Gourmet Live for iPad

Ill-fated Gourmet magazine was reborn last week as Gourmet Live for iPad. Unlike other Condé Nast titles, Gourmet now exists as an iPad app only. I’ve been using it this afternoon, and I believe that two features borrowed from the gaming world, achievements and rewards, will ultimately set Gourmet Live apart.

Gourmet magazine shut down in October of last year, along with Cookie and Modern Bride. Ad pages had been declining and an analysis by McKinsey & Company recommended that Condé Nast cut 25% from several magazine budgets. Just over a year later, the closings were announced. Those with subscriptions extending beyond the cessation of publication [1. Including yours truly.] would receive Bon Appétit.

In June of 2010, it was announced that Gourmet would be reborn as the iPad app Gourmet Live (scroll down a bit). It was finally released on September 23, 2010.

Gourmet Live’s content is presented in a grid; tap any title to begin reading. The inaugural issue includes a welcome video and features on cocktails, apple cider beignets and high-class tailgating. There’s also an interview with actress Julianne Moore [3. The huge photo of Mrs. Moore alone is worth the download. Yowsa.], an article on Mario Batali and Joe Bastainich’s Eataly, [4. Sweet Mary do I want to visit this place. Anyone have room and board in NYC for your friend Dave?] complete with gorgeous slide show, and a wonderful piece by author Geoff Nicholson. Finally, Kate Nerenberg describes President Obama’s influence on DC’s restaurant scene. [5. Spoiler: he’s unwittingly created the culinary equivalent of Oprah’s book club. Once the Prez dines at a given restaurant, the foodies follow.]

Articles are presented in portrait orientation only, so you can’t flip a story on its side. Photos won’t zoom or pinch unless otherwise indicated. Scroll up to read and when you’re done, tap “Close this Story” to return to the grid. In this way, navigation is super simple: You’re either in an article or you’re not. There’s only one way to hold the iPad and only one way to “turn pages.” By contrast, Condé Nast’s WIRED for iPad offers several ways to navigate, many of which aren’t immediately obvious.

The writing and photos in Gourmet Live are stellar, as anyone who knew Gourmet would expect. What’s unexpected is the most fun. As you read certain articles, you unlock “achievements,” and are thusly rewarded. For example, when I got to the bottom of the tailgating article, and only when I got to the bottom, a bell dinged and a new image popped up on the screen, informing me that I had earned the grilling achievement. My reward was bonus content. In this case, 9 grilling recipes and photographs.

I’m excited to try the grilled herbed potatoes and Indian-spiced mushrooms, but I’m even more enthused by the fact that it feels like I just got all of this stuff for free. Sure, those recipes would have been included in a print version of this issue, but Gourmet Live ramps up the fun by allowing me to “unlock” access. It feels like a game and got me inordinately excited. Kudos to the Gourmet Live team for implementing such an entertaining idea.

The rewards are yours to keep and get their own storage area; you can browse them and pull them up at will. [2. There are two in this issue. I won’t divulge where the other one is.].

Note that all of this is unavailable until you register by entering your Twitter and/or Facebook login creds. Once you’ve unlocked an achievement, the app will publish a tweet or wall post saying as much. Also, you must complete registration if you want to add a story to your collection of favorites.

For me, this issue has been a lot of fun. In a way, I’m glad Gourmet was forced to evolve, and I’ve been a subscriber for years. No pricing or subscription options have been announced, and I’m eager to see what they’ll be. Right now, WIRED for iPad is $4.99 per issue. There are rumors of a subscription plan brewing in Cupertino, but for now it’s just a rumor.

Here’s to everyone involved in Gourmet Live: Congratulations, good luck, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.