,000, leading to an overall decline of 6% in industry revenues, to $57 billion.