Over the last decade print magazines have fallen out of favour with readers, and the resultant decline in advertising revenue put the final nails in the coffins of many print-based publications. The dominance of print magazines has been eroded by the rise of digital media like Facebook, Google, and Instagram (Ember & Grynbaum, 2017). As a result, many publications have devised strategies to stay afloat in the digital age. Focusing in on food magazines, and Bon Appétit (BA) in particular, I will demonstrate one strategy through which publications can thrive in the ever evolving media landscape.

The question of the long-term survival of the food magazine industry began to rise in 2009 upon the surprise dismantling of Gourmet magazine after its 70 yearlong legacy. Even more questions arose when Condé Nast (Gourmet and BA’s parent company) decided to keep the only slightly more profitable BA over the beloved and well established Gourmet (Severson, 2009). In the following years BA could have easily been dissolved like Gourmet, or turned into a digital-only format like other Condé Nast publications such as Teen Vogue and Self. Instead, BA adopted another strategy, and pursued a multi-media model that has proven to not only turn it into a more cutting edge and profitable business, but a more diverse and a stronger brand as well.

In the following I will argue that by diversifying itself through the use of digital media BA has been able to keep its print magazine alive. First I will look into the revamping of the magazine itself. I will then examine the impact of BA’s diverse digital platforms. Finally, I examine the fundamental role digital media plays in BA’s revenue. While there are those who simply claim that mainstream commercial print magazines are dead (such as darynw, 2016), the success of BA suggests that consumer demands and tastes evolve in a reciprocal relationship with the constant transformation of digital and print media. Magazines like BA have responded to consumer taste by utilizing technology to their advantage, while others who have not kept up have folded (Johnson, 2017). After the dismantling of Gourmet, BA took necessary measures to maintain its competitive edge in a digital arena.


The first step BA took in their strategy was an overall rebranding of the print magazine. In September 2010 the magazine  relocated its headquarters from Los Angeles to New York, along with a new editor in chief, as part of their plan to ensure the magazine’s success and position it to grow in different mediums (Johnson, 2017). The next year they re-launched the magazine, accompanied with a new website, which was designed to attract new readers with content that could not be found other places, while simultaneously maintaining the interest of the one and a half million readers they already had (Johnson, 2017). At the same time, a drastic but discrete set-up to propel the magazine into the digital age was underway with many of the readers unaware it was even happening.

Diverse Digital Media

Bon Appétit uses digital media in their strategy as a tool to connect with and build new audiences, and to diversify the brand beyond the print magazine. While print is now no longer their core content, it is far from dead, and continues to play a key role in their brand identity (Johnson, 2017). The strategy of keeping the print model alive while also exploring digital media was mutually reinforcing for both mediums. As the editor in chief Adam Raporport has indicated, it is no longer a magazine, but a brand which spans a magazine, a website, a YouTube channel, most social media, and a podcast (Johnson, 2017). All of these diverse mediums fulfil what cannot be met by print media alone, and allows for diversity in both content and outreach. “You want to make sure the brand is consistent across all platforms, but within each of those platforms you tailor your content to its demands”, says Raporport (Barr, 2016). From 2011-2015 readers of digital magazines went up from 3.3 million to 16 million (Johnston, 2017). As technology developed, people developed a taste for different forms of access to information including immediate access, access on the go, and daily content, and magazines alone could not keep up. For BA this meant creating content for different audiences. The print magazine tends to attract an older and higher economic-status crowd while the website appeals largely to millennial females, and an entirely different demographic are drawn to the videos (Patterson, 2017).

An important aspect of BAs strategy was to offer original content across each of medium, rather than the same content on different platforms. This enabled BA to play to the strengths of each form of media, and its main demographic. While not all print media transitions well into a digital format, there is often a recycling of print media where larger editorials are sliced down to make them more internet friendly (Patterson, 2017). Some content can be presented in different ways as each platform has a slightly different audience. The approach BA took was to create different styles of content for all of their channels, most of which is free to access. The website is updated daily with new and original content, the Instagram has daily videos, interviews, and tips, and each paper issue received through subscription comes along with a free e-version (something Conde Nast does with their other publications like The New Yorker).



BA’s online media content continues to grow. It now not only has its own Instagram, but two other digital sub-divisions which offer free content—Healthyish (geared towards the Instagram preoccupied health minded millennial females), and Basically (a ‘Martha Stewart light’ for 30-somethings)—each of which has its own Instagram, website, and special edition of the magazine. Since 2014 the magazine has also had a Foodcast (podcast) which is now at nearly 200 episodes (Patterson, 2017). While it is not a large source of revenue for the brand, it helps provide brand recognition (Johnson, 2017) and reach an entirely new segment of the population.



