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Food Network Magazine: Seven Years Strong & Growing Exponentially – The Print Magazine That Brings Passion And Fun To Cooking – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Vicki Wellington, Vice President, Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer, And Maile Carpenter, Editor In Chief, Food Network Magazine…

December 12, 2016

“If you just look at our sheer circulation numbers, we’ve grown every single year. So, again, to all of the naysayers, just for a minute take a look at all of our rate base examples; all of our circulation; look at our sub file and our renewals. I mean, everything has grown positively.” Vicki Wellington

“I truly believe that because the need for a curated, calm space to look at the things you love and to get inspired to do the things you love to do, the better off we are. And so the importance of the magazine and the way it makes you feel is even more precious now than it ever has been, and we see that socially. When the magazine comes out; when people post that they received their magazine, more than ever now they’re posting pictures of themselves on the couch, in the bathtub, on the beach, it’s me-time, my magazine arrived and I’m spending my hour with it. No one talk to me, I just got my Food Network magazine. And those are my favorite posts.” Maile Carpenter…

december-2016

In a way that no other food magazine on the market has, Food Network magazine has captured the imagination and attention of its audience completely for the last seven years. Since its launch in 2009, the publication has grown each and every year and proven to the naysayers of print that there will always be a place for a great ink on paper read no matter how many websites come and go in the world of cyber, especially one with a warm and welcoming invitation “to just join it in the kitchen” the way Food Network magazine does.

The head cooks in this exceptionally fun and passionate kitchen are two wonderful women whose personalities and mindsets are so in tune with each other, their thoughts and visions for the title are simpatico. It’s a positive environment when these two get together to create and along with a team of talent that they both credit with the magazine’s success, the only prediction one can have for the brand is a continued one of growth and achievement.

On a recent trip to New York, I stopped by the Hearst Tower and had a delightful conversation with Vicki and Maile and we talked about the brand’s past, present and future. Amid laughter and a true spirit of camaraderie, the two were open, honest and positive about the very successful print world that they live in. For anyone who believes that ink on paper is not a vibrant, viable and vital part of magazines and magazine media, I suggest you visit Vicki and Maile and let them show you otherwise.

The only thing that both Vicki and Maile did not reveal to me is the fact that the Food Network magazine is expecting, expecting a new magazine that is. The day after my meeting with them Hearst announced that they are launching a new magazine The Pioneer Woman in June that is edited by Malie and spearheaded by Vicki. They knew extremely well how to keep a secret.

But back to the Food Network magazine… From 13 rate base increases to circulation numbers that have grown each and every year, to a solid subscription base that has only risen in renewals, to the growth in line extensions that the brand has seen; it’s clear that Food Network magazine is a rocket ship (as Vicki describes it) that has no plans of reaching the end of its present universe. In fact, it’s soaring so high; it may just discover another one while it’s out there.

So, without further ado, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vicki Wellington and Maile Caprenter, because it’s a given that Mr. Magazine™ did.

But first the sound-bites:


On the genesis of the Food Network magazine (Maile Carpenter):
I think that it turned out to be a smart time to launch. For one; the brand was super-strong, economy aside, it was a strong brand and the funny thing was, I remember going into a focus group and we had the cover up for people to comment on, and one woman pointed at it and she said, “I love that magazine.” I was thinking we don’t exist yet. (Laughs) But it made so much sense to everyone that she thought she had seen it already because the brand was so big and it was everywhere.


On the genesis of the Food Network magazine (Vicki Wellington):
Maile was there before me. I came onboard and I had only been at this company for a short while, and I started taking the magazine out and people asked who would launch a magazine; no one needs another food magazine. And I thought, oh dear, I’m done before I even begin. And I remember speaking to Food Network over at Scripps, and they weren’t worried for a second. They said just you wait and see. We know our people; we know our fans, and sure enough, the magazine was like a rocket ship as it flew off of newsstands. And in four issues we hit a million in circulation.

Vicki Wellington

Vicki Wellington

On basically flipping the model of cooking magazines from niche to expansive (Vicki Wellington): (Maile Carpenter) That’s exactly right. I went in looking for a vertical space and we came out with a horizontal one. We were looking for our vertical among all of these other verticals. There were some personality-driven ones; quick and easy titles; straight-up women¹s service; some that were totally aspirational and that were going to all ends of the earth and cooking things that you¹d never cooked before, but no one was doing this across any of the ideas. They were doing it on the air; it changed from hour to hour; you could get everything from combining cans of things to Iron Chef. But no one was seeing that in print. And that turned out to be the secret.


