NEW YORK | It’s starting to feel like an all-you-can-eat buffet on the newsstand lately. And that has some food magazines mixing it up a bit.
As many magazines continue to struggle, food magazines show strength. For a third year in a row, launches of new food magazines topped all other categories, said Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism.
And some, such as Food Network Magazine, which debuted in 2009, have enjoyed tremendous success.
That’s putting pressure on established food titles. Two of the larger-circulation magazines - Every Day with Rachael Ray and Bon Appetit - this month launched splashy overhauls with new editors at the helm, efforts to attract advertisers and keep readers in the increasingly crowded market.
“Those established magazines that come on a regular basis are finding it harder and harder to compete on the newsstand because of how many food titles we have crowding that marketplace,” Mr. Husni said. “They need a story to take to the advertisers - they’re refreshed, they’re redesigned - because they have a big competitor called the Food Network Magazine.”
The market for food magazines has become more competitive since Food Network Magazine’s launch, which came the same year Bon Appetit owner Conde Nast closed the grand dame of food magazines, Gourmet.
Last year, more than 100 out of about 800 new magazines were food titles, Mr. Husni said. Plus, a majority of food titles boosted advertising revenue in the first quarter of 2011, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.
The timing of the dual revamps of Bon Appetit and Every Day is coincidental - the two titles have different owners and aim for slightly different readers. But they operate in the same environment and have taken similar paths.
Both have new editors mixing things up, yet sticking with their magazine’s core identity - for Bon Appetit, that’s being a smart but not snooty food authority; for Every Day, it’s being a distillation of Miss Ray’s bubbly spirit on the page.
“The magazine that we remade absolutely puts back energy into the pages,” Miss Ray said in a phone interview. “It has an energy to it on top of a youthfulness.”
Miss Ray’s magazine is making its biggest change since its debut five years ago. There are more photos and the text is often smaller to help pack in more features. Editor-in-chief Liz Vaccariello, who came over from Prevention magazine in November, said she wants to engage readers not only with food pages, but to add more lifestyle content with Miss Ray’s unique outlook. (In another change, Miss Ray’s magazine also is looking for a new publisher.)
“We’ve seen a lot of success, but things have changed in the marketplace,” Miss Vaccariello said, sitting in her Manhattan office. “It’s time to rethink what the product could be and what Rachael’s fans wanted and expected from her in a printed product.”
Bon Appetit has been around for 55 years, but has no intention of becoming fusty - witness the recent campaign to promote the makeover that revolved around the phrase “Bite Me.”
Editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport, who moved over from fellow Conde Nast magazine GQ, said changes include an emphasis on compelling photos and keeping up with current food culture. The new issue has an essay from of-the-moment chef Gabrielle Hamilton, author of the current best-seller “Blood, Bones & Butter.”
“I wanted it to have some pop visually. I also wanted it to have a sense of realism. If you look at a lot of the photos, there are crumbs, there are cookies shot on parchment paper, they’re on actual kitchen counters,” Mr. Rapoport said. “This is a magazine for home cooks, and the food should like it was shot in a kitchen and was made by an actual person and not a just some food stylist in a faraway photo studio.”
Bon Appetit and Every Day each have more than 1.4 million subscribers, which make up the majority of their total sales. But both dropped in newsstand sales last year compared with 2009, according to figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Though the two magazines still outsell Food Network Magazine, the popular channel’s publication does better on newsstands. In first-quarter ad revenue compared with last year, Bon Appetit was up, Miss Ray’s magazine was down.
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