Since its first serving in fall of 2008, Food Network magazine has soared in popularity. Initially publisher Hearst Corporation printed 300,000 copies, but less than two years later, nearly 1.2 million copies are picked up at newsstands and sold through subscriptions, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
It’s an astounding success, particularly since growing numbers of working women and today’s modern conveniences have made the act of cooking another chore that someone or something else can do. In fact, the average American spends only 27 minutes per day on food preparation, plus an additional four for clean-up, according to writer and University of California, Berkeley journalism professor Michael Pollan. Understanding that we only have so much time, Food Network magazine touts 100-plus recipes prominently on its cover, along with other buzzwords with busy appeal like “fast,” “easy” and “fun.”
Tough economic times have taken a toll on dining out–a 3 percent drop in 2009, based on market research from NPD Group–and families looking to save a little by eating in will appreciate this publication’s attention to using inexpensive and readily available ingredients.
Though criticized by more advanced chefs for its casual approach and lack of in-depth coverage, Food Network magazine likely sizzles because of the changing face of cooking programs, posits Pollan. Viewers tuned in to Julia Child to learn the act of cooking, he writes, whereas fans of Food Network glean as much or more entertainment as instruction. That amusement presented in 30-minute segments and hour-long competitions no doubt buoys the popularity of its printed product.
And Food Network magazine capitalizes on it. Each issue’s “Star Search” guide features photos of the network’s celebrity chefs branded with the name of their show plus the page on which to find that star’s recipe or advice.
Shaped by seasons and holidays, the magazine’s ideas for Easter, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day barbecues are some of the obvious fare. This can give each issue a repetitive feel, according to some online reviews. That’s possible, but the ideas retain an overall speedy allure while also being creative or adventurous enough to keep things interesting. Think cinnamon sugar stick “fries” served with strawberry jam for an April Fool’s treat, a potato chip challenge, Kentucky Derby inspired muffin flavors, jalapeño margaritas for Cinco de Mayo, and a cupcake topiary for Mom.
Like Pollan said, it’s part quick cuisine and part entertainment, and this title makes successful use of the combination. But its short order use of multiple celebrity brands and their draw notwithstanding, Food Network magazine feeds off content that is timely and easy–what has broadly become today’s most fundamental qualities for cooking inspiration.