Social Studies: How Food & Wine, Eating Well Magazines Get Readers Involved

eatingwell_november-december2010-options.jpgIn an earlier post, I bragged about how Food & Wine magazine successfully paired itself with a social media promotion involving Tyler Florence posting photos of his new recipes on Twitter, then allowing reader votes to determine the five best to appear in the October issue. A fine idea, indeed.

Not too much longer after that, I came across an Eating Well magazine promotion that, though it didn’t involve social media, still solicited reader response, which I think is one of the greatest–if not the greatest–assets for using it.

Through a page on the magazine’s website, Eating Well editors allowed readers to help select the November/December 2010 cover, and weigh in on which teasers would hold the most appeal for them. Another fine use of getting readers involved in the publication. But.

I saw the online survey first, yet didn’t participate since the issue was likely on the press (or at the post office) by then. I’ll admit I was looking forward to seeing the final cover selection. Though the two were quite similar, the cover wasn’t the one I would have voted for.

When I came across a Food & Wine magazine contest on Facebook to get readers to help pick the January 2011 cover, I realized what was missing in the Eating Well election.

What made readers vote for Eating Well’s deep cranberry cover background instead of the white one? Why were some teasers more appealing than others? The closed-ended answer choices on the website didn’t allow a say.

foodwine_january2011-options.jpgOf the two Food & Wine covers, I initially leaned toward the breakfast muffin choice. It seemed simple, but still interesting. A lot of other fans disagreed. Why, they asked, promote something akin to a fast food meal? It just didn’t seem healthy or even appetizing, many wrote.

I could see the point, so I checked out the buzz about the second cover: a plate of baked chicken, what looks to be a salad and two glasses of wine.

Typically, I think entrée cover photos are tricky. A photograph of a plate of pasta or a salad or a meat dish seems to fall flat, and I can think of more than a few this year that were a little disappointing. But I guess not everyone can feature cover desserts or other photogenic goodies all the time.

The baked chicken cover earned kudos for being a healthier choice, and from that perspective, I agree. Would I have entertained that option had I not been engaged in the social experience Food & Wine is using to initiate dialogue and to shape the content of their magazine? Probably not.

So I’d say this is another big score for the coexistence of the printed word and social media. And I can’t wait to see which January 2011 cover wins out.

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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.

  • Lisa

    Thanks Michelle for a great blog post. EatingWell does offer places for comments but we intentionally don’t allow readers to see each others comments as that may sway others’ decisions. We do love reader feedback and you will see lots of polls on our site and our Facebook pages other areas of our site. Watch for a feature in our May issue where we asked readers which celebrity chefs THEY would invite to a pot luck, and then went to the winning chefs for their favorite dishes. We love all you do at Food Magascene and always appreciate your comments and feedback.

    Lisa Gosselin
    Editor in Chief, EatingWell

  • Anonymous

    Hi Lisa! First of all, thanks for reading Food MagaScene and for the compliments. That makes sense about keeping comments private so they don’t potentially sway others. But I am interested in why some readers prefer one cover over another, even if it were just a small general summary of reader comments mentioned in that particular magazine. I’m looking forward to that feature in the May issue! Thanks again for reading and for your feedback!