Jamila Robinson explains why Bon Appétit is getting into sports, relationships and subscription boxes

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It’s been a busy summer for Bon Appétit and Epicurious’ editor-in-chief Jamila Robinson, who stepped into the top editor role last September. 

Amid changing algorithms and impacts to search traffic, Robinson is prioritizing relationship building between audiences and Condé Nast’s cooking brands by expanding the coverage of food to include categories like sports and relationships, challenging the idea of “traditional” cooking and building new subscriber products. 

Bon Appétit took a page from its sibling brand Allure to create a subscription business similar to Allure’s Beauty Box, but with a cooking twist. This month, the Cook with Bon Appétit monthly subscription box launched, priced at $34 per month, $96 per quarter or $336 per year, providing subscribers with five editorially selected ingredients, five recipes using each ingredient, video instructions and a digital subscription to Bon Appétit and Epicurious.    

On the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast, Robinson talks about the new Sports issue of Bon Appétit, hitting newsstands today, as well as widening the aperture of cooking culture and lifestyle that the magazine covers to appeal to a modern audience. 

Below are highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

Leaning into the larger scope of food coverage

We are launching our first sports issue and I’m a little bit obsessed with the ways that sports and food are interconnected. You can’t go to a stadium without peanuts, popcorn, Cracker Jacks, hotdogs … But also there’s the ways that NBA stars are deeply invested in wine companies. [Or] how we think about hydration [and] how protein powers our weeknight dinners. 

This allows us to really think about, ‘Wait a minute, sports and food are inextricably linked as food is with so many other ways that we live our lives.’ We also have an issue that’s coming up [that] we’re calling our relationships issue, because food does power connection. It’s a real reflection of the change in the industry, and I think it allows us at Bon Appetit to really be leaders and show off our expertise in ways that we haven’t done in a really long [time].

Building lasting relationships with audiences through temporary social interactions 

The algorithm is always changing, so that means that we have to be constantly changing. We have to be thinking about, not only what our audience is searching for, but what are they doing? What are they cooking? What ingredients are trending and what kinds of recipes eventually will come to fruition? If everybody’s watching “The Bear,” they will probably start to ask a lot of questions about omelets … I’m thinking about the ways that we can continue to tap into those audiences from a relationship basis. 

We like to put people on a subscription journey that helps fuel their relationship with food, helps them fuel the relationship with cooking, fuels their relationships with entertaining. How they are spending their time when they’re eating, when they’re traveling, what restaurants they’re going to, introducing them to chefs and I think if you can center [that] around world class content, then you can put people on a subscription journey to spend more time with you.

Getting into the subscription box business 

We want to not only give you a connection to some of our favorite recipes, but we also want to introduce people to independent brands, whether those are spices or different kinds of sauces, vanillas – things that we’re very excited about and we think are important businesses and add to the culinary landscape.

But we also want to be extraordinarily useful, [for example, if] it’s a jar of chili crisp, here are 15 different ways for you to use that in your daily cooking … This allows us to not only use our archive, which is such an important resource, but also gives another way for people to think about how they shop, using brands that we believe in. 

https://digiday.com/?p=549627

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