Monday, February 15th, 2010
13

Dave Eggers Still Can't Figure Out Magazines, God Bless

EAT IT"It's impossible that you have a million subscribers paying 50 bucks a year and it can't work," said Dave Eggers last Thursday, about the death of Gourmet, over at the Berkeley School of Journalism. Yes, that is actually impossible! And not so great that he keeps opining about the death of publishing with a complete lack of understanding how publishing works. Each issue of Gourmet actually brought in revenue of $1.18. A one-year subscription could be had at $15. The $50 a year figure is nonsense. And yet! He's right at heart, if not in fact. Gourmet made (and obviously spent!) a lot of money-they made $12 million in the third quarter of 2009, and made $14 million in the last three months of existence. But the way they made money was from a thing called advertising. Back in both 2006 and 2007, the magazine's fourth quarter income was around $45 million-also known as "boat loads of cash." But even in a bad ad market-could you or me or Dave Eggers put out Gourmet with revenue of "just" $52 million a year? Um, YES. And how! But then we are not a silly, misguided, over-spending magazine company. (Or are we.)

13 Comments / Post A Comment

Joe Gallagher (#3,502)

I love Dave Eggers. Easily my favorite writer (I am a solipsistic college student) and I subscribe to Mcsweeney's and the Believer. But I do have to say, he does live in this naive publishing fantasy land: What do you mean most people aren't willing to pay 55 dollars a year for a beautiful and engrossing product?

berthamason (#740)

Can Choire or another smart person explain — was Gourmet literally losing money as in spending more than it brought in, or was it "losing" money as in making less money than it did in 2006 and 2007?

No smart person is currently available, but I can at least tell you that Conde is pretty usually not disclosing of its budgets. But man, that's a LOT OF DOUGH.

libmas (#231)

What I want to know: now that Gourmet is gone, could some other media company – say, an online venture of some sort – resurrect the title, fantastic font and all? Why, it could be a regular feature… Dibs on the wine column.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Too much eating out.

Elizabeth L. (#3,503)

Agreed, Joe Gallagher…though that continued idealism and commitment to the beautiful & engrossing is why I love him, personally.

I am trying so hard to be less hateful this year but people make it so fucking hard sometimes.

brent_cox (#40)

It's an economy of scale thing that totally is over my head – I would have thought the Gourmet brand was worth enough to keep a slowly bleeding magazine publishing.

davidwatts (#72)

I say this a lot, but I think some things just can't be run on a model that defines success as eternally-increasing revenue. Like, some things make a kind of static amount of revenue! Or, sometimes it's up and sometimes it actually goes down! SO, Magazine owners: just because your financial team tells you there's no more "growth" in a certain arena, maybe you could just be happy with your $12 – $14 million revenue? I know lots of people would be!

Bart (#1,177)

Subscription price for Gourmet was no where near $50. The price for new subscriptions was in the $12 range. Renewals paid more, maybe $18 per year. Also, many of the subscriptions came from subscription agents that kept a large part of the subscription price so Gourmet only got a small portion of the $12. Gourmet did not generate anywhere enough circulation revenues to pay for the content that was created and distributed. Ruth R. spent $$ like water–stories and spreads killed at last minute, travel expenses paid lavishly, etc. Unsound way to run a profitable mag, esp, with free content online.
Conde Nast isn't giving up brand, logo, etc. for free.

LondonLee (#922)

Then why not just fire the editor and cut back on expenses? $52 million in ad revenue seems like an awful lot of money to me, but I work at a magazine with an art/edit budget that would probably barely cover what Conde Nast spends on Town Cars.

Backslider (#819)

I'm not terribly bright either, but (or so) in my past life I was a print buyer. The printing costs alone on a mag like gourmet probably worked out to nearly two bucks a copy. Throw in real estate, overhead, mailing costs, editorial expenses–this seems to be the cost that most often gets overlooked–and you can see how they lost money on subscriptions that went for $12 or even $20 per year. Unless they had many generous advertisers who paid on time, they were doomed.

Also, Dave Eggers is a dick.

Redacted (#2,882)

I only paid $10/year for my subscription. So actually, even the $12-15 range is overstating it!

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