Blogging Killed Gourmet, Says Christopher Kimball

Condé Nast closed down a bunch of magazines recently, and Gourmet was one of the group. It closes with a groan, like an old house settling, and commentators who are looking for a villain in this drama have many to chose from. Christopher Kimball blames blogging:

[via Gourmet to All That]

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. They can no longer be coronated; their voices have to be deemed essential to the lives of their customers. That leaves, I think, little room for the thoughtful, considered editorial with which Gourmet delighted its readers for almost seven decades.

To survive, those of us who believe that inexperience rarely leads to wisdom need to swim against the tide, better define our brands, prove our worth, ask to be paid for what we do, and refuse to climb aboard this ship of fools, the one where everyone has an equal voice. Google “broccoli casserole” and make the first recipe you find. I guarantee it will be disappointing. The world needs fewer opinions and more thoughtful expertise — the kind that comes from real experience, the hard-won blood-on-the-floor kind. I like my reporters, my pilots, my pundits, my doctors, my teachers and my cooking instructors to have graduated from the school of hard knocks.

What an astonishingly wrong-headed misconception of what is going on here, at the edge.

First of all, the majority of web writers who have become well-known work long and hard at whatever their focus is before they gain any real influence. Of course, they haven’t been hired by Condé Nast before they start writing, and they often lack the benefits of being affiliated with a large media empire.

I know that those whose writing I treasure are thoughtful and their opinions are deeply considered. Who is he reading, I wonder?

And, oh, about the ‘equal voice’ thing, you misunderstand the whole democratization of publishing, Mr Kimball. It doesn’t mean everyone has an equal voice, reaching the same number of readers, or having the same level of influence. It means that publishing is low cost, so we don’t have to have the entire advertising department of Gourmet magazine selling for us.

The web is a meritocracy, where those who creations matter gain the attention and respect of us all. It’s not some playpen of finger painters, or a breeding ground of instant experts. Doctors, teachers, pilots, reporters, and, yes, cooks, write here. We have our own stories of hard-won knowledge and experience to share: you have no exclusive claim to that human condition.

(I wonder if his invective is aimed at Julie Powell, whose Julie/Julia project (cooking all the recipes from Julia Child’s The Art Of French Cooking in a year) led to a best-selling book and movie. Does he hate those who aspire? Can’t we learn from their efforts, too?)

His undisguised loathing for what is happening now is matched by the disdain in which he apparently holds us: we, the subscribers. How dare us start writing about food! We should be quiet, listen to our betters, and pay the subscription price.

But his world is slipping away, as we go ahead writing for each other, swapping morsels and passing platters, like a village sharing in a great feast. It tastes even better when everyone has helped in the cooking.

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