Substack Expands Food Newsletters With Ruth Reichl and Others

Ruth Reichl has practiced food journalism in nearly every form imaginable. She’s gone from a job as restaurant critic at a weekly California magazine to a similar post at The New York Times. She’s held the top editing spot at Gourmet magazine, written memoirs, produced television shows and once served as editorial adviser to Gilt Taste, which sold luxury food.

Now she is jumping into direct-to-consumer newsletters as part of a new push by the digital newsletter platform Substack to go deep on food writing.

Ms. Reichl has committed to producing a month’s worth of free daily newsletters as a writer in residence. If the project takes off and she likes the process, she said, she will begin a newsletter that requires a subscription.

Ms. Reichl joins a collection of food writers who will debut Dec. 1 as part of what the platform is calling “Substack Food.”

Food is the second specialized subject the company is taking on, using handpicked writers. The first, announced last summer, was comic books, with newsletters from a group of creators selected by the comic-book writer Nick Spencer.

Substack already is home to several food writers — some who charge a subscription fee and others who write free newsletters. “The food writers are having a good time and thriving, and we want to see more of it,” said Hamish McKenzie, a founder of Substack. “It’s not like food-writer jobs are proliferating or people are getting bigger and bigger deals in books.”

The new group was assembled by Dan Stone, a writer and bar owner who works on writer partnerships for Substack. The writers include well-known names like the TV personality Andrew Zimmern and the chef Andy Ricker, who will be writing from his home in Thailand, as well as lesser-known cooks like Alexis deBoschnek, a former test-kitchen manager at BuzzFeed who will produce a newsletter from her farm in the Catskill Mountains.

For writers like Mr. Zimmern, who will charge $6 a month or $50 a year, the appeal is making a more direct connection to his large audience with recipes and travel tips, with room to delve into topics of the day and global issues.

“This is a printed version of drive-time radio,” said Mr. Zimmern, who once hosted such a show.

Substack writers make money in one of two ways: Either they give Substack 10 percent of subscription revenue, or they agree to a yearlong contract for a negotiated amount, allowing Substack to keep 85 percent of subscription money. (Anyone can produce a free newsletter on the platform.)

There is big money to be made on Substack. The top 10 authors, who include the journalist Andrew Sullivan, the historian Heather Cox Richardson and the podcaster and author Matthew C. Taibbi, collectively make more than $20 million a year,

Ms. Reichl’s newsletter will be a mix of short essays, restaurant reviews and gift guides. She’ll tap her archive of restaurant menus and articles (from the days before journalism was digitized) to produce what will essentially be a small daily magazine, edited by the radio host and cookbook editor Francis Lam.

“There’s a huge interest in food right now, and most of the stuff that’s available is focused very much on recipes,” Ms. Reichl said. “There are not a lot of places for thoughtful food coverage. Food is about so much more than recipes and restaurant reviews. It’s a really important part of culture.”

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