Seemingly, it would be impossible and almost absurd to be writing a blog of this kind and ignore yesterday’s news; the closing of Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, Gourmet and Cookie. And yet, perusing the web I find a plethora of business and news entries and, forgive me if I’ve missed it, not one scintilla of analysis from anyone in the wedding business. Could it be that this lack of introspection is a piece of what’s wrong?
The editors of Modern Bride, most recently the innovative and sharp-as-a-tack Antonia Van der Meer, have been wonderful, supportive and close personal friends. For several years before Modern Bride was under the same rule as Brides, starting under the brilliant Stacey Morrison (now the editor in chief of Redbook) and continuing under Tony’s rule, I wrote a column for the magazine for which I was, and am, extremely grateful. I know each and every top editor and writer at Modern Bride and many at Elegant Bride, and have enormous professional regard for almost all of them, most of whom are major league talents.
So, how is this possible, and does that mean that out of deference we shouldn’t be analyzing what in the world happened? Well, I don’t think so…
To begin, the internal memo send to staffers from the CEO of Conde Nast, Chuck Townsend was ice cold:
“As a result of our review, Brides will increase its frequency to monthly to solidify its position as the most important brand in the bridal category, and Modern Bride and Elegant Bride will close…………
The editorial and business staffs of Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, Gourmet, and Cookie all have earned their magazines large and devoted followings. We have been proud to publish these titles, and we are grateful to the staffs for their hard work and dedication.” Whew…
The fact is that the company decided it was not going to continue to fund publications that don’t make money- clear and simple.
Take a look at the last issues of Elegant Bride and Modern Bride- and now take a look at Brides, is there a mystery here? I can only tell you this: Brides pages are chock-a-block with information- Maria McBride’s (and yes, she’s one of my best friends) 32-page Floral Workshop 2009 is Outrageously Gorgeous AND filled with useful info and tools- there was clearly an investment of money and resources to produce it. In the painfully thin Modern Bride, the home piece by Linda Seidman and Linda Hirst (again- REALLY talented women who have turned out sparkling and stylish reception pieces for years) looks like it was culled from the outtakes of a Pottery Barn catalog.
Was too much money spent, as some insiders have suggested, on Trendsetters Awards or making stars of us “vendors” and not enough on getting under the skin of the brides? Was the staff just spread much too thin in this bare bones economy for them to be able to produce to their capabilities? Is it, as the New York Times suggested today about Gourmet, a commentary on the changing tastes and clout of the middle class?
A look at Elegant Bride is also enlightening. I have loved the fashion layouts under all the various incarnations that that poor magazine has gone through. But, a current FALL issue with a pink and fuschia cover? Or last issue’s Safari Theme wedding inspiration board? Or a precious FULL page on that “fabulous new idea” of custom wax seals on the back of envelopes with this in the copy: “You can pay a little extra to assure they do not go through automated machines at the post office, which would damage the seal.” Okay, remind me of that next time three of my staff and myself are in the post office begging some clerk to allow us to pay dearly for hand canceling.
So, where does this leave us?
I am neither Malcolm Gladwell nor Margaret Mead, nor am I pompous enough to give you an all encompassing treatise on the demise of the magazine industry. I can only tell you what I see in my own little corner of all this:
The editor-in-chief of Brides, Millie Martini Bratten, is very, very smart, very decent, and has assembled a great and loyal team. She has her work cut out for her, that is for sure. The powers that be have made it clear to all remaining that The Knot is the target, and, let’s not forget about all the other players in this market: Bridal Guide, InStyle Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings and the still very pretty, but also scarily skinny, Town & Country Weddings, plus the gazillions of others?
It’s going to be interesting for sure, and things are going to change, and putting our blushers down is not going to make it go away…