On whether someone asked them when they launched the magazine in 2009 whether they were out of their minds to launch a print magazine in a digital age (Vicki Wellington):
A lot of people asked that for a minute, and then three minutes later they weren’t asking anymore, because this was such a huge homerun and that was obvious to everyone. But at that time, you’re right, digital was a big deal and Food Network, the brand that we come from, had a very successful cable channel for 17 years, and they had a very successful digital platform for around 16 years. And obviously, now years later, everything has grown, and so they were really ahead of the curve on all of it. We didn’t even know that, but it was a big advantage.

On whether someone asked them when they launched the magazine in 2009 whether they were out of their minds to launch a print magazine in a digital age (Maile Carpenter): Well, the very simple answer to that is, the more digital distractions we get and the more choices that we have digitally, the better off we are; I truly believe that because the need for a curated, calm space to look at the things you love and to get inspired to do the things you love to do, the better off we are. And so the importance of the magazine and the way it makes you feel is even more precious now than it ever has been, and we see that socially. When the magazine comes out; when people post that they received their magazine, more than ever now they’re posting pictures of themselves on the couch, in the bathtub, on the beach, it’s me-time, my magazine arrived and I’m spending my hour with it.

Maile Carpenter

Maile Carpenter


On whether either of them expected the success they have today when the magazine launched (Maile Carpenter): No, I didn’t really set a goal, but it was so clear to me that it was going to work. I remember the moment when I was called in to talk about a food magazine and I didn’t know what it was, and that was a hard thing to brainstorm. I remember the minute that Eliot Kaplan called me and said, “I can tell you what it is now, it’s the Food Network.” And it was just BOOM; I just knew that it was going to work. I had been a fan of the Network forever and I could just immediately picture what it was going to look like.


On whether either of them expected the success they have today when the magazine was launched (Vicki Wellington):
And we’re not that duplicative. Maile’s edit is different than what’s on air and online, so that’s a good reason to have a different platform. And also people are coming for different reasons. In a lot of ways, it’s the best of both worlds, because you could always get TV, it’s practically free with your package, and we have online and that’s free, but you’re paying for this. So, I think it speaks for itself with the surrounding numbers.


On why they think it took so long for the magazine industry to appreciate print again (Vicki Wellington):
Good question. I don’t know. We’re here in our world and we’re growing; the magazines are profitable; we’re reinventing every minute on edit, on business. And I think you survive by paying attention to people’s behavior and what they want. And we’ve changed a lot. We don’t do it quickly and we don’t do it abruptly. You’re not going to get an issue that looks dramatically and suddenly different from the issue before, but if you look at the ones from when we launched; we’re totally different too.


On whether it’s easier for Vicki to sell the magazine now (Vicki Wellington):
I don’t want to say that our days are easy, and I don’t want to say that it’s always been easy, yet it’s a great brand. It’s a brand that everyone loves, men, women and children. Any room I go into, 60 percent of the people say they love Food Network, so we’re already in a very warm room. It’s an inviting environment always.


On the biggest challenge they’re facing today (Maile Carpenter):
When we launched we were in a world where you wouldn’t put an Eggo recipe next to a waffle story and that was not that long ago. And in that amount of time the entire industry has changed. We’ve been on a learning curve and I think we’re really hitting our stride, in terms of what we can do with our advertisers. I think the hardest part is negotiating that and doing it in a way that’s respectful to the reader and to the advertiser.

On whether Maile feels her job as editor is easier or harder today than it used to be (Maile Carpenter): It’s just not as straightforward. I mean, operating in your own space without any concern for marketing and advertising, that’s linear and simple. So, this is more challenging, but it’s more interesting now.


On what advice Maile gives when someone asks her about being an editor (Maile Carpenter):
We’re asked that often when college classes come in. You mean a magazine editor? Because I feel like our skillset could play out in any number of ways. I don’t think print is going anywhere, so I always hope that they go into the business. The advice would be that it’s about being real and true to yourself, and that’s our guiding principle whenever we’re dealing with these advertising concerns. You have to know who you are and stick to that. The readers know when you’re not being real.


