Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
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Why a successful digital-first brand from Hearst is exploring print: The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Dan Fuchs, VP of Delish

A digital-first brand from Hearst that has seen immeasurable growth, Delish.com is launching a quarterly print magazine, that will be an integral part of the subscription model the brand has in place for its online footprint. 

“This is where the partnership between myself and Joanna Saltz (editorial director) really comes into play because we worked on this together. Delish.com started 10 years ago, but it really was part of a joint venture that we had with MSN. The Delish as we know it now, under Joanna, really didn’t start until around six or seven years ago. And one of the first things she said we had to do as the brand started to grow was that we had to have a cookbook. We had to have a printed, physical, tangible manifestation of the brand. And that was the launch of the cookbook and it sold well, so we saw that our audience would respond to that.” Dan Fuchs…

A successful digital-first brand from Hearst that has seen immeasurable growth with not only its website, but its printed bookazines and cookbooks, Delish.com is launching a quarterly print magazine. Delish in print will be sold at the newsstands, but will also be an integral part of the subscription model the brand has in place for its online footprint. An all-access subscription of $20 annually will not only get you everything online, but also the 96 page (plus covers) printed magazine as part of the memebership.

Dan Fuchs, formerly of HGTV magazine and O, The Oprah Magazine, is the VP/Chief Revenue Officer of the new quarterly print publication. I spoke with Dan recently and we talked about this exciting new venture into the world of print for a digital-only entity. Dan said it’s an exhilarating time for a brand that has been successful online and in the world of print, with its special bookazines and cookbooks,  to have a quarterly magazine coming out in print. Opportunities and more growth will surely follow. And with Editorial Director, Joanna Saltz, as his partner, Dan is looking forward to the future of Delish in all its exciting extensions.

And now please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dan Fuchs, VP/Chief Revenue Officer, Delish quarterly magazine. 

But first the sound-bites:

On having no ads in the first edition of Delish quarterly: I’m very excited as a chief revenue officer to find ways that we can work with advertising partners on this brand, but the design behind it is not an advertising-driven model. It is a way for us to generate, from a purely financial standpoint more revenue from the consumer, but really to expand the brand into all places that we think the brand will be well-received. 

On getting much more value for your money with the $20 annually all-access model of Delish: It’s a better deal and it’s our way of really trying to encourage our readers to get the all-access. We’ve seen such loyalty from our fan base; we can see that on social media. So, it’s no surprise that here we are now two months in and we’re nearing 30,000 memberships sold and more than two-thirds of them are for the all-access model. And I think you’ll start to see, once the magazine is out, more people going that way. 

On the balance of the advertisers or the sponsors to the content of the magazine or to the revenue: We already have a few page commitments from some advertisers out there, but we’re interested in talking about some deeper integrations, maybe into native content. I think because the structure of the magazine is really bookazine quality, in terms of the paper stock and the photography; in terms of the oversize. We’re committed to a print run size and book size of 96 pages plus covers. So for this year at least, we’re capping the number of advertisers to eight per issue. And we start with advertising in the second issue.

On what role he feels print plays in today’s digital world: What the magazine allows us to do is capture the collectability of something. Delish started 10 years ago, but it really was part of a joint venture that we had with MSN. The Delish as we know it now, under Joanna, really didn’t start until around six or seven years ago. And one of the first things she said we had to do as the brand started to grow was that we had to have a cookbook. We had to have a printed, physical, tangible manifestation of the brand.

On why now seemed to be the perfect time to launch the print edition of Delish: We feel that our audience is telling us now is the right time. I think what we have seen in the data drives, a lot of that is the type of recipes that we’re seeing people really leaning into, the sourdough breads, the baked lasagnas; more of the comfort foods. And a real interest in videos on technique. And an interest in trying something new.

On his elevator pitch for advertisers: I have met with a bunch of prospective advertisers and some of our existing clients and I think the elevator pitch is that this is a natural extension of a brand that already has proven success. And this is a way for you as the marketer; you’ve been working with us on Delish.com and you’ve been working with us with branded content that’s digital; you’ve been working with us on customized social posts; we did a lot of live programming, so here’s a way to work with us on something that we know will resonate with our audience, your customer, but to do it in a different way.

