Who are you and what is your background?
My name is Emelyn Rude and I am a food historian, magazine publisher, and doctoral student at the University of Cambridge.
In what city?
I split my time between Washington, D.C and Cambridge, UK
I used to work as a freelance food writer and noticed that while I always wanted to learn and write about the history of certain foods and culinary movements, it was incredibly difficult to pitch these types of stories to more conventional food media outlets. I thought a food history magazine might be a great idea so I beta-tested it with a Kickstarter in 2017; I figured if it didn’t get funded people wouldn’t be interested in reading it. But the idea met and even passed its funding goal and I’ve been running with the idea ever since.
I don’t have a specific set of stories that I’m looking for or an editorial vision that I strictly follow; all I ask of people pitching is that their idea relates to the theme in some way and be historical in nature. Being flexible like this has really allowed me to publish fascinating and diverse stories side by side with each other. The second “Roots” edition, for example, featured stories on the roots of Chinese food in the Spanish colonial Phillippines, an interview with a chef trying to recreate Native American food from pre-European contact, a story on the history of the concept of eating like a caveman, and more. My mission is just to publish interesting food stories from the past that would otherwise not have an outlet.
Print: Why choose print? What kind of paper you use and why? Typography?
Because print is amazing; it’s tangible and beautiful. You can hold stories in your hand and revisit them again and again in a way that I think is not as easy in a digital format. The paper is my printer’s standard matte paper (which is partially made of post-recyclable materials) which I chose just because it was easy, simple and nice. Of course, the magazine is about old things but I didn’t want it to have an old feel, which is why I went for contrasting typography. Eaten’s title font in Brother 1816, which feels quite bold and modern, and our text font is Baskerville, which has more of a classic and old-school touch.
How’s the public response?
Pretty great actually! There’s sometimes a bit of a cognitive disconnect from people who don’t really know what exactly food history is and how interesting it can be, but once people get into it they’re quite enthusiastic. I’m about a month and a half away from publishing our fifth edition so clearly, there’s a world of food history fans out there.
Can you give us a tour of your local media scene?
As a full-time student, I’m in a weird position because most of the media I consume is in the form of academic journal articles. This scene is as exciting as it has always been (if you consider academic publishing exciting).
Business: Good print mags get a lot of love, but it doesn’t always translate to sales or advertising. How’re sales? Advertising-wise, is it a normal approach of selling an ad or more a brand ad approach?
At this moment the magazine breaks about even on each edition, so it has enough sales to keep it going for a while. I do sell sponsorships, which are custom pages that go with the design of each edition. This seems to be working well, for the time being, although I do hope to boost direct sales enough so I don’t have to worry about sponsorships so much in the future – they take a lot of time for a relatively small return. As the little guy, it is often hard to convince a brand that working with you will be worth it beyond the cool points (which shouldn’t be underestimated!)
What is your online strategy?
Right now the platform that is working best is Instagram, so I try to focus my social media efforts on that. Besides that, the second-best way I have to reach people is through a fortnightly newsletter; it’s a fun way to share articles and updates that don’t really fit anywhere else online.
About design, what does your brand represent/reflect?
It represents a modern, thoughtful and sophisticated twist on the past. Most of the images I use come from the public domain (and so are all at least 100 years old), but I try to use them in new and unexpected ways.
What inspires you and motivates you to go to work every day?
Half the time its because I just don’t want this thing to fail but the other half of the time its because I truly love food and history and can’t believe I have the opportunity to edit and publish some of these amazing stories. I think having both is actually a nice balance; I don’t think I would be as creative or as focused if I didn’t come from it from both angles.
What were your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?
When it comes to independent print magazines, money and finance is always the biggest struggle. You don’t really say “I’m going to start a magazine because I want to constantly worry about my balance sheet,” but that’s the reality, especially at the beginning when things are just taking off. The other, as I previously mentioned, is helping people get over the intellectual hurdle to food history that I think many people have. A lot of magazine stores were initially really hesitant to stock Eaten just because they’d never had anything like this on their shelves and had no idea whether it will sell or not. Most, I think, were pleasantly surprised – of course, it depends on the given issue, but the magazine regularly sells out of most stores it is carried in.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a magazine?
Start small and make sure you have enough money to sustain you for a while; unless you are one of the rare hits that sells out its first edition immediately, the first few issues will be incredibly difficult. And also think hard about the business model well in advance. The print isn’t cheap and you need a game plan to make sure you regularly have enough money in time for the next edition.