Condé and McKinsey
Condé Nast has long had a reputation for being more than just a company: They're a publisher. Some of their titles make money, of course. But many, like The New Yorker and Gourmet, don't. They protected them anyway.
On Monday, they announced that they're shuttering Gourmet. But not totally. They'll keep its cookbook and television presence. They're just killing off the unprofitable magazine. It's a ruthless move, as it means Gourmet can't be resuscitated by another publisher, or allowed to live in a more frugal fashion. They didn't so much terminate the brand as cannibalize it. “In the economics of the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s, this would be a business decision balanced by the cultural reticence to part with iconic brands,” Charles H. Townsend, Condé Nast’s chief executive, told the New York Times. "This economy is a completely different bag.”
Apparently. Adding to the stink of the move, this was all premised -- and thus blamed on -- a report from the McKinsey consulting firm. I've no doubt that McKinsey's report correctly noted Gourmet's poor performance. But Condé knew about that performance already. It looks, rather, like they paid McKinsey a huge sum of money in order to hide behind their report's conclusion. That probably made this move psychologically easier on Condé's executives, and it probably helped with the media side ("what can we do? This is practically science!"), but that's money that could have gone toward jobs and severance packages instead.
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