On some  of the challenges he thinks he might face in launching the quarterly magazine and the membership model: You do get into the “why now” and “why print” and as we look at trends on newsstand, I think there is that unfortunate mythology about the print model that we have to address. A hurdle that we have to overcome is to prove to people that this digital-first brand might have a digital-first audience, but that audience is interested in print as well. How do we demonstrate that? Fortunately we have four or five years’ worth of data on our print products and granted it’s been a different model.

On diversity and inclusion in the magazine: I’m excited about this first issue because we feel that Delish has been a very inclusive brand all along, but particularly as we go through the magazine what has always been important to us is that our readers understand the story behind the food or the origins behind the food. And we know our audience is excited to try new and different things. I’ll give you an example. The first chapter is all about eggs, who doesn’t like a good egg to start off with breakfast. But it’s the variety of ways that we’re going to show you to make those eggs. Of course, there’s a frittata, and we have a recipe for Migas, also a Sabich sandwich, which is an Israeli sandwich, and we give you some background on that and the ingredients you need.

On what he hopes to achieve in the first year of the magazine: So the fast forward would be that we prove the naysayers wrong, that we expanded a brand, that while rooted in digital, could deliver on our promise to reach our audience in many different ways. But from an overall editorial perspective, I’d feel like we reached success if we could find our consumers saying this is such a great addition to their Delish experience; it doesn’t replace anything, it’s not redundant in any way.

On anything he’d like to add: We are really proud of this brand and I have to give a lot of kudos to Joanna Saltz and her editorial team who adapted so quickly to an extremely challenging situation. We have a test kitchen in the Hearst Tower that we could not get access to, so her editorial team was doing recipe videos out of their homes and what was really exciting and heartwarming was our audience loved it.

On what makes him tick and click: I have always felt so lucky to be a part of this business, this industry. It is the people that I get to work with. I’m coming up on my 18th year at Hearst and we have exciting things going on. It’s the colleagues that I work with, Joanna as my partner on the editorial side; it’s some of the team members who came with me from HGTV magazine and from Oprah. But it’s also our clients; it’s our advertisers, who are also open and excited about what’s going on.

On how he unwinds at the end of the day: If you dropped by, you might see the bar and the wine fridge, so there’s definitely enjoyment in that. And even though it’s been a full year of cooking for my family, we’ve been able to spend more time together, at the end of the day it’s hitting up Delish, listening to some good music and sitting down with a nice cocktail from one of my favorite new books.

On what keeps him up at night: Not necessarily things about work; I think our country has been through quite a lot, but I’m always a very hopeful and optimistic person. There’s a lot of indecision out there: when are we going back to the office, all the things that we talked about that I love about the business, when are we going back into ad agencies to talk to customers; when are we going to have another ACT Experience, so I think it’s just the waiting. And still accepting the realities.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dan Fuchs, VP/Chief Operating Officer, Delish quarterly magazine. 

Samir Husni: Previously you were the publisher of HGTV and today you’re the VP/Chief Revenue Officer of a new quarterly magazine, Delish. Typically, when I talk with publishers or CRO’s, they tell me how many ads they had in the first issue of the new magazine, but in Delish’s first edition there isn’t a single ad. Is this a new business model that you’re having to adjust to?

Dan Fuchs: Yes, there is definitely a need to adjust. And it’s a great question because it sort of leads into what this new job is for me. As you indicated, I’ve been at Hearst for a while and I’ve had the privilege of working on some of our bigger print brands, HGTV magazine; I worked at the Oprah magazine, and the origin of my new position at Delish is that Delish has been an important part of the overall Hearst digital portfolio. 

But we’ve seen such incredible growth from the brand through all of its digital extensions, obviously the site itself and huge growth across social media, and as we started doing more print products, and this is the beauty of Zoom, it’s the show and tell, whether it be a hardcover cookbook that we produced or a variety of our bookazines, Holiday Cookies from last year, we’ve seen the brand resonate at all touchpoints. 

We’re a digital-first brand; we’re a digital video-first brand, but as we adapt to our audience, and our audience has really shown us, particularly during the last 12 to 14 months, the passion that they have for cooking and the fun and enjoyment that goes around food. 

