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Food & Drink

After 70 Years 'Gourmet' Magazine Goes Bust

Conde Nast Publications is closing Gourmet, the nation's oldest food magazine, and three other titles as the high-end publisher tries to weather a devastating advertising slump.

In addition to Gourmet, which had a circulation of 980,000 last year, the publisher is closing Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and Cookie, a parenting magazine. Earlier in the year it killed publication of Portfolio, a business magazine, and Domino, a lifestyle title.

Conde Nast had no comment. But in a memo to staff Monday, Conde Nast CEO Charles Townsend said the closures were required "to navigate the company through the economic downturn and to position us to take advantage of coming opportunities."

Consultants from McKinsey & Co. have been helping the publisher, known for elegant publications and high costs, identify ways to cut its expenses. Despite Gourmet's large audience, the magazine has suffered one of the worst ad declines of any popular title. Its number of ad pages was down 50 percent in the second quarter from the year before, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.

Conde Nast Publications, run by billionaire S.I. Newhouse Jr., publishes such magazines as Vogue, The New Yorker and Wired and is a unit of privately held Advance Publications Inc. The company's remaining 19 magazines also include one on food, Bon Appetit.

In an interview published on the Web site of The New York Times, Townsend said Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride are being closed because they are losing money. He said the roughly 180 employees who work for the titles will be leaving the company with severance packages by the end of the week.

Townsend said Conde Nast doesn't plan to close more magazines, but said three or four might have to cut the number of issues they put out. He also signaled the possibility of further layoffs, saying the editors and publishers of each Conde Nast magazine have been given new budget targets and a 10-day deadline for turning in plans for meeting them. Any staff cuts should be made by the end of the year, he told the Times.

Gourmet, edited by Ruth Reichl and revered by many culinary aficionados, was launched in 1941 by Earle R. MacAusland as "the magazine of good living." It was known for more than just recipes: It dived into extended discourse about travel, wine and food, such as the 2004 piece in which David Foster Wallace argued against the practice of boiling lobsters to death.

Now, Conde Nast said, Gourmet's brand will live on in books and TV programming. It also plans to keep publishing Gourmet recipes on Epicurious.com.

As Modern Bride and Elegant Bride close, a third Conde Nast magazine, Brides, will increase its frequency to monthly instead of coming out every two months.

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