Monday, October 19, 2009

The future of food magazines

For a small market, Australia is blessed with some excellent food magazines, so I don't often look offshore for recipes (although The Times and The Guardian newspaper both have excellent food sections on their websites). I was interested to read Jill Dupleix's recent "Table Talk" column in the Sydney Morning Herald on "Has the food magazine had the chop?"

In this article, she noted that Conde Nast recently closed down the 68-year-old food magazine Gourmet, edited by Ruth Reichl. As a fan of Ruth's books, I've looked at their website a few times and once found an inspiring section on Christmas cooking that I kept. As I find the conversions of measurements and ingredients quite time-consuming, I don't often look to US magazines for inspiration, but Gourmet did have an interesting website and it's sad news to hear that it's closing. As Jill noted in her column: "Media pundits say we will never again be able to walk into a newsagent and have such an incredible variety of magazines to choose from. Good news for trees, bad news for those who take their fave foodie mag to bed with them. How will this affect us and where will we get our foodie info, recipes and cheffy restaurant news from in the future?"

"It is sad news indeed that Conde Nast felt there was nothing they could do with Gourmet magazine but fire everyone and cancel the next print run. It would have been wonderful if, instead, they had parlayed a few of the magazine’s great resources - terrific writers, photographers, food stylists - into a new form of online food content. The very fact that they didn’t, is also perhaps one of the reasons for the magazine’s demise - it’s called not quite getting with the programme, not engaging with the new media world, not picking up on new possibilities.

"But there is no doubt the world is changing. These days, we get our recipes, cooking ideas, produce news, food shop info and inspiration from a variety of different sources as well as magazines - effectively editing our own ‘foodie magazine’ to our own taste."

I agree with these excellent points. I love nothing more than settling down with a cup of coffee and the latest glossy food magazine, flicking through and enjoying the lavish photo spreads and planning new menus. I add post-it notes to pages, make lists of dishes I want to try and transfer recipes that get the thumbs-up into my special recipe folder.

But when it comes to finding a recipe quickly, or wanting to find a new recipe to try - perhaps I was given a bag of lemons and need to find new ways to use it up - I search online, rather than through the magazines. I'll usually go to the or the Gourmet Traveller website but so many of their recipes are on their website that you don't have to buy each month's magazine if you don't want to. Still, I don't think anything compares to thumbing through a fresh issue and you certainly can't snuggle up in bed with the website or read it easily on the train.


Dianne said...

I totally agree with you that if I'm looking for a new recipe, I will almost always turn to the Internet. Those pesky print magazines don't benefit from the power of a search engine!

That said, Gourmet's demise is terribly sad for us food lovers here in the U.S., because many of us have taken our lovely glossy copies of the magazine to bed with us for decades. And although there are many trusted foodies online, certainly, I will miss the authority of Gourmet magazine. As a little girl I used to flip through Mom's large collection of back issues, trusting that what I discovered was the end-all, be-all of food and cooking. Though that authority has certainly changed with the Internet, there was still something so comforting about holding the monthly publication in my hands. I will miss Gourmet an awful lot.

(Meanwhile, thank goodness I have Delicious to look forward to each month in the mailbox!)

Melinda said...

Hi Dianne - it's nice to hear your story and history with Gourmet. I think food magazines do speak to us with a trusted voice, particularly if it's a magazine you love and, over time, you do "build up" a relationship with it. For example, I go to Gourmet Traveller for something elaborate for when I want to make a wow dish. While Delicious also has wow dishes, I expect to find a lot more easy weekday recipes in there. So the demise of a food magazine is always a sad thing. There are amazing photos online, and I love a fast search engine, but sometimes that just doesn't compare to holding a glossy in your hands.