Vicki Wellington to Samir Husni: Food is on Fire. People Who Don’t Even Like to Cook Love Food Network. Mr. Magazine™ Interviews the Publisher of Today’s Hottest Magazine: Food Network Magazine.January 26, 2012
Vicki Wellington does not have to twitch her nose to bewitch you. The publisher of the Food Network Magazine, for whom Darren/Larry and the men at the ad agency from Bewitched were her “role model” growing up, is flying high with the most successful and hottest new magazine since 2009. Unlike Samantha, Wellington does not need a flying broom or a magic carpet to engage her customers with the hottest magazine on the marketplace today. All she needs is to feed the addiction of the American public to “food” and “celebrities.” Add a dash of pixels on a screen (make that a lot of screens) and a pinch of ink on paper (make that a lot of papers) and the result will be the Food Network Magazine –– led by the hottest, passionate and energetic magazine top chef Vicki Wellington.
The smile never departs from Vicki’s face. You could feel the vibrating energy radiating from her every time she mentions the magazine, the Food Network, the customers, the advertisers, the company and above all “her lean and very able staff.” To say she loves her job will be an understatement. She is as affectionate talking about the magazine and her job as her customers are affectionate about the magazine and the network behind it. It is a story of success second to none in today’s magazine world. It is a hot, hot, hot magazine and, of course, magazine publisher.
Watch below my interview with Vicki Wellington, publisher of the Food Network Magazine, followed by the sounds-bites of the interview and then read the entire (lightly edited) transcript of the interview.
On the secret of Food Network Magazine success: An amazing brand, a super, powerful surround sound position in the market, and a beautifully translated magazine in print, great photography, great design.
It’s big, it’s growing, and we’re reaching the right types of people with the right kind of edit.
The minute it came out on the newsstand, as you know, it flew off the newsstand.
Food is on fire. So in our country, people who don’t even like to cook love Food Network.
On the expanding of the Food Network Magazine brand:
We’re creating a mini magazine called Food Network Magazine for Kids and it will run in our September back-to-school issue.
We’re creating in the May issue Food Network Magazine Travel, all edited through the eyes of our celebrity chefs.
On Vicki Wellington: I’m pretty happy here. It’s a pretty happy place. We have a great brand, we’re on fire; we really are.
On what keeps her up at night: Not having enough hours in the day.
And now, for the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ Interviews with Vicki Wellington, publisher of the Food Network Magazine.
Samir Husni: The Food Network Magazine has been one of few success stories we’ve seen in the last few years. What do you attribute that to?
Vicki Wellington: An amazing brand, a super, powerful surround sound position in the market and, as we just talked about, a beautifully translated magazine in print, great photography, great design. Food Network, as I said, has power on its own, plus the entertainment piece of it is absolutely non-stoppable. It’s a consumer favorite and that’s the lead point on all of it.
Samir Husni: But folks may say, ‘Oh this is just a fad. A year or two from now, people will be watching something else…people will be reading something else…’
Vicki Wellington: I don’t think so. I think that twenty years ago you didn’t even have a celebrity chef, now Food Network literally as a brand has created all these personalities. There’s young, there’s old, there’s someone for everyone. And as you know, we’ve had the TV for many, many years and we’ve got digital for many, many years, both very successful in their own right and we have many other pieces of the brand that surround sound a consumer, but consumers said they wanted this magazine. The minute it came out on the newsstand, as you know, it flew off the newsstand. We hit a million in circulation literally in 4 issues, which, as you know, is unheard of. Right now today, we’re at about 1.58 million over delivering, since we started, over 7 million readers. So I think this is the real deal.
Samir Husni: And you know your critics will say, ‘Well, you know, it’s because of the television the magazine is succeeding.’ Yet Hearst has ventured before into this area and published a magazine called Lifetime, which did not last long.
Vicki Wellington: I wasn’t here for that. That was obviously a whole different entity. I think for us, all of the stars are aligned here. Food is on fire. So in our country, people who don’t even like to cook love Food Network. I think again, this brand has something very special about it, and as we discussed, the interpretation of the brand. I think this is, obviously, a very different proposition. And from what I’m seeing, I think I told you, our Jan-Feb issue just did terrific on newsstand, and that’s not usually one of our biggest selling issues. The content, as you know, is completely integrated, 360, and of course, we do the same for advertising, there’s not a lot of brands, I don’t think there’s any, other than maybe one other, that can actually deliver that.
Samir Husni: Rumor has it that you’re expanding the brand; you’re bringing up a kids magazine, a travel magazine…
Vicki Wellington: Yes, yes, you’re very good with your rumors. I don’t know where you learned these things from, but we’re doing Food Network Magazine for kids, which is very exciting. I think I mentioned that literally over 12 million kids are watching Food Network programming, which is a huge amount. And we get letters all the time from women who read the magazine, we actually have more women readers than Real Simple has women readers and they’re cooking with their kids every single month. So we’re literally creating a mini magazine called Food Network Magazine for Kids and that will run in our September back-to-school issue and the consumers are really excited about it.
Samir Husni: And what about the travel magazine?
Vicki Wellington: Travel, another thing. When you go on vacation, I don’t know how the food is in Lebanon, I bet it’s good, but when people travel, it’s food-focused. If you go to Italy, it’s about the food. And so what our editors are doing, are creating in the May issue, Food Network Magazine Travel, all edited through the eyes of our celebrity chefs. So you’ll see Guy’s favorite…let’s say, breakfast haunt in San Francisco and where he recommends going and the hotel that he would recommend staying in, so it’ll be a lot of fun, it’ll be exciting and again, all edited through all of the various chefs eyes.
Samir Husni: Any downfalls? I mean, it sounds like one big success story after another.
Vicki Wellington: I’m pretty happy here. It’s a pretty happy place. We have a great brand, we’re on fire; we really are.
Samir Husni: So what keeps Vicki up at night?
Vicki Wellington: You always ask me that question. Honestly, and you laughed the last time I answered it, but it’s the truth; not having enough hours in the day. And that really is the truth. I wish there were more hours; we could be doing more work. You see what we put out, with a pretty lean team every single month. And we’re proud of all of it. But there’s not a lot to worry about, we’re excited. It’s big, it’s growing, and we’re reaching the right types of people with the right kind of edit. So it’s all good.