The Recipe for Multimedia Publishing: 8 Tips from Christopher Kimball
Many television cooking show junkies know Christopher Kimball as the cook with the signature bow-ties and the face of “America’s Test Kitchen” on PBS. However, he is also a true mastermind of integrated multimedia publishing and a guru whose lessons extend further than the kitchen.
At the center of his company, “America’s Test Kitchen” is Cook’s Illustrated (originally Cook’s), a bimonthly cooking magazine founded and edited by Kimball. Kimball founded and ran Cook’s magazine, which was advertising-based from 1980 to 1990, but then sold the magazine to Condé Nast Publications. The magazine soon folded, but in 1993 Kimball repurchased the subscription list and reconfigured his brand. He made the strategic decision to drop the ads from the publication and renamed it with the current title as a paid subscription magazine.
“[Today] we have just over one million subscribers to Cook’s Illustrated and about 265,000 subscribers to Cook’s Country [the sister publication launched in 2005],” he says.
“America’s Test Kitchen” is literally filmed in the test kitchen of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, just outside of Boston, and the show just finished filming its eighth season. He and his crew currently have three Web sites including CooksIllustrated.com, which he says gets about 500,000 unique visitors per month. And, the company also publishes books.
“We sell over 1 million books per year, about 60 percent through sales directly to consumers and the rest through retail,” he says. “We have published over 40 books and currently do about six to eight books per year.”
Kimball offered the following eight tips on effective multimedia publishing, exclusively to Publishing Executive Inbox’s readers.
1. Any multimedia enterprise has to start with a unique editorial premise.
That is, what are you offering that nobody else can provide? This is obvious and sounds rather elementary but is, in fact, key. … You have to stand for something editorially that is unique and of real value to your customer base. In our case, we don’t feel that throwing thousands of recipes at home cooks is that valuable. Recipes are free and abundant. What is valuable is offering access to recipes that really work, that have been tested in our kitchens. That is the promise that makes our publishing business successful.