On how Vicki defines her job as publisher and CRO (Vicki Wellington):
I think we’re everything. Sales executive; I’m a marketing executive; I’m not a PR director per se, but I think you have to be able to do everything. My advice for any young person is that they have to learn it all. It’s great to be a great writer, but go take some business classes. The successful people are going to have all of these skillsets. And I think there are fewer people doing everything, and that’s who we hire. Not a person who can only sell or market; I want a person whose mind can work in every way.


On how they deal with any misfortune that happens to the chefs on the Network or any of the programs in the magazine (Maile Carpenter):
That was a decision that we made early on and I’m grateful every day that we made it, which was that this magazine was not going to be flattening the TV program into print. That’s the opposite of playing to the strength of print. Suddenly, you look like a less energetic version of the Network. So, we decided right off the bat that we were not going to have columns with specific stars; we were not going to base stories on TV shows. This is supplemental material and I think the readers took to that.


On whether there was a specific moment in time when it hit them how successful the Food Network magazine really was (Vicki Wellington):
I knew early on. It was like a rocket ship and we were on this fast-moving object and it was going fast and high. And I feel like we still are. We had another great year; we’re up over last year. We’ve done amazing, unique work; we continue to win awards; our circulation is up and our newsstand is strong and our subscriber renewals are up. It’s all good, so we’re still on that rocket ship. And I enjoy it.


On whether they think other magazines have tried to imitate Food Network magazine (Maile Carpenter):
I think visually things change after we launched. We had a specific look in mind when we launched. We really starting stripping the props out and going with food in focus. Believe it or not, when we launched, it was a big ask from some photographers to just shoot the food in focus. We had to fight that with some people and I think the readers appreciated just seeing things the way they were really going to look. Not all dressed up and dolled up in an environment that would never be in your house. So, that was a big thing and I think other magazines did kind of start doing more of that.


On who would be standing there if they could strike the magazine with a magic wand and turn it into a living, breathing human (Vicki Wellington):
We’re so many different people. I think if we were other magazines it would be an easier question. But everyone loves us.


On line extensions with the brand (Vicki Wellington):
We still do travel; we do family, which was Kids. We did a Disney edition this year, which was a partnership with Disney. We are looking to do college this coming year in 2017, which is exciting. The Disney edition is something that Maile and her team created. It’s about the experience and food at Disney for families, which I think came out beautiful, smart and fun.

On being one of the first food magazines to go outside endemic advertising (Vicki Wellington): Yes, that was the plan from the very beginning. Part of it is the readership. And I always knew that; it’s a strong readership and I knew how obsessed they were about the brand, about the chefs; about all that goes on within this brand. And I knew that our numbers were strong. We were measured in MRI pretty early, which is a good and a bad thing for us; it was good.

On why they think media is always reporting that millennials don’t read print (Vicki Wellington): I know it’s not true. I know it’s not true from my numbers. And I met the lovely Linda, who you will be meeting with at the MPA, and during one of her presentations she talks about millennials and about the fact that magazine audiences have grown. She talks about the fact that magazine audiences are larger than the biggest 10 cable shows on air. So, when you look at the facts, they don’t back up what you read in the press. I don’t know why the press doesn’t report on all of the other.

On anything either of them would like to add (Vicki Wellington): I can’t report on anything that might be in the works, but I can say keep watching. We’re always working on new things; the entire company is. Michael (Clinton) is launching Airbnb and that’s very interesting. And I think we’re all looking at new opportunities constantly. I don’t know if that goes on at other companies, but it goes on here and it’s exciting.

On what someone would find either of them doing if they showed up unexpectedly at their homes one evening (Maile Carpenter): I made 90 sugar cookies for my daughter’s holiday cookie decorating class that I’m teaching next week, that’s what I was doing.

On what someone would find either of them doing if they showed up unexpectedly at their homes one evening (Vicki Wellington): I recently moved into the city just a few months ago; my girls are in college. I’m in a different place than Maile is. I’m actually having very nice evenings. I’m doing something different all of the time. I’m going out to dinner; I’m meeting a girlfriend tonight for dinner; I’m taking clients out to dinner; I’m going to the gym. I’m living a very civilized life, which I haven’t lived in many years. It’s true. And I’m sleeping a bit more, so these are good things.