Revenue Through Video

For Conde Nast, BA video streams are fundamental to the brand’s success and revenue. Where print advertising used to be pivotal to the magazines existence, video advertising has taken hold. In the last 2 years the BA YouTube channel has grown by 2.5 million average viewers with videos making up a quarter of Conde Nast’s lifestyle magazines revenue (including Architectural Digest, Epicurious, Conde Nast Traveller, and the digital only Self) (Safonova, 2018). They estimate this will soon make up half of their revenue (Safonova, 2018). With a significant amount of the company’s advertising devoted to video, it makes sense that most of their revenue comes from advertising and sponsorships, with most revenue coming from advertising that plays before the video airs (Safonova, 2018). BA’s success with their video streams can be attributed to their unique style. Unlike the market of online videos, which is saturated with overhead shots and a lack of recognizable personalities, BA’s videos feature variety of hosts, each with their own theme, such as: Claire Saffitz, who makes ‘gourmet’ versions of mass produced ‘junk’ food; Brad Leone, who’s show is themed on fermentation; and, a show that simply depicts kids trying new foods. These shows in themselves have gathered a cult following where, unlike the videos on Facebook which typically hold one’s attention for no more than 8 seconds, audiences (half of which are under 34) watch these videos on Youtube for an average of 5 minutes (Safonova, 2018). In the competitive world of internet advertising, which is geared towards a shorter attention span, this is almost unheard of.

The traditional model of magazine publication generated income from print advertising, where BA has capitalized on digital media and kept up with the changing times. Where other magazines have dissolved with a lack of advertising income, the use of multi-media channels have strengthened the BA brand and helped grown new audiences and attach different forms of advertising. The diversification of media has brought in revenue which has otherwise been untapped by magazines and helped support the brand and ensure the print version of the magazine, which is key in the brand’s identity, survives into the 21st century.




darynw. “Print is Dead. Long Live Print: The renaissance of independent food magazines”. March 15, 2016. Accessed December 2, 2018

Ember, Sydney and Grynbaum, Micheal. “The Not-So-Glossy Future of Magazines”. The New York Times. September 23, 2017. Accessed December 2, 2018

Johnson, Leah. “Hungry for More? An Analysis of Bon Appétit’s Digital Brand Extension Strategies and their Potential Uses and Gratifications”. May 3, 2017. . Accessed December 2, 2018.

Patterson, Jessica. “How Conde Nast’s Bon Appetite Approaches Content Strategy”. Fipp. April 6, 2017. Accessed December 2, 2018

Safonova, Valeriya. “What the ‘Pivot Video’ Looks Like at Conde Nast”. The New York Times. April 4, 2018. Accessed December 2, 2018

Severson, Kim. “Closing the Book on Gourmet”. The New York Times. October 6, 2009. Accessed December 2, 2018

I remember the other day when I asked a friend why would they give out Metro (Vancouver’s newspaper) for free. His answer was simple, “Because if you don’t give it for free, who’s gonna buy it?”. The conversation went on, “Well some people still read newspapers you know.” and his next reply was pretty much expected, “But most people read their news online. It’s free, very updated and well sorted.” That conversation got me thinking. Technology keeps on evolving, making the distribution of information and contents much more easier than ever before. You can get everything online now, from news, gossips even ads. So the question here is : “How about magazines and newspapers? Are they still relevant?” However, what I am trying to talk about now is their funding. Magazines and newspapers run entirely from ads. Ads are their source of capital, the heartbeat of the whole operating cycle. Unfortunately, technology fucks it all up. The print ads keep declining while digital ads keep rising. Technically speaking, digital ads slaughter the existence of print ads. Or do they?

PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that over the next five years, the annual global growth rate for media and entertainment industry will be 4.2%, slower than the predicted growth rate of global GDP. This happens because of the the declining of revenue from print advertising, music downloads and cinemas, which are replaced by more efficient digital mediums like digital advertising, music streaming and digital home video.

Moody, a renowned ad agency in the U.S., predicts that newspapers and magazines worldwide will each continue to decline at average rates of 5% per year between 2016 and 2019, falling to 8% and 4% market shares within three years. That’s down from 28% share for newspapers and 13% share for magazines in 2006. “Technology-driven shifts in consumer reading habits keep hurting newspapers, and competition for advertisers continues to rise from search engines, social media and digital video,” says Alina Khavulya, VP and senior analyst at Moody’s. “Print titles will continue to lose market share as their readers continue to move to online versions of the print brands or other forms of information and entertainment entirely,” he adds. Another ad agency called Zenith also predicts that both print newspapers and magazines will continue to decline in global ad spend, with newspaper losing $8.2 billion and magazines losing $4.3 billion. In contrast, mobile advertising to increase $82 billion, $6.8 billion for television and $1 billion for radio.

