At South by Southwest Interactive, one of the panels posed the question, “Could the iPad have saved Gourmet?”
Many industry observers (and the magazine’s editor) were surprised when Conde Nast decided last year to close the title outright. Although a difficult ad market was generally blamed for Gourmet‘s demise, not everyone bought the argument that Gourmet was a “circulation powerhouse”.
There’s a big difference between rate base and total consumer demand. Gourmet was reported to be selling subscriptions for as little as $5.99 a year, likely to sustain a rate base that it had promised the advertisers who fled the magazine in 2009.
At the SxSWi panel, the consensus answer was (correctly), “No, the iPad would not have saved Gourmet“. Unfortunately, the panelists got there slowly and (when asked directly) hedged their answers.
Even the coolest devices will not save publishing if publishers don’t remember or re-learn the most important lesson: start with the consumer. In any format, magazines must offer value and convince readers to pay enough to sustain the offering, or they won’t survive.