On what keeps them up at night (Vicki Wellington): I think about that and the truth is, not work, which is a wonderful thing for me to say. I am really happy with our magazine and I’m happy with our relationships. I love our team; I’m proud of the work that we do every day. For me what keeps me up would be the fact that I have two daughters in college. I picked up my phone today and the first line of the text I had gotten was, “I’m vomiting.” So, I read further. Even though they’re in college, you never stop worrying.


On what keeps them up at night (Maile Carpenter):
Somebody asked me how I handled that Sunday night dread and I can honestly say that has never happened, never. And I think that’s a nice gift to give my kids, to see the importance of doing something you love. I can tell every time I’m interviewing somebody if they’re passionate or not. You can’t fake it. You can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake your excitement. You can just tell if someone is excited or not.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vicki Wellington, Vice President, Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer, and Maile Carpenter, Editor in Chief, Food Network Magazine.


Samir Husni: Let’s start from the very beginning. It’s rare, or it’s becoming rare in our industry, to see a founding editor and a founding publisher stay together through the years.

Vicki Wellington: We’re like an old married couple now. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: So, do you have that seven-year-itch? (Laughs too) How have you maintained your relationship?

Vicki Wellington: No, we’re a team. We’re like a married couple; we are. I feel like this is our baby; she has other babies, but this is our baby.

Samir Husni: Take me back to the beginning. In 2009, the worst economic year ever, Gourmet folded. And then suddenly along comes a magazine like Food Network. How many rate base increases have you had since the launch?

Vicki Wellington: 13.

Samir Husni: 13 rate base increases. Tell me the genesis of the Food Network magazine.

Vicki Wellington: That’s for Maile; she’s the birth mother.

Maile Carpenter: I think that it turned out to be a smart time to launch. For one; the brand was super-strong, economy aside, it was a strong brand and the funny thing was, I remember going into a focus group and we had the cover up for people to comment on, and one woman pointed at it and she said, “I love that magazine.” I was thinking we don’t exist yet. (Laughs) But it made so much sense to everyone that she thought she had seen it already because the brand was so big and it was everywhere.

So, it was kind of a no-brainer to have a magazine with the timing right; it turned out to be a good time for people to be home cooking with their families. It was comforting to people and they trusted it, so it just took off.

Vicki Wellington: Maile was there before me. I came onboard and I had only been at this company for a short while, and I started taking the magazine out and people asked who would launch a magazine; no one needs another food magazine. And I thought, oh dear, I’m done before I even begin. And I remember speaking to Food Network over at Scripps, and they weren’t worried for a second. They said just you wait and see. We know our people; we know our fans, and sure enough, the magazine was like a rocket ship as it flew off of newsstands. And in four issues we hit a million in circulation.

And once it was off newsstands, it was huge. I feel like the momentum picked up immediately. And it changed everything. Gourmet closed. People started shooting food differently and the entire conversation changed.

Maile Carpenter: The reality was there really was a hole in the market and that’s when a product succeeds. We had thought that would be the case, but I came back from the focus groups knowing that was the case, because we had all of these women saying that they couldn’t get everything that they wanted in one magazine. They had to find it in up to five different magazines. They couldn’t get a certain mix that they had seen on Food Network. They couldn’t get the quick and easy combined with other things they wanted. People who needed a 10-minute meal on a Monday night, and who would then host a big, elaborate party on Saturday night, and no magazine was touching on all of that the way the Network was. So, we came back with such clear direction about what we could do and I think it just filled a need.

Samir Husni: Technically, you flipped the model. Where everybody was going specialization, such as chicken dinner magazines or some other niche title, you were going broader.

Maile Carpenter: That’s exactly right. I went in looking for a vertical space and we came out with a horizontal one. We were looking for our vertical among all of these other verticals. There were some personality-driven ones; quick and easy titles; straight-up women¹s service; some that were totally aspirational and that were going to all ends of the earth and cooking things that you¹d never cooked before, but no one was doing this across any of the ideas. They were doing it on the air; it changed from hour to hour; you could get everything from combining cans of things to Iron Chef. But no one was seeing that in print. And that turned out to be the secret.

