What do you do with a well-established -- and even beloved -- but unprofitable magazine brand once you can't afford to publish it anymore? If you're Conde Nast, you use it as a risk-free guinea pig.

Last October, the publisher shut down Gourmet, saying it had chosen to "narrow our focus to titles with the greatest prospects for long term growth." But Tuesday morning, Conde Nast announced that the brand will return toward the end of this year in the form of Gourmet Live, a "digital content product" developed for use on the iPad (AAPL) and other mobile devices. The app will be free to download, but will include "paid content options," as well as a "virtual currency" system that operates along video game principles: By reading articles, a user can amass points that he/she can then spend on various virtual rewards, in the form of more content. (I've said before I think it's a great idea to reward your most enthusiastic users rather than punishing them, as the metered model used by the Financial Times and apparently favored by The New York Times does.)

But if you're going to put all this time and money into developing a terrific app, why not build one for a magazine that still exists? Conde Nast still publishes Bon Appetit, after all. A company spokeswoman says Gourmet was chosen for the privilege not because there's no print magazine left to cannibalize but merely because it was "the right product." She adds that, although the demo version shown to reporters this morning featured only archival stories, the real app will feature freshly-created content.

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