News of drastic cutbacks at Saveur, which pushed out Editor-in-Chief Adam Sachs and much of the staff, not to mention reduced the number of issues down to four, has hit the food media world hard. Saveur has consistently been an in-depth voice on food and the culture surrounding it since it was founded almost 25 years ago. This news follows on the heels of Lucky Peach‘s sudden shuttering, Food & Wine‘s downsizing and move to Alabama, and most major U.S. newspapers scrapping their food sections entirely. It’s like losing Gourmet all over again. Times ten. Nowadays, there’s overwhelming pressure for the best culinary publications to be driven by celebrity chef culture and clickbait trends. Which is unfortunate. The outlook in the food media landscape feels dismal.
Yet there is still life.
The New Yorker has added a full food section and has signed on several excellent writers. Fool is coming back after a two-year absence. Roads and Kingdoms keeps getting better and better and has expanded with Explore Parts Unknown and even has a new podcast. Eater and Edible Publications seem to have helped give voice to local culinary communities, and smaller niche publications are setting up everywhere you look. There’s Terre, about natural wines; Fare, which dedicates each issue to the food of a specific destination; Cherry Bombe about women in food; Punch about drinks; The Art of Plating about, well, plating; Civil Eats about food, social responsibility and the environment; Extra Crispy about breakfast; Drift about coffee; and so on and so forth.
But as great as all of these publications sound, most of them, us included, are just hanging on by a thread. Most are an algorithm change by Google or Facebook, a rise in the cost of paper, or a change in the tax code away from being shut down. While all of these are businesses run on passion and perseverance, they also come with big risks. And while readers are increasingly hungry for new types of food media and are increasingly eating it up — no pun intended — they have to do a better job of supporting it. Many of the publications we just mentioned won’t make it. Here’s what you can do:
Donate: Many of us have buttons and accounts that directly contribute to our editorial budgets. (Ahem, we have one right here!)
Support Brands That Advertise: Have you noticed brand advertising in your favorite niche publication? That’s an advertiser risk. So, when you are at the supermarket and you have a choice, choose that brand (assuming it’s a responsible company, of course). Maybe even tweet them a thank you.
Subscribe: If you like a food magazine, subscribe to it. Here’s a suggestion: Saveur is still going with four issues a year. Support them, so it can grow and blossom again. Subscribe to YouTube channels, to newsletters, to podcasts, to wine clubs, and to anything else your favorite publication might offer if you are interested in their coverage.
Fundraisers: The excellent Heritage Radio – an entire radio station dedicated to food, as unlikely as that may seem – holds frequent fundraisers that has allowed them to stay on the air through some dicey financial times.
Share and Like: Social media numbers are important for many small publications trying to expand their reach. If you read something you like, share it or, even, just like it. Not only the ‘Best Of’ lists either, but the 10-part series on Food in the Amazon Rainforest or interviews with women in food. The stuff that makes a real difference.
Buy Stuff: Many small publications get a percentage of sales when you buy a book on Amazon through a link on their page. Taste sells digital cookbooks at bargain rates. Food52 sells cooking tools and supplies.
Support Writers and Photographers: When writers or photographers create content you love, reach out to them directly and let them know! Their careers are just as fragile as the publications they are working for, usually more so. We can’t tell you how terrific it feels when we get positive feedback on our stories and pass that love onto our writers. Do the same. Let the writers and photographers know that you were inspired by that 5,000-word story on bees and honey that they spent weeks researching and five edits getting exactly right.
Though much of the above may seem like nothing, these little things really do make a difference. All of us are in this game because we think it’s important to share stories about the world of food and drink. If you want to keep reading such in-depth stories that take a considerable amount of work and love to put together — more stories about female chefs; more stories about African-American chefs; stories told from the viewpoints of migrant farmers; stories about the resurrection of Native American cuisine; stories about how food can help preserve biodiversity; stories about food in refugee camps; stories about gut bacteria; stories about powerful chefs, restaurateurs, harassment and unpaid wages; restaurant criticism that’s done right; and all of the important stories that won’t fit on a 10 Best list — then you, reader, also have to do your part.
The Founders of New Worlder
(Nicholas Gill and Marie Elena Martinez)