Samir Husni: In 2009 we were in the beginnings of digital really taking hold and coming onto the scene; the iPhone followed by the iPad, and the economy busted; did anyone ask you while you were out trying to sell the magazine if you were out of your mind, a print magazine in a digital age?

Vicki Wellington: A lot of people asked that for a minute, and then three minutes later they weren’t asking anymore, because this was such a huge homerun and that was obvious to everyone. But at that time, you’re right, digital was a big deal and Food Network, the brand that we come from, had a very successful cable channel for 17 years, and they had a very successful digital platform for around 16 years. And obviously, now years later, everything has grown, and so they were really ahead of the curve on all of it. We didn’t even know that, but it was a big advantage.

Maile Carpenter: Well, the very simple answer to that is, the more digital distractions we get and the more choices that we have digitally, the better off we are; I truly believe that because the need for a curated, calm space to look at the things you love and to get inspired to do the things you love to do, the better off we are. And so the importance of the magazine and the way it makes you feel is even more precious now than it ever has been, and we see that socially. When the magazine comes out; when people post that they received their magazine, more than ever now they’re posting pictures of themselves on the couch, in the bathtub, on the beach, it’s me-time, my magazine arrived and I’m spending my hour with it. No one talk to me, I just got my Food Network magazine. And those are my favorite posts.

I truly see more of these type posts than I ever have and I think it’s because of this digital frenzy; you feel like you’re always supposed to be checking this account or that account and posting and checking on your friends. So, for a minute you can put that aside and fall into something.

Vicki Wellington: And it is true; if you just look at our sheer circulation numbers, we’ve grown every, single year. So, again, to all of the naysayers, just for a minute take a look at all of our rate base examples; all of our circulation; look at our sub file and our renewals. I mean, everything has grown positively.

Samir Husni: Did you expect this success when the job was offered to both of you? Did you have any inkling that this was going to be the biggest launch of the last decade?

Maile Carpenter: No, I didn’t really set a goal, but it was so clear to me that it was going to work. I remember the moment when I was called in to talk about a food magazine and I didn’t know what it was, and that was a hard thing to brainstorm. I remember the minute that Eliot Kaplan called me and said, “I can tell you what it is now, it’s the Food Network.” And it was just BOOM; I just knew that it was going to work. I had been a fan of the Network forever and I could just immediately picture what it was going to look like.

Vicki Wellington: And we’re not that duplicative. Maile’s edit is different than what’s on air and online, so that’s a good reason to have a different platform. And also people are coming for different reasons. In a lot of ways, it’s the best of both worlds, because you could always get TV, it’s practically free with your package, and we have online and that’s free, but you’re paying for this. So, I think it speaks for itself with the surrounding numbers.

Samir Husni: Why do you think that it took so long as an industry to actually appreciate print again?

Vicki Wellington: Good question. I don’t know. We’re here in our world and we’re growing; the magazines are profitable; we’re reinventing every minute on edit, on business. As an expert, why do you think it took so long? It pains me.

Samir Husni: I don’t know either, maybe fascination with the new. When Time magazine was published in 1923, the reason Henry Luce gave for launching the magazine was there were 22 newspapers in New York City; people didn’t have time. People were busy; so he gave them something different. And yet, you look at Esquire of the ‘30s,’40s and ‘50s and it would take you two days to read it all.

Maile Carpenter: And I think you survive by paying attention to people¹s behavior and what they want. And we¹ve changed a lot. We don’t do it quickly and we don’t do it abruptly. You’re not going to get an issue that looks dramatically and suddenly different from the issue before, but if you look at the ones from when we launched; we’re totally different too.

In print we’ve changed the importance of that idea of inspiration versus information even more so now. People do not need us to provide listings of a million places to go in a certain city in our On the Road Section or lists of things; they can get that online, so now more than ever we have to play to the power of print; what can you do in print that you could never do online. We can package beautiful things; have big images, so I think if you look, our images have grown a bit. You have to fall into the page or else you’re competing, and you can’t compete with the amount of information that people can get online. It’s really about inspiring, I think.



Samir Husni: Is it easier for you to sell the magazine now?

Vicki Wellington: I don’t want to say that our days are easy, and I don’t want to say that it’s always been easy, yet it’s a great brand. It’s a brand that everyone loves, men, women and children. Any room I go into, 60 percent of the people say they love Food Network, so we’re already in a very warm room. It’s an inviting environment always.

