Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Killed Gourmet

Christopher Kimball apparently thinks bloggers contributed to the demise of Gourmet Magazine: "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up." That seems to give us far more power than we have. Perhaps it might be more useful to examine whether or not Gourmet was providing content that appealed to its designated demographic. Were the articles interesting enough to attract a sufficiently large audience? Was its editorial approach valid for today's readers? Plenty of long-running magazines have folded because they lost touch with their audience, and this has been going on well before the Internet.

On the other hand, maybe Mr Kimball is giving us our due. Bloggers represent the people, and our opinions matter. We're the ones who buy the products, patronize the restaurants, and read the magazines. Why should we not be allowed to say our piece? Why should it be that an elite group of food professionals has all of the authority?

I didn't stop reading Gourmet because I started blogging, or even because I started reading blogs. I stopped reading Gourmet because I don't have the leisure time to sit on the sofa, feet up, and enjoy a food magazine. I do, however, spend many long hours in front of a computer. As you may have noticed, the Internet is a treasure trove of foodie information. Not only are there food blogs by non-food-professionals such as myself, but there are also plenty of sites that are run by legitimate media outlets. Mr Kimball's own Cook's Illustrated site, for example. I also glean a lot of interesting information on the New York Times site as well as that of New York Magazine, including their...blogs. Foodie information also abounds on television. Not so much on the Food Network anymore, but in the early days of Emeril, Molto Mario, and David Rosengarten, I learned a lot. Now better foodie TV can be found by watching the interesting and creative competitors on Top Chef, and learning good home-cook technique on Christopher Kimball's America's Test Kitchen.

Back to blogs. I will admit that there are lots of them that are poorly-written and have nothing to say, ones that contribute no expertise or even opinion in some cases. The people who are their fans would never read Gourmet in the first place, so while I sneer at them and their lack of quality content, they are not to blame for the demise of the hallowed food magazine. As far as Twitter comments are concerned, many of the people I follow are food professionals. Should they keep their interesting information to themselves or save it up for an article rather than sharing spontaneously?

Media is changing and some venerable publications are losing their audience - this includes magazines and local newspapers. As other media become more popular - and more engaging - we'll continue to see the demise of print publication. It's a form of growing pains. I don't feel it's right to point fingers at things - like blogs - and make them villains.


Dara Bunjon said...

You're the best! Loved, loved the article...tweeted it. You said it so well. Ditto

TheSlapster said...

This is really creepy, we just had this discussion an hour ago in our house! Okay, it wasn't as well thought out as your post. It was more of a question on my part whether food blogs contributed directly to the demise of Gourmet (and in a larger context, other mags in other industries) or if it was just a sign of the times. A little of both is my feeling, and the Wife's view was one of over-saturation in the print arena. Some paring down was necessary and inevitable.