Food Network Magazine is Coming Soon

17 Sep

Would you subscribe?

I would surely be open to giving them a try …

Despite the mixed history of publishing partnerships, Hearst Magazines and the Food Network are forging ahead with their new food title. Food Network Magazine, as they’re calling it, will represent the array of the network’s celeb chefs, from Paula Deen to Ina Garten to Bobby Flay. The first of two test issues is slated to come out in October, with a second to follow in January, said Michael Clinton, executive vp, chief marketing officer and publishing director for Hearst.

Hearst has been tight-lipped about the magazine since starting to work on it in earnest early in 2008. The company has only recently acknowledged its existence and begun sharing information with buyers. Hearst is proceeding relatively cautiously, calling the titles a test, setting distribution at a relatively modest 300,000 copies, and holding off on hiring a publisher or dedicated sales staff until it decides to proceed with a full launch.

Clinton agreed to talk about the magazine after Mediaweek learned details of the tests. The first issue contains 160 pages, 50 of them ad pages, including such clients as JCPenney, Kraft and Unilever. Some buyers said Hearst offered pages for free to loyal advertisers; Clinton said the company doesn’t comment on financial arrangements with clients. He also declined to give details of the partnership with the Food Network, saying only it was a collaboration.

Food titles have taken their licks this year, with ad pages down 11.5 percent across the category, per the Mediaweek Monitor. But Jeff Fischer, senior vp, managing director at Universal McCann over Johnson & Johnson’s print business, said that with only a handful of mass-reach food magazines, there was room for another title, particularly as advertisers look to target consumers based on their passions. He said the Food Network, with its strong brand equity, also would be a plus.

With the tagline “Cook like a star,” the oversized title will plug a hole in Hearst’s portfolio, which is heavy on women’s books but lacks a pure food magazine.
“We saw an opening in the epicurean field for a unique product,” Clinton said. “It is such a powerful brand today in America. The opportunity to create a new product through the lens of the Food Network got us really excited.”

Magazines formed from partnerships have had uneven success, as Hearst well knows. Three such magazines it was involved with, Offspring, Talk and Lifetime, flopped. Even O, The Oprah Magazine (a partnership between Hearst and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo) has seen its success cool lately. Single-copy sales fell 17.3 percent in the first half of 2008. So far this year, its ad pages have declined less than other women’s lifestyle publications, but for all of 2007, its ad pages rose only 4.5 percent versus an overall category gain of 11.3 percent.

Clinton said Food Network Magazine’s advantage would lie in its fun approach to cooking. Unlike other celebrity-based magazines, notably Reader’s Digest Association’s Every Day with Rachael Ray (where Maile Carpenter was an editor before Hearst poached her to create the tests), the Food Network Magazine won’t have its fortunes tied to a single personality. “It’s not just focused on high gourmet or food that you make everyday, but everything in between,” he said. “Anyone who’s interested in food is going to be interested in the magazine.”

The magazine will be promoted though subscription cards in the test issues and other Hearst titles; direct mail; and Food Network’s online and on-air properties. Clinton said a decision about a full rollout and frequency would be made after the test period.

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