Maile Carpenter: It’s a more creative process now than it ever was. And Vicki and I are working more closely than we ever have.

Vicki Wellington: And it’s more exciting. We do a lot of work together and it makes a difference.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest challenge that you’re facing today?

Maile Carpenter: When we launched we were in a world where you wouldn’t put an Eggo recipe next to a waffle story and that was not that long ago. And in that amount of time the entire industry has changed. We’ve been on a learning curve and I think we’re really hitting our stride, in terms of what we can do with our advertisers. I think the hardest part is negotiating that and doing it in a way that’s respectful to the reader and to the advertiser.

We’ve put out native units that have been win, win, win. We win editorially; the reader wins; the advertiser wins and everybody is happy.

Vicki Wellington: And we take so much time, hours and hours; we sit and we brainstorm and we figure out what’s right for edit; what’s right for the readers; what’s right for the client, and we tailor things toward all of these accounts and that’s why I think, not that it’s easier, but it’s exciting and we win, and I think clients feel that.

We were just on a call with King’s Hawaiian, for example, which we worked with in October. Have you ever tasted their rolls? Oh my, they’re delicious. And you know what? A lot of people don’t know where to find them in the grocery stores, so part of it was awareness, part of it was claiming this past October “Hallowaiian” instead of Halloween.
october-kings-hawaiian-cover-peel
Anyway, Maile and I were both out in California; we met with the client, just lovely people; it’s a family-owned company, so to them it’s more personal, it’s not just a big corporation. It’s personal, so it really had to make a difference. So, Maile created this faux cover and you pull it away and then you get your real cover, and of course, you get these delicious recipes on the back.

Maile Carpenter: And here’s where the win, win comes in. We’re being clear with the reader; we’re not tricking anyone, it’s very clear that this is a King’s Hawaiian piece; you can peel this off if you want. But a lot of the readers totally loved it, sent us notes editorially saying how cute the sandwiches were, so that was the dream scenario where it’s just all comfort zone.

Vicki Wellington: On top of that we were able to create, Hearst has a wonderful shopper marketing division, and we were able to work with national grocery stores and we just spoke with them and we increased sales, a crazy amount, year over year. So, the client was just on the phone with us and he was delighted. We exceeded every single goal that was set up, and we had a memorable, unique cover to boot. So this is what we’re doing, but it takes time to do this.

Another example is we wanted to find a way to work with Land O’Lakes, and we had a sort of a callout for all bakers to compete and win this bakeoff that we put out there. And that was in May, I believe, our May issue. And in our September Reader’s Choice issue, Land O’Lakes was the cover, Maile and her team, and I think a Land O’Lakes judge chose the winner, and how amazing to get their unique recipe on the cover. So, you have Land O’Lakes here, but again it’s clear, and it’s separate from the other cover, and then we had runners-up inside the magazine with their unique recipes. So, I just think that it ties in beautifully to what our edit is doing, and again, it delivers service to readers.

Samir Husni: Do you feel your job as editor today is easier or harder than it used to be?

Maile Carpenter: No, it’s not easier.

Vicki Wellington: Because I’m taking up all of her time.

Maile Carpenter: (Laughs) It’s just not as straightforward. I mean, operating in your own space without any concern for marketing and advertising, that’s linear and simple. So, this is more challenging, but it’s more interesting now.

Samir Husni: What advice would you give someone who came to you and said that they were aspiring to be an editor?

Maile Carpenter: We’re asked that often when college classes come in. You mean a magazine editor? Because I feel like our skillset could play out in any number of ways. I don’t think print is going anywhere, so I always hope that they go into the business. The advice would be that it’s about being real and true to yourself, and that’s our guiding principle whenever we’re dealing with these advertising concerns. You have to know who you are and stick to that. The readers know when you’re not being real.

Samir Husni: We’ve always been in the business of marketing content, and then a few years ago some wizard came up with the term content marketing. Vicki, how do you define your job; are marketing content or are you a content marketer? Or are you both?

