What If National Geographic Ran Gourmet?

Ruth Reichl, editor of the now defunct Gourmet, says magazines as we know them are toast.

That’s certainly the conventional wisdom. But at least one magazine continues to thrive (without the help of McKinsey & Co.)—National Geographic.

In fact, ad pages for the November issue of National Geographic were up 21.2%, compared with a 19.2% decline for the industry.

On top of that, NatGeo and Fox announced last week that they’ll be launching National Geographic Wild to complement the already popular National Geographic Channel.

So what do the not-for-profit execs at National Geographic know that the starving-for-profits NYC publishing industry doesn’t?

Simple: NatGeo is managing a brand with a mission (“inspiring people to care about the planet”), not a magazine. And that’s led to a diversified portfolio of high-quality products that support each other.

Could Gourmet have done the same? Maybe, if it had broadened its focus beyond selling ad pages to luxury marketers. Perhaps some brand-savvy entrepreneur will still rescue the foodie bible from the compost heap.