In a Forbes interview today, Saveur publisher Merri Lee Kingsly speaks frankly about why Gourmet has closed while ad sales are up at her rag: “We’re in the middle of a recession, and it costs $90,000 a page to be in Gourmet. That’s an awkward position to be in, especially if you can be in Saveur for $37,000 a page.” She also says Gourmet was obnoxiously bullish about competing with Bon Appétit for advertisers. Meanwhile, in the Times, Christopher Kimball of Cook’s Illustrated shares his wisdom as someone who abandoned the advertising model entirely. (Ironically, Cook’s Illustrated was bought by Condé Nast in 1990 and immediately closed so that Gourmet could have less competition, but Kimball revived it and it currently survives on print and web subscriptions.) Kimball follows Gabriella Gershenson in worrying that the inmates (i.e., bloggers) are now running the asylum.
The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up. They can no longer be coronated; their voices have to be deemed essential to the lives of their customers. That leaves, I think, little room for the thoughtful, considered editorial with which Gourmet delighted its readers for almost seven decades.
Speaking of Twitter comments packing more resonance than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, Amateur Gourmet Adam Roberts has this to tweet: “Chris Kimball, your recipes might work, but your magazine is the dullest, most brain-numbing one around. Blogs r better.” Oh, snap! LOLz.