We talk to the founders of one of London’s fastest growing food magazines, Root + Bone. They had an initial print run of 2,000 and they are now seeing 25,000 copies hitting the ever expanding food scene…all in just 3 years. Find out more about bringing the magazine to fruition, remaining distant from competition and lessons learnt along the way:
Please can you introduce yourselves and Root + Bone?
There are four of us on the team at Root + Bone, Alex and Mark, both designers, Ant’s a chef and Steve is a food photographer. We also have a large network of contributors who we couldn’t do without.
Root + Bone was started in 2013 when we all collaborated on a cook book project for the men’s health charity, Movember.
Had you ever expected yourselves to be in magazine publishing? Did you have experience beforehand?
Steve has shot editorial for 10 years and so had a lot of experience in magazines
but not on the publishing side. Alex and Mark have art directed various publications. After working together on the cook books we started pitching ideas as a team to magazines that Steve was shooting for, but they thought we were too outlandish - so we said fuck it, we’ll do our own magazine. We didn’t expect to end up here about to release Issue 11, we are pretty excited about that.
We’ve also found that publishing the magazine has led to a larger role that’s more like a creative agency. We’re now collaborating with brands and events across various media channels – so ironically the magazine is just one of the things we do.
Have you always been big foodies?
We hate the word foodie. So no.
What are the biggest food trends of the moment?
People taking photos of everything they eat before they eat it and posting the photos while they eat it.
What is your favourite dish at Root + Bone?
How did you first go about printing and distributing?
For printing we used an online service, but we have a new printer now that our volume is up to 25,000 copies. The first few issues we rented zipvans and distributed copies around London by hand on the weekends. It was a great way to meet our initial stockists and build a relationship with them from day one. Part of the plan was making sure our magazine was seen in places that we liked and respected. We have kept all of our original stockists which was around 20 and now have over 350.
How did you approach advertisers?
We try to keep ads to a bare minimum in the magazine; preferring to partner with brands that we really like. The ideal situation is that we decide on our key editorial themes – then a brand will sponsor our time and travel or give VIP access to make it happen. Other times it’s a case of providing an ingredient or piece of equipment that we would have had to source ourselves. The key is making sure it’s a natural fit for the magazine, and relevant. It was harder at first when we were new on the scene, but thankfully people we approach now are not only aware of the magazine, but seek it out.
Were they receptive to you as a new magazine?
Like any new relationship, they wanted to see a track record, and look at the company we keep. Thankfully we have some of the best cafes, restaurants and bars in London as stockists so that helped build confidence. We started a print magazine in an online world which in some ways was against the tide – but there has been a resurgence in people wanting something tactile again – so that helped. We’ve also been working our digital side and instagram is strong for us so it’s all part of the mix.
What have you learnt from your competition within the food/media industries?
We started this magazine as a reaction to the standard of food magazines already available. We like to keep ourselves as far removed from them now as we did then.
How long does it take you to plan, compile and publish an issue?
It’s a quarterly magazine but we are working on it every day. There’s so much admin needed in keeping up in touch with stockists, contributors, partners and chasing deadlines. Now that we’ve started doing events and consulting it’s added more work into the mix We generally take 2.5 months in every 3 month cycle for getting an issue together, but something like instagram is every day. We had hoped that as it would grow we would get into a rhythm and work less - but I think we might have been naïve about that. The good thing is we meet people every day who are inspiring us to to keep it growing.
What are you key tips to survival in the world of media?
Stay authentic, true to your roots and don’t sell out.
Where can we find a copy of Root + Bone? And how did you choose your stockists?
We are currently printing 25,000 copies that are distributed at over 350 hand picked stockists around London and a few international cities. We prefer that than to handing them out to passers-by at tube stations. Our stockists are as engaged with the magazine as our readers. They are independent purveyors of food and drink and so our magazine relates to them just as much as anyone. We often hear that the public don’t get the magazines as the kitchen staff have snapped them all up and that’s totally fine as they are our readers too.
What is your favourite social media platform to promote Root + Bone on?
Twitter is too much work. Instagram is pretty much the social platform of the food industry. Our magazine is very visual through photography and illustration and this is a great medium to share this work, shout about how great our stockists are, show highlights from our events and give fellow Londoners recommendations on places to eat out or new food products available through our #rootreviews.
What are your future plans for Root + Bone?
We want to continue to increase our print run, expand our digital offering, collaborate with more brands on events and activations, and possibly launch in other markets.
What has been the biggest learning curve since your launch in 2013?
Imitation is the nicest form of flattery.