05 March 2008

The crystal ball that cracked.

Out of The Frying Pan, March 3, 2008
Session 2. Clarendon Room A. Langham Hotel.

Food Media Trends 2009-2012. What we will be reading and writing in the next five years?

From Trudi Jenkins

Editor in Chief, VOGUE (or should that be vague) Entertaining and Travel, Delicious

‘I don’t know. I wish I had a crystal ball. I really can’t tell you what we will be writing in the future.’‘

‘Readers trust our publications over things on the Internet. We are the brand custodians, which is why people trust us...

(Later) ....If they lose a magazine or give theirs to a friend, people can also get any of our recipes on our website (taste.com.au) and our readers have a funny little-thing there where they can ask each other questions, but I have no idea about the internet, I’m too old for all of that.’ (She appears to be younger than me)

‘I’m a bit sick of Coeliacs complaining that we don’t publish enough gluten free recipes. I mean really, a little bit of what’s bad won’t hurt you.’

From William Sitwell
Editor, Waitrose Food Illustrated & Editorial Director, Fresh Living.

‘Bloggers are half-wits who can’t write. I hate, hate, Bloggers.’

‘English Chefs are illiterate, can barely write, let alone talk.

From Trevor Eastment

Director of programming and production, The Lifestyle Channels.

‘The TV trend is to real recipes where the technique is fleshed out in real time because so many people don’t have basic cooking skills. TV shows will continue to have entertainment value but will be educational.’

‘Online will steal from Newspapers. Recipes are the most searched for item on the Internet after porn.’

‘Pick & Pay in South Africa are leading the way where you can click on a recipe that you download to your phone and have all the ingredients delivered to your home.’

Have you ever got so hot under the collar that your skin prickles and your heart pounds? I sat in session 2 of Monday’s Out of The Frying Pan feeling distressed and nauseous as my blood pressure rose.

I had naively thought that the panelists at this session of The Age sponsored Melbourne Food and Wine Festival food media event - who also included Julie Gibbs from the Penguin Group (Australia), Publishing Director for Lantern, Viking and Penguin – might actually have some insight into future trends. I thought they might have even prepared some relevent material for the event.

I was wrong.

I - as a Marketer and Advertising Professional - could in fact have offered significantly more insight on the subject that was not able to be discussed by anyone but Trevor Eastment; namely what we will be reading and writing in food media in the next five years.

I know that I was not the only one that was dissatisfied by the session. The lady from Sydney who sat beside me shared my symptoms and was muttering her dissent. We were not alone. Some statements drew muffled gasps from a very polite Melbourne audience of Epicureans.

I began to wonder, what exactly is the criteria for selecting speakers for panels at a Food Media conference?

Quite plainly if you are discussing trends then there should at least be one professional Trendspotter on the panel. Yes, they exist. They do mountains of research at the behest of companies developing new products and advertising. Their skill is to predict the zeitgeist. Thanks to them, I became ‘au fait’ with the current trends discussed in both sessions 1 and 2, more than ten years ago.

The trends cited at the event as new or emerging in both sessions have already been discussed at length online by Bloggers. The panelist’s 'new' was in fact old to those who live and breathe their epicurean passion in the real world, unfettered by the preconceptions brought on by jobs that target ‘Smart, affluent females who enjoy the Luxe Life’. The panelists and moderator obviously were unaware that the example of South African Web 2.0 shopping is already enjoyed in Tasmania on a smaller scale. That via YoMo you can have a discount voucher sent to your phone as you enter a shop.

The day’s events prompted me to wonder how certain people manage to hold senior positions in the media, unchecked by the kind of scrutiny that other professionals might garner within their industries? And yet, these same people have the audacity to pompously sneer at others - who write for their own entertainment online - for not checking their facts, for being ‘half-wits who can’t write’, for being self-important, ignorant and for being destructive, especially because no Editors are involved in the process.

My day job requires me to be significantly more accountable than the media representatives I witnessed - who blatantly thumbed their noses at the Internet and lifted the veil to display their own ignorance.

In instances where I manage a cross platform campaign - which inevitably includes a website and increasingly web 2.0 applications, along with print, press, radio, TV, outdoor advertising, Promotions, events and Direct Marketing – I am expected to have familiarised myself with all aspects of the media I am utilising. Obviously that is not the case at News Limited’s FPC magazines. Like some of them I also write, in addition to design, direct photographic crews, illustrators and TV crews.

