The death of Gourmet magazine is a big, sucking wound for all those consultants advising the panicked print industry to go niche, baby, go niche. As though we haven't been hearing that since the 1980s.
But even as we bury another paper publication, this one high end and historically choking with the most delicious verticals (food/wine) and attractive demographics, count on the New York Times to pick up the tradition of catering to the country estate crowd. Times' executives have clearly seen their own future and it consists entirely of penny-pinching, nervous, hundred-plus-millionaires.
We knew this just by peeking at the Sunday wedding announcements; I thought the VC and financial services industries back East were hurting but apparently they continue to partner and mate like voracious mice.
Then this past Saturday, the Times runs a story about the jittery net-worth elite where the writer "learned that the super-rich are just as concerned about the future as anyone else." Thank God we have company.
They're sleepless, the (figuratively) poor things, over the stammering economy, just like us.
Then I remembered that about a month ago the Times wrote another very long story about how "the "Super-Rich" are hitting "a Sobering Wall," causing some of them to downsize from palatial to merely extravagant. As the Times itself might determine in a typical paroxysm of self-reference, two pieces on the "super-rich" that close together in their pages must constitute a cultural trend.
Only the trend we can imagine here relates to the future of the Times itself, which is stewing in its own crock pot of debt and losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
So that's the new New York Times niche audience strategy: go WAY wealthy.
Even competitive New York media is confirming the intelligence of the Times' direction: New York magazine just ran an unofficial street survey, asking people, "If you've cut back your spending overall, why?" A huge 60 percent said they "just realized it was time to be smarter with their money."
Just like all those $500 million fretting net-worth types the Times has been profiling so assiduously.
This might also explain the Times' well-known and endlessly discussed secret plans to invade the Bay Area, supplying their own local news -- with or without billionaire Warren Hellman's help. The Times is hoping there is a luxury liner full of techno-kings, real estate barons and old money readers waiting for a serious publication designed just for them.
Don Fisher, who brilliantly understood the value of providing people reasonably-priced clothes, would probably crack a smile about this. And Warren? He's starting his own Bay Area news operation, with or without a relationship with the Times, where he's presumably aiming at an audience more like the heterogeneous crowd at his bluegrass festival than his fellow rarefied, top-level philanthropists.