Conde Nast magazines shut as review bites

NEW YORK Mon Oct 5, 2009 6:01pm EDT

1 of 3. Modern Bride and Elegant Bride magazines are seen on display at a Borders bookstore in Washington October 5, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Conde Nast will close four magazines -- Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, Gourmet, and Cookie -- following a review the publisher undertook to find ways to reduce costs and staff in the face of a slump in advertising.

The decision is among the clearest signs yet of severe cost cuts at the publishing house best known for magazines such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Vogue. Those cuts follow a study from McKinsey & Co consultants who were brought in by management this summer.

Word of the cuts had loomed over Conde Nast since then, leading to speculation that they could even touch the expense accounts of editors such as fashion magazine Vogue's U.S. chief Anna Wintour, considered the inspiration for the editor portrayed in the book and film "The Devil Wears Prada."

The company said the review has been completed. It is unclear whether Monday's announcement is the last.

For some readers, closing Gourmet, which some fear could lead to the sacking of its editor Ruth Reichl, was the most painful move. The magazine is revered among home chefs and Reichl is one of the food writing business's most popular figures.

On the Twitter social network, a news feed called "@savegourmet" appeared on Monday.

Reichl did not respond to an e-mail message seeking comment.

Media bloggers and other scribes have searched for signs that publishers and editors would see big, painful cuts -- from first-class travel to gourmet meals at the Frank Gehry-designed cafeteria.

Conde Nast previously closed its Portfolio business magazine and home decor magazine Domino and had trimmed spending across the company.

The latest magazine shutdowns "combined with cost and workforce reductions now under way throughout the company, will speed the recovery of our current businesses and enable us to pursue new ventures," Chief Executive Chuck Townsend said on Monday in a memo to staff.

About 180 employees will lose their jobs in the cuts, a Conde Nast spokeswoman said.

With the shutdown of Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, a third wedding magazine, Brides, will increase its publication schedule to monthly from once every two months. As for Gourmet, Conde Nast said it remains committed to the brand and would continue Gourmet's book publishing and TV programing.

The company is far from being the only U.S. publisher to suffer circulation and advertising revenue declines as readers go online and advertisers slash budgets because of the recession. It is, however, one of the most conspicuous.

The privately-held company, headquartered in New York City's Times Square, has long enjoyed a reputation as sophisticated as the one depicted in its glossy fashion magazines.

A roster of high-priced editors such as Wintour and Vanity Fair's Graydon Carter, and the image of a staff leading an exhausting but glamorous lifestyle ensures that when Conde Nast tightens budgets it becomes big news for the movers and shakers in New York's media, fashion and advertising worlds.

The announcement that the magazines are closing comes after a source told Reuters on Friday that Conde Nast may work with Time Warner's Time Inc, Hearst Corp and others to set up a digital newsstand for people to read magazines, and get charged for them, on mobile devices such as electronic book readers.

(Reporting by Paul Thomasch and Robert MacMillan; editing by Gunna Dickson and Carol Bishopric)