Same thing happens in the U.K. Print media, particularly newspapers, are suffering from declining ad revenues. eMarketer, UK media ad spending, forecasted that newspapers will only attract £1.46 billion ($1.97 billion) ad expenditures in 2017, down 9% from last year. Spending will continue to decline to £1.23 billion ($1.66 billion) by 2021. “Print spend among national and regional ell further than forecast during the first quarter. The losses are largely coming from reduced spend on print display ads, which is due in part to internal restructuring as news publishers’ business moves online,” said James McDonald, senior data analyst at WARC. “A quarter of national’s advertising revenue came from digital formats during the first three months of the year, which was the first time this has happened.

Digital ads also offers many perks, one of which being cheaper than the print ads. This could affect how print media and print ads are circulating, as well as the digital ones. Newspapers and magazines have been taking actions to anticipate it by going “cross-platform”, pairing their digital and print content and ads through subscriptions. The New York Times added more than 500,000 digital subscriptions in 2016, 47% year-over-year rise. The Wall Street Journal added more than 150,000 digital subscriptions, 23% more than before. Chicago Tribune added about 100,000 subscription, a 76% year-over-year gain. However, these gains do not affect the industry’s overall circulation.  A Pew Research Center analysis of data from AAM shows that total weekday circulation for U.S. daily newspapers – both print and digital – fell 8% in 2016, marking the 28th consecutive year of declines. The overall decline includes a 10% decrease in weekday print circulation and a 1% decline in weekday digital circulation. Total weekday circulation for U.S. daily newspapers fell to 35 million, while total Sunday circulation declined to 38 million – the lowest levels since 1945. This concides with delicing in advertising revenue. Pew Research Center analyze seven publicly traded U.S. newspapers and suggess that advertising revenue in the industry has declined 10%, 2% more than the delicine in 2015. This decline puts total ad revenue for the industry at $18 billion in 2016, a third of what it was 10 years ago.

Although the media and entertainment industry’s biggest growth drivers – digital advertising, video streaming, video games – are growing rapidly, they are still not at a rate that’s enough to support the major declines of traditional media. The death of print has also been proven wrong, as in 2016, 56% of American readers still read print newspapers. Furthermore, people still trust newspapers more, with 74% of readers trusting the print newspapers compared to the 49% who trust news from Twitter. Moreover, online news articles are read for an average 30 seconds compared to newspaper readers who spend an average 40 minutes daily. In a Newsworks survey with PricewaterhouseCoopers of 2,600 U.K. citizens and how attentive they are to 15 types of media, print newspapers came out on top as a medium people regularly put time aside for. They feel a personal connection with titles, they trust the contents and they could talk about it.  This indicates that print is still a good platform for high value advertising with more engaged audience.


The bottom line is that no one should really be condemning how the market consume their news. Some want digital, some want print and some want both. It is too early and too arrogant to call that print media, especially ads, is dead. In fact, we should expect more of people’s trust on the efficiency of a print media with its glossy engaging ads. One of great example here comes from Vogue magazine. They have strong online presence, but their print copies are entirely priceless. I still remember how I always spent more than $10 every August and February just to get a copy for their March and September Issue.  The reason why I buy their magazine is mainly for their ads. True, it makes up 80% of the whole magazine, but I really don’t mind. They are one of the many sources for people like me who wants to look at beautifully taken photographs of supermodels with clothes that I can’t afford. And it would be useless if you can only see it on your computer’s screen.



Chavern, David. August 23, 2017. “The Sky is Not Falling and Print is Still Here.” Accessed October 18, 2017.

Stuard-Turner, Richard. July 27, 2017. “Ad Spend Grows Again but Print Spend Still Falling”. Accessed October 18, 2017.

Southern, Lucinda. June 6, 2017. “The (not so great) state of UK print advertising in 4 charts”. Accessed October 18, 2017.

Barthel, Michael. June 1, 2017. “Despite subscription surges for largest U.S. newspapers, circulation and revenue fall for industry overall”. Accessed October 18, 2017.

Sidney, Amber. May 3, 2017. “New York Times Co. Reports Rising Digital Profit as Print Advertising Falls”. Accessed October 18, 2017.

Moody. March 28, 2017, “Competitive Info : Newspaper Ad Totals Keep Falling.” Accessed October 18, 2017.

Fisher, Bill. March 17, 2017. “UK Newspapers Fight Falling Ad Revenues”. Accessed October 18, 2017.