Focus interview with Helenka Bednar, editor of iLoveMyGrub.com
Website iLoveMyGrub.com aims to feed food lover’s imagination by covering food features, restaurant reviews and recipes. It’s aimed at ABC1 trend-savvy foodies aged 25-54 and currently receives 5,500 unique visits per month.
This week, FeaturesExec caught up with editor Helenka Bednar to discuss her aims to expand the site, her PR pet hates and interviewing Heston Blumenthal.
About the Publication:
How do you differ from other magazines/websites?
Whilst we’re essentially about food, we also put a big emphasis on the ethical side of eating. Animal welfare, food waste, recycling and food miles are all issues that we cover. We’re passionate about food that has been produced with the consumer, the produce and the environment in mind. Not every single page that we feature on the site is based around an ethical angle, but ethical eating is very much part of the site’s ethos.
Describe a typical reader for us:
In a nutshell, our readers love good food. They are people who love eating out and enjoy creating great-tasting dishes at home. They are trend-savvy foodies, aware of rising food prices, animal welfare issues and consumer responsibility. Our audience don’t mind spending a little extra on a bar of chocolate in exchange for its high quality and fantastic taste. Nonetheless they will be looking to make clever savings on their food purchases this year, and are likely to be eating in more than they did last year.
What stories are you most interested in covering?
iLoveMyGrub.com is aimed at complete foodies. The site features restaurant reviews, food product reviews, features, recipes & food news and covers ethical issues from Fairtrade and food miles, to animal welfare and food waste. Every month the best foodie finds on iLoveMyGrub are featured in the website’s regular newsletter, along with competition prizes, which have ranged from a year’s supply of Prestat chocolates, to master classes at The Ginger Pig. You can sign up to our newsletter to see what we feature on a monthly basis at: http://www.ilovemygrub.com/user/register.
We’re always on the lookout for high quality food & drink products to review, with an emphasis on smaller, local-level producers. Features on high profile chefs always go down well too. We also run features with an ethical eating slant e.g. organic food production, food miles, Fairtrade, sustainable farming and animal welfare etc. Anything a little off the beaten track goes down well on iLoveMyGrub: quirky cookery classes, unusual recipes, specialist/bizarre artisan products and chefs & producers that are passionate about what they do. We’re also working on a “How to…” series of features, covering cookery basics/tutorials such as making an omelette, preparing oysters, making jam etc. For these features we’re interested in hearing from pr’s representing high profile chefs who are able to offer guides and tips. Please see an example at: http://www.ilovemygrub.com/features/2008/how-prepare-oysters.html
How do you see the site developing in months to come?
We’ll be introducing more video content across the site and offering our readers more online purchasing opportunities.
How does the editorial process run? Do you have specific days when you focus on different aspects of the magazine, or is the planning on a much more ad-hoc basis?
It is pretty ad hoc, but we tend to plan our newsletters one month in advance. Competitions for the newsletter and the website need to be finalised at least one week before publication. Whilst we’re an online publication, time sensitive recipes and features need to go live on the site comfortably ahead of events (e.g. Valentine’s Day, Easter etc) to allow pages to be seeded effectively with search engines.
Do you work closely with PRs?
Yes – creating strong relationships with PRs is invaluable.
What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
Accurately targeted communications that relate to our target audience are always welcome. Press releases that inform us of local/artisan food products/cottage industries that we may not be aware of are especially useful.
What’s the best starting point for a PR who wants to tell you about their client?
Emailing through press releases is the best method. Attaching a sensible number of images is also fine, but phoning through with an idea initially isn’t the best way to grab our attention. It’s much easier to decide whether to run something with all the info laid out in front of us in an email. Phoning up to follow up on a press release won’t make any difference as to whether we cover it either.
Do you have a PR pet hate?
Irrelevant and un-targeted communications from PR’s that haven’t looked at the website. Follow up phone calls to check whether I’ve received a press release is also a pet hate – if I’m interested in the press release I’ll be in touch – a phone call from a PR won’t make a difference to that.
When is the best time for PRs to contact you & when is your deadline for contributions?
Mornings tend to be the best time as that’s when I trawl through emails, and email is my preferred method of contact. Our lead times are fairly short as a website, so more general recipes can go up on the same day as receiving them if we have time to run them. Having said that, more time sensitive features tend to go up 2 – 4 weeks before the event in order to get effectively seeded with search engines.
What are your editorial duties?
I manage the running of iLoveMyGrub.com: writing, editing, overseeing freelancers, site development and developing partnerships.
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Interviewing Heston Blumenthal was a real high point, because he’s such an investigative chef. He’d also matched some of his dishes to different sherries on the evening I interviewed him, and trying them was a brilliant experience. He made Eccles cakes with Stilton and sherry butter – I really wouldn’t mind existing on that combination. Interviewing hotel proprietor Hugo Woolley about the first meal of the day was also a great feature. He’d been working in food and catering for over 30 years, had run El Vino on Fleet Street, trained the original bunny girls and seen it all I think! Founding iLoveMyGrub.com has also been a great experience. Since we launched in 2007 we’ve had a great response to the website and seeing it constantly grow has been very rewarding.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’d love to run more features around the craft of creating artisan products e.g. cheese making, champagne production, bread making etc. We’re also looking to include more travel based features, and tying that in with artisan food producers and their creative processes is always inspiring.
What do you love about your work?
I love learning about food as much as possible, so reading/writing features where I’m finding out something new is always really interesting.
What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Just do it.
I’d love to have a go at…
Making my own baguettes and brioche with my hands, without a bread maker in sight. I’d also love to get more clued up on making your own flavoured spirits and using flowers and herbs more in cocktail mixing.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag or blogs on your screen?
At the moment there are plenty of foodie mags and broadsheet supplements in a heaped pile by my bed, along with a copy of Harriet Lamb’s Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles. I’ve just started blogging on iLoveMyGrub.com so that’s often taking up space on my screen: http://www.ilovemygrub.com/blog, and I’m currently addicted to Twitter: http://twitter.com/ilovemygrub.