In Circulation: Foodie mags adapt to reflect times

A recent article in Women’s Wear Daily noted that food-focused magazines, such as Bon Appetit and Food & Wine, are making changes to their editorial to better fit the current economic climate. The titles – long a stronghold for the fine wine and black truffle luxury markets – now have features on “budget” recipes, cheap substitutes for expensive foodstuffs, and wine lists that top out at $20 a bottle.

But will it pay to tweak the brands in this manner?

I see foodie magazines as aspirational. I may never throw a dinner party featuring red caviar hors d’oeuvres (or any food fancier than nachos), but I still like to read about them. I imagine that maybe, if only I keep reading this magazine, I will figure out a way to accomplish such a thing, so I’m interested to see what happens when food titles stop feeding out dreams and start reminding us of our actual economic situation.

Can watered down gourmet magazines keep up their current subscription and newsstand prices, or will their new budget messaging force them to offer better deals? Will their marketing focus on the budget aspect, or try to keep up the gourmet front?

Will people like me keep reading when it’s no longer escapist to do so, and will the other end of their reader spectrum – the ones who actually do eat caviar on regular basis – keep reading when the titles no longer play to their upscale sensibilities?

I’m also interested to see what happens to their ad pages. Will advertisers really want to reach people who are shopping for $12 wines? I imagine that they’re much more interested in the aspirational reader, who may not be rich, but who may be convinced to buy that $300 mixer if it looks good enough in the editorial spread.

I’m going to be on the lookout to see how food magazine marketing output is affected as they go into holiday campaign mode. If you are a subscriber to, or circ manager for, a foodie title, let us know what you’re seeing.

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