Monday, December 05, 2005

Off Topic: Gourmet Magazine - Simply knowing your audience

This post is deviating from the normal observations of technology and hotspot reviews, to a observation in simplicity, and knowing your audience well.

Among my few non-tech related hobbies, I very much enjoy cooking, most people who know me personally know this quite well. So it's not uncommon for me to receive subscriptions to common cooking magazines, even if the only one I read on a regular basis is the brilliant Cook's Illustrated.

That said, I've never been much of a fan of the more popular cooking magazines, namely, Bon Appetit and Gourmet. Most often, the recipes are needlessly complex, are too picture perfect, and appear to be designed for an uptight crowd who doesn't realize that the point of a good home cooked meal is to enjoy the little imperfections, drink too much red wine or other booze with family and close friends (and sometimes not so close friends), and that number one enjoyment to be found in food is not to develop "food porn" quality photos, but to get dirty, make some mistakes, learn from them, and continue on because you love food.

With those complaints leveled, I must admit to being impressed with the direction Gourmet Editor in Chief, Ruth Reichl (formerly of the NYTimes) has taken the magazine. She's brought Anthony Bourdain (of Kitchen Confidential fame) on board to write, I believe, a monthly column. She's also taken a stronger focus on food travel destinations within the United States, seems to be focusing on easier to find ingredients, and generally is making the magazine more accessible, while still retaining a sense of elegance.

One other observation about Gourmet, as recent subscriber to the magazine (thanks, Mom!), one of my favorite discoveries was that when you receive the magazine in mail, they send you an edition with a cover stripped of all text on the cover, save for the name of the magazine. It's a great touch, it simplifies the cover, allows for an elegant, simple cover, and piques your interest of what lay inside, and probably helps their subscription rate, however slightly.

I'm unaware of how long Gourmet has maintained this practice, but credit must be given for a thoughtful approach, and I wish more companies, certainly more magazines, would follow there lead.

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