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On Conde Nast Shuttering Domino, And The Folly Of The Magazine Spin-off

Some years ago, when consumer spending was absolutely on fire, I was talking with a top magazine executive about Conde Nast’s Lucky magazine—a.k.a. “the magazine about shopping.”

As journalists sometimes do, I misread the moment to assume that Lucky was A. an infallible idea, and B. this kind of magazine—very focused on consuming, almost everything “useful” and hardly anything resembling, you know, actual articles—could be transposed onto a gazillion topics. Lucky-for-the-home was on the way—Domino. I thought Lucky-for-travel should be next. As I told the executive, I could see such a magazine perfectly. A travel title for people under the age of 50. A less stuffy feel than the existing players. Lots of photos, and short articles packed with practical information. (I mean, does anyone actually read the long articles in the big travel magazines?)

A slam dunk of an idea, right? (By which I meant: I would read it.)

To the executive’s credit, I got in response a knowing grin and was told that that travel magazine was not going to work--something about advertisers only wanting to reach the well-heeled, I think, and the well-heeled tend to be older--and that Domino was probably as far as the Lucky idea could be extended.

As we found out today, it couldn’t even be extended that far as Domino. Conde Nast shuttered it today, after it had spent months on magazine insiders’ personal deathwatch lists.

The death of Domino is the latest and clearest sign of the troubles facing the magazine world: in the past ten or so years, the assumption was that certain magazine forms could travel –hello, Lucky and Domino—and that certain brand names could be slapped on all manner of offshoots—hello, O At Home, Teen People and Cosmopolitan’s CosmoGirl.

This proved unsustainable. Elle Girl, CosmoGirl, Teen People, O At Home, Domino, Cargo (Lucky-for-men!), Men’s Vogue, Blueprint (Martha Stewart Living for young nesters), Travel & Leisure Family . . . all gone.

Which means that the easy ways for magazine companies to grow—by launching off existing franchises—doesn’t really work. (Perhaps it never did, long-term.)

So what’s the way for magazine companies to grow, to be something a bit grander than an assemblage of familiar names that are all either mature or outright declining?

Good question. Anyone got any answers? Because the people running these companies don’t.

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