Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gourmet Gone

The big news in the food world yesterday was that Condé Nast in closing down Gourmet... the premier food magazine of the last 70 years... the ur-foodie publication if you will... because it was losing money. Bon Appétit, on the other hand, will continue... and the overlap between the two publications is to what Jack Shafer attributes Gourmet's demise.
In theory, it makes a lot of sense for a business to encourage internal competition between divisions. But it can easily backfire. At General Motors, executives originally cultivated distinct personalities for its Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac divisions. But those divisions began to blur into one in the 1970s. In the 1990s, General Motors bleached from Saturn (a GM startup) and Saab (an acquisition) their distinctive, desirable qualities.

At GM, the least successful divisions have often found it easier—at least politically—to compete against their corporate brothers instead of the real competition (Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, et al.). If Chevy had a successful SUV, Buick wanted an SUV. If Chevy had a successful two-seater sports car, Pontiac wanted one, and so did Saturn. If Buick succeeded in selling luxury, the other divisions demanded luxury vehicles. By indulging its divisions, General Motors encouraged them to steal market share from one another rather than to go after the other car companies' markets.

Possibly, but I continue to believe it was rank discrimination against magazine titles lacking an accent aigu. In all honesty, I don't and didn't read Gourmet... I get my food pr0n from Saveur and otherwise prefer my cooking magazines utilitarian... but everybody says this article about lobsters by David Foster Wallace is the best example of what Gourmet brought to the table, so I guess we should all read it and mourn.