While the circulation and advertising for most magazines are as flat as a collapsed souffle, magazines about food are doing surprisingly well. Leading the pack is Every Day with Rachael Ray, which recently celebrated its first anniversary. The magazine, published by Reader's Digest Association, has in these 12 months reached a circulation of nearly 1 million and is planning two hefty circulation rate hikes in the year ahead.
"We will be at a circulation of 1.7 million by next August," president of Reader's Digest U.S. Publishing, Bonnie Bacher, said.
The magazine is the biggest and most successful launch since O, The Oprah Magazine hit the newsstands in 2000. Which is in large part due to Ms. Ray, an always smiling, often giggly girl-next-door type who is the highestrated personality on Food Network. In addition to her own daily syndicated network talk and cooking program, she is the author of cookbooks about quick and easy food. In every issue of her magazine, there is a "hamburger-ofthe-month" recipe; November's feature is the ground chicken goulash burger. And she is in the planning stages of opening her own hamburger restaurant. "She is definitely a hamburger girl," Ms. Bacher said.
Often compared to media mogul Martha Stewart, Ms. Ray insists the comparison is not at all valid. "Our brands and our magazines could not be more different," she told the audience at the recent American Magazine Conference where she was a headline attraction. "I don't feel mogul-y. That sounds like Jabba the Hutt."
She may not see herself as similar, but the portfolio of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia covers some of Ms. Ray's ground with a pocket-sized magazine devoted to quick recipes, Everyday Food. Launched in 2003, the magazine's advertising pages are up 46% this year.
Magazines with longer histories are also thriving. Conde Nast's Gourmet, the oldest of all the epicurean magazines, just celebrated its 65th year and was named to Advertising Age's recent A-List of hot magazines. Southern Progress's Cooking Light, the largest food and healthy lifestyle magazine, has a readership of 11 million. It will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year with a series of special monthly features that will include write-ups of such healthy food leaders as Brian Maxwell, who invented the Power Bar.
"Even though we were late to the party, it was inevitable that Americans would discover food," Gourmet's editor in chief, Ruth Reichl, said. "In recent years we have grown more familiar with cultures that celebrate food, like Asian, Mediterranean, and Latino. Our interest in food and our tastes have changed. In the 50s and 60s we were told that cooking was drudgery. But people do like to cook. Cooking is something that makes us human."
Chris Allen, vice president and publisher of Cooking Light, agrees. "Nowadays cooking is seen less as a chore but rather as something creative," he said.
What have been the most popular covers — the foodie version of the Brangelina baby shot? "One of our best was a crock of onion soup. Comfort food!" Mr. Allen said.
He also has high hopes for the current cover that features a healthy take on pecan pie. Everyday Food readers were most drawn to a quick pork tenderloin.
"And they like pasta and chicken," Ms. Gluck said. "I just did a count and more than 10 percent of our recipes involve chicken."
"Christmas cookies are always biggest seller and we try to make them better every year," Ms. Reichl said. Her most controversial cover was a cake decorated with cupcakes. "Readers wrote in to complain. They said they didn't expect cupcakes from Gourmet. Then other readers wrote saying they loved cupcakes, sending us pictures of their cupcakes. The great cupcake debate was on and on for almost a year."
And as for Everyday with Rachael Ray, there are no decisions. It always has and will always have a smiling Rachael on the cover. "I think our summer cover with Rachael sitting at a picnic table with a glass of lemonade did very, very well," said Ms. Bacher.
And, by the way, the place where she and Ms. Ray celebrated the magazine's first year of success is a bit of surprise. "We were at the Met. I took her and her husband to see ‘Tosca.'"
No she didn't shout her trademark sign-off, "Yum-O," but Ms. Bacher said, "She's an Italian girl. She really loved it."