NEW YORK — Conde Nast Publications is closing Gourmet, the nation’s oldest food magazine, and three other money-losing 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.
“We’re all stunned, sad,” Gourmet’s editor, Ruth Reichl, wrote in a post on Twitter.
In a staff memo, 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, 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.
Conde Nast spokeswoman Maurie Perl said the roughly 180 employees of Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride will be leaving the company with severance packages by the end of the week.
Miss Perl said Conde Nast doesn’t plan to close more magazines, though three or four might have to cut the number of issues they put out. She also said more layoffs are possible. The company has given publishers and editors a roughly two-week deadline to meet new budget targets. Any staff cuts should be made by the end of the year, she said.
Miss Perl said it is still uncertain whether Miss Reichl will stay with the company, but the editors of the other three shuttered publications will be leaving.
Gourmet, 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.
Magazine consultant Martin Walker said closing Gourmet makes financial sense because Bon Appetit should be able to pick up many of the magazine’s subscribers and advertisers. Many advertisers were trending toward food titles with a more affordable sensibility anyway, he said, and it would have been hard to pull off the reverse, and expect Bon Appetit advertisers to switch to the more upscale Gourmet.
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.