The new magazine that we’ll talk about today, Delish quarterly, really comes into play as a real enhancement for a new membership model that we’ve come up with. Starting about two months ago, we introduced Delish Unlimited. A lot of Hearst sites now are behind a pay meter. I think we’ve seen as an industry, whether it’s print or digital, people will pay for really good content. And they’ll pay for really good brands and they’ll pay for the authenticity and the integrity that goes behind those brands. 

So, the pay meter was launched in December. Our readers can get up to four free articles and then they’re told now for unlimited access we have two separate models. One is a digital-only, which is $3 per month or there is the all-access model. The all-access model for a $20 annual gets you unlimited content on Delish.com; it gets you access to some new editorial interactive technology that we’re introducing; it gets you a newsletter; and it gets you an annual subscription to the launch of the new Delish quarterly. 

I’m very excited as a chief revenue officer to find ways that we can work with advertising partners on this brand, but the design behind it is not an advertising-driven model. It is a way for us to generate, from a purely financial standpoint more revenue from the consumer, but really to expand the brand into all places that we think the brand will be well-received. 

Samir Husni: When I went to the site to check out this new membership model, one of the things I discovered is if I subscribe to the Delish $3 per month plan, I’ll be paying $36 per year and I won’t get the print product. But if I choose the all-access model for $20 annually, I’ll get much more for my money. 

Dan Fuchs: It’s a better deal and it’s our way of really trying to encourage our readers to get the all-access. We’ve seen such loyalty from our fan base; we can see that on social media. So, it’s no surprise that here we are now two months in and we’re nearing 30,000 memberships sold and more than two-thirds of them are for the all-access model. And I think you’ll start to see, once the magazine is out, more people going that way. 

The financials behind it are we’ve been doing some really great newsstand-only, one-off projects like the Holiday Cookies and we’ve done Soups and Stews; we’ve done a lot of work in the keto space, so the Delish quarterly magazine will be part of this new subscriber model, but of course, it will also be on newsstand as well. And we’ll be promoting in the issue itself; it’s the fourth cover ad, which I will likely sell to a partner for the next three issues, but here, we really want to encourage our audience to go ahead and sign up for a subscription. Potentially, by the end of 2021, it’ll be really interesting to see the balance of subscriber versus newsstand for the magazine. The magazine hits newsstands March 2, 2021, but subscribers might get it a week or so earlier. 

Samir Husni: What about the balance of the advertisers or the sponsors to the content of the magazine or to the revenue?

Dan Fuchs: We already have a few page commitments from some advertisers out there, but we’re interested in talking about some deeper integrations, maybe into native content. I think because the structure of the magazine is really bookazine quality, in terms of the paper stock and the photography; in terms of the oversize. We’re committed to a print run size and book size of 96 pages plus covers. So for this year at least, we’re capping the number of advertisers to eight per issue. And we start with advertising in the second issue. 

What you’ll see is a smaller ad presence than you’ll see in most consumer magazines, but in addition to some run-of-book-ads, you might see some new and exciting and interesting expressions of brands, whether that may be through native content, advertorial content; we’re open to doing a lot of cool things.

Samir Husni: Delish is a very well-known brand. As you said, it’s a digital-first brand and has been in existence for more than 10 years. What role do you think the print quarterly is going to play in this digital age? Your editor wrote in the first issue that here was something you could book-keep forever. Besides being able to keep it forever, what role do you feel print plays today?

Dan Fuchs: This is where the partnership between myself and Joanna Saltz really comes into play because we worked on this together. We both have extensive print backgrounds at Hearst. In addition to being the editorial director of Delish, Joanna is also the editor in chief of House Beautiful, so she knows a lot about brands and how to express them in print as well as in digital. 

I think for us, when we look at the way our audience interacts with food content, recipe content digitally, it’s certainly very active. We can look at Google Analytics and see transit traffic that happens around 3:00 or 4:00 p.m., people are in that what’s-for-dinner type mode. 

What the magazine allows us to do is capture the collectability of something. Delish.com started 10 years ago, but it really was part of a joint venture that we had with MSN. The Delish as we know it now, under Joanna, really didn’t start until around six or seven years ago. And one of the first things she said we had to do as the brand started to grow was that we had to have a cookbook. We had to have a printed, physical, tangible manifestation of the brand. And that was the launch of the cookbook and it sold well, so we saw that our audience would respond to that.