Vicki Wellington: I think we’re everything. Sales executive; I’m a marketing executive; I’m not a PR director per se, but I think you have to be able to do everything. My advice for any young person is that they have to learn it all. It’s great to be a great writer, but go take some business classes. The successful people are going to have all of these skillsets. And I think there are fewer people doing everything, and that’s who we hire. Not a person who can only sell or market; I want a person whose mind can work in every way. Since there are so few of us, everybody has to be that good and strong and talented, and their mind has to work in every way. You have to be creative and you have to write. You have to sell and you have to be able to speak.

It’s a better world for us now because there’s a lot more to do. And it’s not boring, that’s for sure. And we’ve been successful, but I’m a biased person to ask.

Samir Husni: You have so many different chefs and programs that you reflect; how do you deal with things if some bad luck hits one of the chefs or one of the programs?

Maile Carpenter: That was a decision that we made early on and I’m grateful every day that we made it, which was that this magazine was not going to be flattening the TV program into print. That’s the opposite of playing to the strength of print. Suddenly, you look like a less energetic version of the Network. So, we decided right off the bat that we were not going to have columns with specific stars; we were not going to base stories on TV shows. This is supplemental material and I think the readers took to that.

And that way we knew that we’d be able to go wherever the Network went, so I meet with them once a month and I have a pretty clear view three to six months out of what shows are doing really well and which stars they’re excited about. Our lead time is very similar, so we can line up. And we look like we’re in lock-step with them.

Vicki Wellington: It’s a benefit of being a brand filled with so many; you’re not relying on one personality.

Samir Husni: Was there a specific day or time when it hit you on how successful the Food Network magazine really was?

Vicki Wellington: I knew early on. It was like a rocket ship and we were on this fast-moving object and it was going fast and high. And I feel like we still are. We had another great year; we’re up over last year. We’ve done amazing, unique work; we continue to win awards; our circulation is up and our newsstand is strong and our subscriber renewals are up. It’s all good, so we’re still on that rocket ship. And I enjoy it. We’re a powerful brand with exactly the right editor and team and I don’t worry about tomorrow because we’re in a great position.

Samir Husni: Do you think people have tried to imitate the Food Network magazine?

Maile Carpenter: I think visually things change after we launched. We had a specific look in mind when we launched. We really starting stripping the props out and going with food in focus. Believe it or not, when we launched, it was a big ask from some photographers to just shoot the food in focus. We had to fight that with some people and I think the readers appreciated just seeing things the way they were really going to look. Not all dressed up and dolled up in an environment that would never be in your house. So, that was a big thing and I think other magazines did kind of start doing more of that.

Deirdre (Koribanick) to her credit, our creative director, does not constantly look to other places to come up with her designs. She says that she designs out of her head and she really does, I’ve watched her do it.

Vicki Wellington: And she looks like this magazine to me. I don’t know if I’m here too long, but I look at her and she’s beautiful and simple and elegant. And I look at the magazine and I see her in every page. So, it’s really meant to be.

Samir Husni: If I gave you a magic wand that could transform the magazine into a living, breathing person, and you struck the ink on paper with the wand, who would be standing there afterwards?

Vicki Wellington: It’s going to look like Deirdre, isn’t it? (Laughs)

Maile Carpenter: (Laughs too) She should get so much more credit; I feel like she’s not always mentioned in these success stories. And the visual statement this magazine made from day one was so strong and that’s really her. She just had it in her mind.

Vicki Wellington: There’s a lot of fun in this magazine. But back to your question; we’re so many different people. I think if we were other magazines it would be an easier question. But everyone loves us.

Maile Carpenter: I think it’s a family. It’s a whole family.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the line extensions. You’ve tested the Food Network Kids…
april-disney-travel_cover
Vicki Wellington: Which is still doing well; we actually expanded that to be family. We still do travel; we do family, which was Kids. We did a Disney edition this year, which was a partnership with Disney. We are looking to do college this coming year in 2017, which is exciting. The Disney edition is something that Maile and her team created. It’s about the experience and food at Disney for families, which I think came out beautiful, smart and fun.

And millennials are so crazy about food and crazy about this brand, they’re posting more pictures of food on their phones than their families. They’re saving up to go to restaurants, not bars. So, I feel like what an opportunity for us to speak to that arena, so college is one that we’re looking at for this coming year.

Samir Husni: So, everything is going great; advertising is up?

Vicki Wellington: We were up this year, and we were up, not only in food and beverage which you would expect, but we’re up in home. And Maile has done a bit with Stars at Home, which I can show you.

