I’ve been thinking about time, and how starved we have all become.
We no longer have time to read Gourmet magazine. Ruth Reichl said, “We pioneered writing about farmers and issues from the field, and we wrote about genetic engineering when nobody else was touching that. We wrote about trans-fat and it was important for me to do that.” She added, “The advertisers didn’t agree that this stuff was what readers wanted to read. So they buzzed off.”
When the death bell tolled, Gourmet had a circulation of 980,000. Every Day with Rachael Ray has double this number of subscribers. She commands a rapturous following. Short cut cooking is all the rage.
Many magazines are folding. Newspaper circulations are plummeting. USA Today is the top selling newspaper with a circulation of 2,528,4372. The Wall Street Journal has the second highest subscriber base with 2,058,3423. The venerable New York Times is in third place. It has fallen to 1,683,8554. The Los Angeles Times has only 1,231,3185 readers while The Washington Post has plummeted below a million daily readers. These are among the top 100 newspapers. Number 100 on the list has barely 120,000 readers. The advertisers mostly have migrated online.
Sales of cookbooks, (and all but a precious few hard cover books), are languishing. A Kindle can provide a reader with thousands of books at a mere price of $9.99. Literary classics, like Wuthering Heights and the Complete Works of Shakespeare can be delivered in a few seconds at a cost of just a couple of dollars.
All this is troubling news indeed for food writers.
The good news though, is there are plenty of other opportunities. This is the information age where bloggers like 101 Cookbooks are creating new universes. (According to Google, there are currently 12, 847, 478 food blogs, but who’s counting!) There’s also work to be found writing: for supermarket publications; compiling food celebrity profiles; collaborating with chefs to write legible recipes; setting up shop as a restaurant reviewer or a publicist; seeking a position as a culinary librarian or an acquisitions or copy editor, fact checker, proof reader or indexer.
Or, perhaps…a culinary literary agent, who is required to spend his or her days reading, rewriting proposals and going out to lunch. Literary agents are among the few who take authors out for lovely, long lunches, (though usually only once).
Time is at a premium. Serve it yourself and do it yourself is the way to go today. Scan your own groceries. Fill your own gas tank. Check yourself onto the airline and out of the hotel. Find your own telephone number. Buy and sell, online. Earn a degree online. Do your own pregnancy test. Prescribe your own medicine. Heal thyself.
We have stopped cutting our own hair, cleaning our own clothes and looking after our own children. We have largely also stopped cooking. If a microwave “dinner” takes more than three minutes from freezer to table, forgeddabout it!
I mention all these things to emphasize how important it is to keep up with changing trends. It is essential then to identify which sectors of the food and hospitality industries are thriving and which may require a dive into treacherous waters.
The two messages we are receiving loud and clear are: Keep it short and surely you can’t be serious. (Observe the TV Food Network programming.)
So tweet tweet. I am AAK. (Asleep at the Keyboard.)
LOL (Lots of Love)