But I always look at this as an extension of that idea. It’s a quarterly publication; it’s designed to be a collectible, and when you see it and go through some of the content, the focus that we’re doing is really big, lush, beautiful photography.

Delish is also very video-focused, so the hyper lapse, the hands and pans; it’s kind of interesting for us to take digital content and translate it into print. You could love pancakes and there’s an IHOP copycat recipe on Delish.com, but here we shoot it for print. And it has a different look and a different feel, that you could eat the food right off the pages, but the service is still there. 

What’s key is that they have to be complementary. And we want our audience to be interacting with the same sort of theme and the same fun that Delish provides, but that the content is not in any way redundant and that it is a different experience. 

Samir Husni: What about the timing for launching this quarterly print magazine? We are approaching one year living in this pandemic; why do you think now is the perfect time for Delish in print?

Dan Fuchs: We feel that our audience is telling us now is the right time. I think what we have seen in the data drives, a lot of that is the type of recipes that we’re seeing people really leaning into, the sourdough breads, the baked lasagnas; more of the comfort foods. And a real interest in videos on technique. And an interest in trying something new. We’re also watching social media and if you’re into TikTok, I’m sure you’ve seen the baked feta pasta craze that’s been going on. And that’s something pre-pandemic that people may have not been as excited and focused about doing. 

Print allows you to really take a recipe and make it more than just functional, really blow it out in terms of the photography and give an overall sense of the food that’s there. So, the audience has led us to that, the data of the type of content that we see doing well has also led us to that. And also, still the success in our print vehicles. We have another print business where we do spiral-bound books that are Amazon print-on-demand. So we take no inventory; we print a new copy every time someone wants one, and particularly during a pandemic those are doing really well. So, we will see.

Again, the success is not heavily reliant on newsstands, although I think we’ll do well there. But our fans who have really grown with us over this pandemic time, they’re the ones who have signed up for the Delish Unlimited membership and they will continue to do so and they’ll be really excited about the new magazine.

Samir Husni: What’s your elevator pitch for advertisers? There are a gazillion of food magazines out there, including your own Food Network among others, what’s your unique selling point for advertisers? 

Dan Fuchs: I have met with a bunch of prospective advertisers and some of our existing clients and I think the elevator pitch is that this is a natural extension of a brand that already has proven success. And this is a way for you as the marketer; you’ve been working with us on Delish.com and you’ve been working with us with branded content that’s digital; you’ve been working with us on customized social posts; we did a lot of live programming, so here’s a way to work with us on something that we know will resonate with our audience, your customer, but to do it in a different way. 

We have some advertisers who think only about print, that’s what they feel resonates with their audience, and we talk to them about how we can work together in the print environment. But if I’m limited in the amount of time I can talk to people, I’d tell them that it’s one of the larger food brands in America with probably the largest growth curve there, proven content that’s data driven, based on what we’ve seen this past year and based on newsstand sales from our other print products, and it’s something that we feel very confident will be successful. 

Samir Husni: What are some of the challenges that you feel you’re going to face in launching the quarterly magazine and this whole membership model and what’s your plans to overcome them?

Dan Fuchs: You do get into the “why now” and “why print” and as we look at trends on newsstand, I think there is that unfortunate mythology about the print model that we have to address. A hurdle that we have to overcome is to prove to people that this digital-first brand might have a digital-first audience, but that audience is interested in print as well. How do we demonstrate that? Fortunately we have four or five years’ worth of data on our print products and granted it’s been a different model. 

Also there was some skepticism from the start just about most of our competitors in the digital food space are free sites, the pay meter is new, but here we are two months in significantly exceeding all benchmarks at Hearst and not seeing any drop-off in traffic overall. 

There hasn’t been that much pushback; I think there has been a “why now,” but the launch of the membership program really seemed to be a perfect time for us to introduce this idea that Joanna and her team have had for a while.  

Samir Husni: Will there be any changes as far as diversity and inclusion in the magazine? 

