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IT’S AL…IVE!: More than eight months after Condé Nast shuttered Gourmet, the company revealed plans Tuesday to revive the revered food magazine. Sort of. “It’s not a magazine, and it’s not a digital version of a magazine,” said president and chief executive officer Chuck Townsend before unveiling Gourmet Live, an app that will bring the title’s 70 years worth of archives to the iPad and other digital platforms. Users who download the program when it launches in the fourth quarter will have access to a preselected slice of stories, recipes and videos that will grow as they explore and share items with their social network. Townsend said the publisher would assemble a team of eight to 10 “producers” (so long, writers and editors; it’s a producer’s world) to aggregate content for the app and that its operations would fall under Carol Smith, vice president and publisher for the company’s food brands. There were more than 60 editorial staffers on the Gourmet masthead when it shuttered in October. Eventually, the company said, the portal could contain user-generated content such as restaurant recommendations.
Townsend said Condé Nast’s optimized projections call for the app to contribute $20 million in annual revenues within three or four years. Though the initial download will be free, Townsend presented Gourmet Live as a sort of sandbox that will allow the company to test new payment sources such as à la carte offerings, virtual currency and membership models as it grows. “We believe that magazines are but the tip of the pyramid in terms of what readers will pay for,” the ceo said (although he didn’t say exactly what else they’d pay for). As for whether user-generated content would be up to the storied Gourmet reputation (the demo version the company showed to journalists offered lush photography and a David Foster Wallace essay from the archives), Townsend allowed there could be some professional content created for the app as well.
Gourmet Live will have company when it launches, as other food titles adapt to the e-reader in the near future. Hearst Corp. plans to release a Food Network Magazine app for tablets later this year, and Food & Wine will launch its own iPad app with the October issue. Dana Cowin, Food & Wine editor in chief, said a price hasn’t been determined, but a subscription model is planned. “It will go deeper and have more content,” said Cowin, noting the app will have more travel and lifestyle content and feature more in-depth interviews with notable chefs such as Mario Batali and Tyler Florence. As for Gourmet Live, a competitor in the making, Cowin said the site will have a sizable archive to draw from, a “great backbone,” but she said it’s not clear what the point-of-view will be. “What distinguishes the brand’s identity?” she wondered. “How is it different from Epicurious?” She added that Food & Wine often works with partner CNN, which launched its own food blog, Eatocracy, last week.
But the final critical word on Gourmet Live on Tuesday went to former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl, who wrote on Twitter: “Re: Gourmet; they’re reviving the brand, not the magazine. Pity.”
— Matthew Lynch and Amy Wicks