Monday, October 05, 2009

I Guess I Shouldn't Be Surprised

Word out of the big Apple today is that Conde Nast, faced with cliff-like drops in ad revenues for its magazines, has decided to shutter 4 more of its monthly publications, including Gourmet, a behemoth in the publishing industry.  Also on the cut list today are Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and Cookie.

I am sure the internet will be blamed for the closures and the job losses.  But really.  If you are any kind of Modern Bride, aren't you more likely to be on the web on your employer's nickle looking for the latest in wedding trends?  As for Elegant Bride, hasn't this niche headed in the direction of the wedding planner?  You really think brides with 10-figure portfolios are flipping though the pages of a magazine?

Gourmet is a bit of a shocker though.  while you might argue that it competes for space with Bon Appetit, another Conde Nast pub, I'm going to argue that it's simply another publication that had a better web presence than print version and eventually Bon Appetit will be gone too.  Part of this may also be the Food Network's emergence as the place foodies go for their daily hit of food porn.  Who needs a magazine when you can have Bobby Flay and Giada DeLaurentiis chopping and flambeeing right in your bedroom each night?

The real question is whether Conde Nast has cut far enough.  This round of cuts, added to the elimination of Domino earlier this year may look like a lot, but Conde Nast still has a ton of overlap in its titles.  Golf Digest, Golf World and Golf Travel?  How many magazines do old white guys need?

Vogue, Glamour, Allure, Self, W, and Lucky all vie for different points in the woman's fashion market, but there HAS to be some more room for cuts there.  If you can't find some overlap just on the covers, you aren't looking real hard.  While some competition from with your own corporation is good because it can help expand a marketplace and create some ability to differentiate publications, there comes a point in a tight market where it's simply fratricide. 

We've been seeing this problem all across the print industry.  Newspapers were hit first, now magazines, but really all media are being squeezed.  Websites are under increasing pressure to figure out what their market is and sell to it or go dark.  The major movie studios are doing well this year, up 13% in attendance, but they are spending fortunes advertising and promoting.  

While many will say that the Conde Nast closings are about the internet, I will say simply that they are about an old media company that has simply not kept up.   Martha Stewart's empire has rolled with some significant punches, yet remains a major player in the business because it has ample TV, radio, web and print presences.  Conde Nast never made the jump and more of its pubs will go down unless they figure out how to do so.


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