Dan Fuchs: Absolutely and I’m glad you asked that. I’m excited about this first issue because we feel that Delish has been a very inclusive brand all along, but particularly as we go through the magazine what has always been important to us is that our readers understand the story behind the food or the origins behind the food. And we know our audience is excited to try new and different things. I’ll give you an example. The first chapter is all about eggs, who doesn’t like a good egg to start off with breakfast. But it’s the variety of ways that we’re going to show you to make those eggs. Of course, there’s a frittata, and we have a recipe for Migas, also a Sabich sandwich, which is an Israeli sandwich, and we give you some background on that and the ingredients you need.

I think this is a perfect example of what you’re talking about, this recipe for congee, which is written by June Xie, who runs our test kitchen at Delish. In addition to a really great recipe that our readers may not be familiar with and would want to try, we tell the story behind it. It’s a first-person account that June talks about, such as growing up in Beijing.

Food, as we’ve seen over the last year, food is closely linked with people’s identities and their cultural identities. So we’ve tried very hard in the magazine for people to really see the true story behind the food. And the true story behind the people who are writing about it. 

Samir Husni: What do you hope to achieve in the first year of Delish quarterly?

Dan Fuchs: I would say, and it feels a little déjà vu, with all the things we used to say when we launched HGTV magazine, is there ever a good time to launch a magazine? But the time is when your audience tells you they want it. 

So the fast forward would be that we prove the naysayers wrong, that we expanded a brand, that while rooted in digital, could deliver on our promise to reach our audience in many different ways. But from an overall editorial perspective, I’d feel like we reached success if we could find our consumers saying this is such a great addition to their Delish experience; it doesn’t replace anything, it’s not redundant in any way. 

From a sales perspective, it would be very exciting to see this drive even more memberships, that people are excited about a subscription model. And from an advertising perspective, it would be great to show some examples of really exciting native integrations that we’ve done, that go beyond just the printed ad page. I’ve set the bar pretty high for myself in the past and I’m excited to work together to deliver that this year.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Dan Fuchs: We are really proud of this brand and I have to give a lot of kudos to Joanna Saltz and her editorial team who adapted so quickly to an extremely challenging situation. We have a test kitchen in the Hearst Tower that we could not get access to, so her editorial team was doing recipe videos out of their homes and what was really exciting and heartwarming was our audience loved it. They loved seeing the imperfections along the way. They liked seeing what it was like inside someone’s apartment, with their kids running around. It made it more real to them.

So the editorial team, instead of being overwhelmed or intimidated by that, really rose to the challenge and at a time where people were holding back on certain things, they really pushed forward and we tried new things. That’s what Delish quarterly is about; it summarizes the spirit of Hearst and of this brand and our team. We’re always going to be innovative and we’re always going to put the brand and the audience first.

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click and motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Dan Fuchs: I have always felt so lucky to be a part of this business, this industry. It is the people that I get to work with. I’m coming up on my 18th year at Hearst and we have exciting things going on. It’s the colleagues that I work with, Joanna as my partner on the editorial side; it’s some of the team members who came with me from HGTV magazine and from Oprah. But it’s also our clients; it’s our advertisers, who are also open and excited about what’s going on. 

I love that every day looks different. And granted, it might be in the kitchen versus the living room and that might be the biggest difference in change of location. I do miss getting on airplanes and seeing people in person, but the day is always different and I get to talk to a lot of fun and exciting people. So I consider myself very fortunate. 

Samir Husni: How do you unwind after a hard day’s work?

Dan Fuchs: If you dropped by, you might see the bar and the wine fridge, so there’s definitely enjoyment in that. And even though it’s been a full year of cooking for my family, we’ve been able to spend more time together, at the end of the day it’s hitting up Delish, listening to some good music and sitting down with a nice cocktail from one of my favorite new books.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Dan Fuchs: Not necessarily things about work; I think our country has been through quite a lot, but I’m always a very hopeful and optimistic person. There’s a lot of indecision out there: when are we going back to the office, all the things that we talked about that I love about the business, when are we going back into ad agencies to talk to customers; when are we going to have another ACT Experience, so I think it’s just the waiting. And still accepting the realities. 

I’m looking forward to going back to the way things were in some ways, but also being excited about the stuff we’ve learned doing things differently. I’m excited about how we’ll conduct business in the future. It’s different every year. 

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni
Director of Magazine Innovation Center,
University of Mississippi

Original content republished with kind permission.