Samir Husni: You were one of the few, if not the first, food magazine to go outside of endemic advertising and you’ve brought a lot to the magazine, from the very beginning.

Vicki Wellington: Yes, that was the plan from the very beginning. Part of it is the readership. And I always knew that; it’s a strong readership and I knew how obsessed they were about the brand, about the chefs; about all that goes on within this brand. And I knew that our numbers were strong. We were measured in MRI pretty early, which is a good and a bad thing for us; it was good.

We were able with this story to bring in travel, and this year we really did a lot on home. We had home prior, and this year we brought in a load of beauty business. So, I do think Maile has expanded a little bit, which has been wonderful. She’s showing the chefs at home, Marc Murphy and his beautiful home and you can see how he lives. And you can’t see this anywhere else, so it’s really our special relationship with the chefs and the readers love it because they can see what their backyards are like; what their bedrooms are like; just how they really live. And I think that’s a big advantage.

Samir Husni: You mentioned that millennials loved the magazine; why do you think that every time you pick up a media-related item, it’s always reporting that millennials don’t read print?

Vicki Wellington: I know it’s not true. I know it’s not true from my numbers. And I met the lovely Linda, who you will be meeting with at the MPA, and during one of her presentations she talks about millennials and about the fact that magazine audiences have grown. She talks about the fact that magazine audiences are larger than the biggest 10 cable shows on air. So, when you look at the facts, they don’t back up what you read in the press. I don’t know why the press doesn’t report on all of the other.

It¹s frustrating because I know what I see and I know that’s not true. And I know what the readers are showing us and doing with us. It’s a shame that there’s not more press on good stories. We had a phenomenal year, maybe there could have been more reported about that.

It’s easier to talk about the negative rather than the positive, maybe?

Samir Husni: Is there anything else either of you would like to add, anything new in the works?

Vicki Wellington: I can’t report on anything that might be in the works, but I can say keep watching. We’re always working on new things; the entire company is. Michael (Clinton) is launching Airbnb and that’s very interesting. And I think we’re all looking at new opportunities constantly. I don’t know if that goes on at other companies, but it goes on here and it’s exciting.

Samir Husni: If I show up at either of your homes unexpectedly one evening, what do I find you doing; reading a magazine; reading your iPad; watching television; having a glass of wine; cooking; or something else?

Maile Carpenter: I made 90 sugar cookies for my daughter’s holiday cookie decorating class that I’m teaching next week, that’s what I was doing.

Vicki Wellington: I recently moved into the city just a few months ago; my girls are in college. I’m in a different place than Maile is. I’m actually having very nice evenings. I’m doing something different all of the time. I’m going out to dinner; I’m meeting a girlfriend tonight for dinner; I’m taking clients out to dinner; I’m going to the gym. I’m living a very civilized life, which I haven’t lived in many years. It’s true. And I’m sleeping a bit more, so these are good things.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Vicki Wellington: I think about that and the truth is, not work, which is a wonderful thing for me to say. I am really happy with our magazine and I’m happy with our relationships. I love our team; I’m proud of the work that we do every day. For me what keeps me up would be the fact that I have two daughters in college. I picked up my phone today and the first line of the text I had gotten was, “I’m vomiting.” So, I read further. Even though they’re in college, you never stop worrying.

But the good news for me on the work front; we’re supported by them, Michael and David upstairs. We’re doing good work; we’re doing smart work. We have an excellent team, so I don’t worry about this. And that makes me happy to say.

Maile Carpenter: Somebody asked me how I handled that Sunday night dread and I can honestly say that has never happened, never. And I think that’s a nice gift to give my kids, to see the importance of doing something you love. I can tell every time I’m interviewing somebody if they’re passionate or not. You can’t fake it. You can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake your excitement. You can just tell if someone is excited or not.

And I can honestly say that everyone who’s here makes this a fun place to work. Everyone loves what they’re doing. We have our stresses like everyone and we worry about things, but not to the extent that I lose any sleep. (Laughs) Sleep is important. Sleeping and eating.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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One comment

  1. […] better off we are,” says Food Network Magazine Editor-in-Chief Maile Carpenter, according to a Mr. Magazine article. “And so the importance of the magazine and the way it makes you feel is more precious now than […]



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