Food or Fame? Magazines Use Culinary Celebrities to Offer Both

foodnetwork_june.jpgCelebrity star power is used to help boost sales for everything from food to pharmaceuticals, and celebrity chefs help market everything from cruises to condos. So why not magazines?

Three of the four major cooking magazines that regularly feature famous faces on their covers–Every Day With Rachael Ray, Cooking With Paula Deen, Martha Stewart Living and Food Network Magazine–have each eclipsed the 1 million subscriber mark. Relying on celebrities for success can come at a price, but the closer a product is related to the star, the more likely consumers may purchase it, according to brand strategists. Since the art of cooking is what made these chefs famous, it’s a recipe for success in print.

Each issue, Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine and Cooking With Paula Deen magazine feature their namesake celebrities on the cover. Paula Deen, who is nearly synonymous with Southern cooking, is almost always featured with a dish in hand, while Rachael Ray is almost never featured with food.

Still, Every Day with Rachael Ray has been a runaway success–to the tune of 1.7 million subscribers–since its launch in 2005. That’s more than double Paula Deen’s magazine, possibly because Cooking With Paula Deen has more appeal regionally and with out-of-vogue non-calorie-counting cooks.

Martha Stewart doesn’t always appear on the cover of Martha Stewart Living magazine, but when she does, she isn’t the centerpiece of the photo. Yet of the four major celebrity food magazines, hers is the most popular with a subscriber base of 2 million–perhaps because of its broader approach that includes home decorating and crafts.

If these three magazines are using the presence of a star to draw in readers, Food Network magazine is taking it a step further with its “Cook Like a Star!” slogan at the top of every issue. The appeal, in part, of a product endorsed by celebrities is not only that they use it, but that they are also successful as a result.

Launched less than two years ago, Food Network Magazine has experienced sizzling success, boosted by its television popularity, entertaining approach and star power. With a circulation of 1 million, it is on the heels of some of the more established food magazines like Bon Appétit and Food & Wine. Food Network Magazine banks on multiple celebrities to draw in readers and utilizes short articles, tips and suggestions that mimic the faster pace of its TV shows.

All four magazines have an unmistakable appeal, offering readers the chance to decorate like Martha Stewart or cook like Paula Deen, Rachael Ray or any myriad of other Food Network stars. Based on circulation reports, capitalizing on fame isn’t the only thing that matters to readers, but the numbers also prove that it can’t hurt either.

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Michelle Ryan

About Michelle Ryan

Michelle Ryan is obsessed with good food, great shoes and Alabama football way down South in Savannah, Georgia. She hasn’t met a kitchen gadget she hasn’t at least thought about buying (trying them is another story) and devotes her time to Bikram Yoga, baking and trying to overcome long-held finicky eating habits.