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Conde Nast Brands Revive Online

Posted by Sheila Shayon on June 23, 2010 10:30 AM

Conde Nast came under a great deal of fire in the past year for shuttering some of its beloved magazine titles, including the Ruth Reichl-edited Gourmet, plus Cookie, Domino and some bridal titles.

At least two of those titles are now coming back to life, eschewing print altogether as pure digital brands.

Conde Nast yesterday announced that Gourmet is coming back as a free iPad app, though without Reichl's involvement.

Dubbed Gourmet Live, it's now offering a sneak peek and will launch this fall as way to re-engage Gourmet's brand enthusiasts (and new fans) and, of course, rescue its deep archives from the freezer section.

“It’s not a magazine and it’s not a digital version of a magazine. It’s a whole new way to engage with consumers,” explained Conde Nast CEO Chuck Townsend to the New York Times. “We closed the magazine last fall but we did not close the brand,” added Robert Sauerberg, president, consumer marketing.

Reichl tweeted her reaction to the news: "they're reviving the brand, not the magazine. Pity."

Gourmet's new digital guise is aimed at younger web-savvy foodies as well as loyal older fans. Townsend is optimistic about Gourmet Live, citing a positive response to its Epicurious offering, now downloaded 2.4 million times on iPhone, iPad and Android devices, and Wired's innovative iPad app.

Maintaining its reputation for rich photography and equally rich prose about America’s eating ethos in an iPad environment, Gourmet Live will include new rich media content as well as archival material.

Collaborating with New York consulting firm Activate, the free digital iteration, developed in HTML5, will offer features which are now de rigueur for digital apps: sharing with Facebook and Twitter; article tags plus user ratings and recommendations; a real-time game engine (a la Foursquare) with exclusive content unlocked for free or for a small fee.

In a parallel move not spearheaded by Conde Nast, an online shelter magazine dubbed Lonny has risen from the ashes of Conde Nast’s shuttered Domino.

Founded by two former Domino staffers and profiled in the Times a day before Gourmet's announcement, Lonny resembles Domino in look and spirit, but offers digital features such as clickable images, zoom capabilities, and of course, advertiser-driven click-through to buy.

Published bi-monthly, Lonny uses Issuu, a web platform that converts uploaded PDF’s to online publications for $19/month.

“A Web site is continuous and constantly changing, whereas a digital publication has a start and finish, a unique purpose for that one goal,” commented Astrid Sandoval, chief commercial officer, Issuu. “We want to recreate the best of the print reading experience, where people might spend three full focused hours on that, and enhance it with the digital world.”

Media brands and content owners will continue to develop iterations for new audiences leveraging the tools of technology and the lessons of brand identity.

Townsend summed it up succinctly: “We are extremely pleased with the magazine apps we have developed as part of our R&D efforts, however Gourmet Live is profoundly different. We approached this like a tech company, utilizing the rich assets of a media company, keeping Condé Nast at the forefront of content innovation.”

Interesting that he didn't apply that thinking to repurposing Domino and its discontinued bridal wares for digital and/or the iPad. Cookie's online archives, meanwhile, are ready to lure mommybloggers and digi-dads...

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