Today one of my favorite magazines, Food & Wine, launched its first-ever iPad app. The glossy's editor in chief, Dana Cowin, who was in the Bay Area earlier this week for the American Wine Awards, took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with me. For the app, Food & Wine reimagined 95 percent of the magazine's content. It plans on releasing six issues per year, starting with today's debut app, the wine issue. Right now iPad owners can download the wine issue for free; future issues will be about $3.99 each and cover the following special themes: holiday, healthy foods, travel, and chefs.
To learn more about the app and see how Cowin distinguishes it from Gourmet Live, keep reading.
Cowin showed me a preview of the shiny new electronic magazine. The photos are vivid, and it's easy to scroll through and navigate. The premiere issue's special feature is a huge database of Ray Isle's 100 Wines to Drink Right Now article. "For the magazine we would have shot 10 of the bottles, but for the app, we shot all 100 bottles," Cowin enthused. "Users can click on each wine, see the photo, and see what dishes pair with it. Then, they can click through to the recipes." It all makes perfect sense as Cowin clicks and slides her way around the app.
One of the benefits of the app, says Cowin, is that they don't have to follow any advertising rules. Beautiful picture is followed by beautiful picture with no ads in between. One of the magazine's best features, Chefs Way/Real Way, only highlights the real way recipes in print, but on the app, users can check out the chef's original recipes and photographs. All of the content lives on the app, so even if a user doesn't have an Internet connection, she can still access the recipes and information. After her swift and smooth demonstration, in which she asked her director of PR to make a note to email the tech team about a broken video, she answered the following questions.
YumSugar: The only iPhone app you have is devoted to Best New Chefs. Why did you decide to do an iPad app instead of an iPhone one?
Dana Cowin: We may very well do an iPhone one. It's probably the next thing. The iPad is perfect for our devoted audience of affluent wine drinkers and travelers. It just seemed to work. We try to keep a broad sense of the brand in the app, whereas Best New Chefs is the core of what we do. If we get a sponsor, mobile will be next.
YS: In your editor's letter in the October issue of the magazine, you mentioned that while filming a segment for the app you felt like you were witnessing the future of food journalism. Why is that? What do you think is the future of food media?
DC: I saw how everything could intersect in the future. I assigned Mario Batali the project and we shot the print version, then the TV show, and the additional behind-the-scenes footage for the app. I could see how the users would comment on everything. It's not just TV in that there is someone talking at you and you can't talk back. It's not just print where you read something and you have no interaction. It's live and accessible. We're able to draw people in and build a whole community around it. It's like a living, breathing incarnation of the essence of the magazine.
YS: How does the Food & Wine app differ from Gourmet Live?
DC: It's really, really different. Gourmet doesn't have any of the content from the magazine. Their concept is very reward driven with a gaming aspect. They don't see it as just a service. Our app inspires; it's really in the moment. We want you to use it as a tool in the kitchen. [She brings up Gourmet Live on her iPad and fails to navigate through the content.] See? I can't even make this work. That's a huge difference! Ours works.
Well, iPad owners: are you interested in getting the Food & Wine app?