My clients have become aware that even when dealing with the affluent, a pompous tone should not be taken. Increasingly these clients are turning their backs on food media publications that charge anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for a single page ad placement, on top of production costs, because their core customers have stated that they do not trust the print media to be unbiased or correct.

With media circulation of glossy food magazines and newspaper supplements being low – Trudi cited 140,000 for Delicious, Roy Morgan Research puts it at 125,266 – they actually have less hits than some established bloggers do. All too often now people flick past TV ads too using Foxtel IQ and soon, TIVO. Not a problem for me, I know where to place media messages where the right target market will actually see them.

Trevor Eastment was right. Web 2.0 applications are set to usurp food publications. Magazines and Papers along with TV stations are dependent on advertising for their income. The number of articles that appear in a publication are determined by the amount of advertising space sold in that edition.

If advertisers stop placing ads in certain publications - as in the case of The Age’s Epicure, who have a small readership and target the AB Quintile (people who earn $100k+) - because they are of little relevance to a large number of the advertiser's customers, the number of articles published diminish. Ergo Journalists lose their usual income source.

The lesson here is that those in publishing who dismiss the Internet and the kind of content the general food reading public seek out there, are cutting their own throats. To look into the crystal ball of future trends for food media, one only has to explore what is taking shape on the internet.

Meanwhile, those who stubbornly harbour the 'Let them eat cake' mentality may one day find themselves entertaining Madame La Guillotine.

Ok, I've got it out of my system now. Go ahead, hate me.

Thank you Matt Preston for inviting me to join the fray.
I very much appreciate it. Should you need assistance with future events please email me.


grocer said...

Of course, I would have expected something like this from you but that was excellent!
...and some interesting facts and figures.

Cindy said...

I thought I'd just exhausted myself with my morning bike ride, but reading those quotes at the top of your post, I felt a resurgence of angry energy!

You've argued with more sharpness and depth than I imagine anyone in that session managed to, Sticky. Thank you.

Vida said...

I did have that tingling feeling and the heart rate for sure, didn't you see it??? Didn't you hear my heart or was the hissing steam coming from my ears too loud for you!?!?! Now I remember, it was my voice (mis microphone) that was the loudest, that's right!!!

Did you have a tape recorder in there or what???? How do you remember all that??

I am glad you got it out and I am glad I got mine out, damn it we all deserve the right to be heard and if people are not interested they can walk away, perhaps that's what we should have done that day, walked out and sent a real message! Next year you on the panel, me in the audience again, bring it on!!!!! Vida x

Anonymous said...

Sticky I have to agree with Cindy that was a most excellent reportage. I am astounded that the people on these panels seemed so out of touch & ignorant of what actually happening in food trends.
Well done again.

neil said...

Now I'm so sorry I missed all that. Must have been quite something to be there. Why on earth would anyone waste their time and energy hating bloggers? New trends indeed.

Anonymous said...

Marvellous, sticky. I'm simultaneously relieved I wasn't in that room and angry that I missed it (cos the Future Media thing was so not Future Media). It seems that we weren't the ones drawing the line in the sand at any point, but others were more than willing to show that they neither understood their domain nor were up to the task.

stickyfingers said...

Thank you everyone for stopping by and for your encouraging comments.

I came away from the day with thoughts as tangled as spaghetti. This post came out once I suppressed the emotion and began to analyse things.

You may not have seen it yet, but I added a cartoon last night - thought it fitted well with the scenario.

Vida - I was furiously scribbling notes in a couple of the sessions.

If I have time I shall belt out some more about what I observed on the day, but I have a busy weekend and one urgent thing I'd like to report from the restaurant industry first. I am to make a chocolate dessert now for a dinner tonight...so I guess the blog will have to wait.

GS said...

Thanks for filling in the bits I missed. Arrogance and smugness seemed to be the flavour of the day all round. Who knows if any of this will be taken on board for next year?

grocer said...

Rest assured ASF, there are other players in food & media not involved in neither the event nor subsequent debate that have been watching this drama evolve with interest.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful response Sticky, beautifully balanced and reasoned with a little bit of fire still smouldering away to heat things up a bit. Best response to the "Frying Pan" shenanigans I've read online yet...and there's lots of 'em!

Well done oh Sticky one.

stickyfingers said...

Thanks Davy - your encouragement is very much appreciated.

Squishy said...

Not going to hate you. Loved your passion. Excellent post and really got me going. I hope you feel better?

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Sticky. Have just got back from NZ and am catching up with the blogs. I remember feeling similarly critical when the topic was canvassed last year. I ended up with a book full of notes and a sense of disappointment. When I went through my notes I found little of substance to write about.