ICG Media doubles down on content

Despite the current lockdown, magazines are forging ahead – with exciting developments in the works at ICG Media. We chat to Sarah Tuck, Editorial Director of Lifestyle Publications and Editor of dish magazine, about what’s new at dish and Good and why magazines are continuing to thrive, even during these tumultuous times.

Sarah Tuck, dish Editor.

dish is fast approaching its 100th issue – time flies! What can we expect from the milestone?

Unbelievable right? We can’t wait – it’s going to be a bumper collector’s edition, almost double the size of a regular dish, with 100 recipes for the festive season and beyond. It’ll feature one recipe from every dish ever published, with a focus on Christmas/celebration/food to share with friends and family, rephotographed and restyled to reflect today’s aesthetic. Our Food Editor, Claire, and I have gone through and hand-selected our favourite recipe from each issue, so it really is the best of the best.

It’s the icing on the cake after a pretty amazing past 12 months. dish won Supreme Magazine of the Year last year, which was bloody fantastic. And we’ve kept growing since then. We’re constantly surveying our readers to make sure we’re giving them what they want, and that’s helped us develop a really strong relationship with our audience and a rock-solid readership base. That’s particularly important during a lockdown, when everyone’s consuming more media than usual. Readers already tend to have a more intimate relationship with magazines than they do with other forms of media because of the way they are read in a private, one-on-one, relaxed situation. But our stats from the last lockdown show that readers really do look to dish as a friend, for advice. Website traffic during lockdown last year increased by 1891 percent year-on-year, and eDM open rates went through the roof, up by as much as 298 percent during April 2020… and we’re already seeing similar this lockdown.

What else is the dish team working on at the moment?

Loads – we’ve got a new podcast in the works: Drinks with Dish. It’s co-hosted by our hilarious Drinks Editor Yvonne Lorkin and celebrates some of the best tipples the country has to offer. It’s good fun to listen to while we’re all stuck at home, but eventually we’re imagining drinks sessions where people can taste along with us and maybe try some food matches. So it’s really growing a new experiential side of dish!

We’re also pumping out lots of digital content while we’re all at home. We’re planning more Facebook live events, which always get a great response, and we’ve upped our eDMs to three times a week to better keep up with the mood of the country as it shifts. It feels like a different lockdown this time – people don’t want an extra Covid 10kg and they’re feeling a bit more stressed than last year. We’re meeting that need by really tailoring our content to what our readers are after – whether that’s healthier comfort food recipes or tips for stocking their pantry, should Level 4 last a while. I’m also keeping up our presence on TVNZ Breakfast, last week crossing live to the studio from my home kitchen… its such a great way to share dish with an even wider audience.

But our biggest project currently on the go is our cookbook dish Fast. It’s a collection of over 100 seasonal recipes for super-quick, easy and delicious meals – maximum-impact food with minimum fuss. I see it as being the solution for everybody who wants to get dinner on the table quickly without compromising on taste – couples, families, anyone planning a dinner party who doesn’t want to spend the whole time faffing around in the kitchen.

The upcoming dish Fast.

Ooh, tell me more. When did you come up with the idea for this book?

When I started at dish, we had a section called Easy Everyday – but our reader surveys showed that above all else, our readers valued recipes that were fast to make, rather than “everyday” -appropriate. So we changed up the section, retitled it Food Fast and began photographing all the shoots on the same background. I’d had the advantage of publishing a cookbook by that point, so thought even then that we could eventually collate them into a book and I wanted it to look aesthetically uniform… now that book has come to life.

That sounds right up my street. When can we expect the book and where can I get a copy?

The book will be available in bookshops nationwide and The Warehouse, and the RRP is $49.99. Despite the current Covid situation, we’re hoping for an on-sale date of mid-October – one of the advantages of being part of a bigger printing publishing company like ICG is that we can print in-house! This is the first time we’ve done a cookbook this way and feedback from our distributor is that buyers are pretty excited about it. We’re expecting Fast will be the hottest cookbook this summer, and we’d hope every family will have at least one under the tree. You can also catch a sneak peek of it in the next issue of dish, out in early October.

It sounds like dish has got lots on the go. But you’re also newly the editorial director for Good magazine. What’s going on at Good right now?

So Good is also in a really exciting phase at the moment, I’m really enjoying working alongside Editor Carolyn Enting and we’ve got lots in the pipleine. We’ve had a bit of a redesign after checking with our readers. We recently resurveyed our audience to ask what they’d like to see more of and from that, we distilled our content pillars. We know that readers want to see more wellbeing content, as well as gardening, beauty, food and environmental material, so we’re really focusing on those. We’re also introducing more substantial pieces to read, as we know our readers really love to read the mag cover to cover – they even read the ads! We’ve got a core audience of women aged 35-60 and we’re loving providing exciting new material for them.

We’re also taking our cover stories in a new direction. Earlier this year we featured Rachel Hunter on the cover and that issue just flew off the shelves – it had a 42 percent sales increase on the previous issue. And we’re really excited to have Chelsea Winter on the next cover – she built her fanbase making Kiwi recipes really accessible and now, after some major life changes in the public eye, she’s pivoted to make plant-based food just as accessible as she used to make sausage rolls. Her story is one of transformation and wellbeing and we know that’s something that really appeals to our readers. We’re so excited to see where this title can go in the future!

Busy times indeed – is there anything else you’re working on right now?

Yes! We have a new magazine project in the works, and we think it’s going to be the most exciting thing to hit newsstands in the last 20 years. There’s nothing else on the market like it and I predict it will be a total gamechanger for lots of people who never knew they needed it till it arrived… watch this space!

Check out issue 98 of dish:

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