Gourmet and Bon Appetit Facing 'Frequency Reductions' and Streamlining

gourmet-bonapp-sep09It's no secret that Conde Nast's Bon Appetit and Gourmet are barely hanging on for dear life. Both publications have been faced with epic ad page meltdowns (year-over-year Bon Appetit's and Gourmet's are down 40% and 51.9%, respectively), and the emperor-has-no-clothes observations of their essential redundancy have grown increasingly frequent.

A dropped shoe of some sort has seemed inevitable, and today The Observer picks some news up from the rumor mill, suggesting that the food mags are going to be seeing “frequency reductions" and streamlining:

There have been ... conversations and presentations between Condé Nast execs and the McKinsey folks all along ... Within the building, one buzz term that keeps popping up is “frequency reductions.” The epicurean titles, Gourmet and Bon Appetit, are most commonly mentioned as candidates for reduced publishing schedules. There is also the possibility that the two staffs could be streamlined.

Considering that Bon Appetit and Gourmet barely meet the minimum amount of pages to physically glue a magazine together, some sort of rethinking of their production model is certainly in order. Less-frequent publication could be a more elegant solution than mashing the titles together and forcing some kind of Reichl-Fairchild cage match for dominance, amusing as that might be.

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  1. DBSweeney

    If someone could tell me in a short, easy-to-understand sentence exactly what is the fundamental difference between Gourmet and Bon App, I would really appreciate it. They are the same damn magazine. If one were published by Hearst, that I'd understand. It'd be a Glamour/Cosmo thing. But I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the Conde Nast meeting where they justify these magazines' simultaneous continued existence.

  2. Tricia

    No. They are not the same magazine. Gourmet is as much about the writing and exploring the context in which food exists as it is about food. Bon Appetit is more restaurant-focused and has less literary writing. (That's not a dig; it is just a different magazine.) So there's two sentences. And here's another: The aesthetics are very different: Gourmet has been going broody and atmospheric with a real feeling of immediacy--you're there eating with us!--for about five years now; Bon Appetit is cleaner and brighter and poppier. I like them both and I like them different.

    Will the world be at all diminished if they reduce frequencies or have to merge? Nah. But my bookshelf will.

  3. Designer Farmer

    Being a "less literary" type person, I do like the short and sweet delivery of Bon Appetit. However, I along with other visual foodies can't stand the food photography - blechhhhh. Why would you hire a automotive shooter to shoot your food? Lighting, styling, the works, sucked all year.

    A magazine is only as good as its cover. Sorry, couldn't help myself.

  4. foodguy

    there's also a difference in demographics. gourmet is focused much more on the bleeding edge food hipsters on the coasts (or those who would like to be) while bon app is geared much more to "normal folks".

  5. The bottom line is that the business model for magazines of all types is starting to evaporate just like it is for newspapers. Especially now with the recession, many people don't see the point in buying a magazine when they can get their information (of any kind) on the net for free.

    As far as the advertisers go, the prices charged by magazines are far more then charged on the net. But on the net advertisers can target almost the exact type of visitor they want, by demographic, location, interest, recent purchases etc. On top of that they can measure immediately the effectiveness of the ad and have new ads in front of people in hours not months.

    Epicurious.com is currently running 30% lower traffic then last year. On our site, Joyofbaking.com we've seen our visitors increase 144% over last year to where Epicurious.com has only 2.6 times our visitors per month. People aren't using the net less, they are using it more, but it appears that Epicurious still wants to hang on to their old print model. Just like with the newspapers, its not going to happen.

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