The word content just kills me, how it's so clunky to describe the writing, photography, film/video and audio recordings which are distributed online. It takes exciting stuff and just makes it sound like boring bits of technology in the most functional and uninspiring way.
I'm a big fan of Alton Brown and his new podcast series, The Alton Browncast. In my spare time, I love reading about food, cooking, eating, creating gluten-free recipes, making ice cream, finding out what you can and can't do with crabapples, whatever. I have a stack of vintage Gourmet magazines by my bed. Food writing at its best is like great travel writing; it takes you somewhere else and along the way, you learn something you didn't know. In the first episode I listened to, a guy with an ice cream company described some of the alchemy behind his ice creams and sorbets, with weird ingredients and flavours. I learned to add a little salt to ice cream to enhance the taste and a spoonful of any yellow jam to ice cream or powdered milk to sorbet for texture.
Alton Brown is a great storyteller and in the 'And The Winner Is' episode I listened to last night, he was interviewing the most recent winner of Food Network Star. He was interested in her southern roots and they were talking about pickling. This is a long-form show, more than an hour long, so he's got the room to ask questions more interesting than a TV soundbite. When he asks her to explain how she does her pickles, she starts with the recipe, but he interrupts her to give her a lesson in telling a story. He stops everything to help us all get what makes a good story when you're talking about food and recipes and how to tell it. It was a little meta, and fascinating. Alton Brown has a successful film and tv background as a cameraman before he got into the food thing and what I love about this series is listening to him paint a picture through the narrative of the interview. I feel like a backstage insider to the whole Food TV experience and this interview was like a long, old, New Yorker story for all its richness.
I first liked about Alton Brown's Good Eats series ages ago for his slightly arcane and nerdy deep dives which would fold history and science lessons into a program on, say, salt, while referencing Margaret Visser, a wonderful but not exactly mass media food writer (anthropologist?) who also could go on and on about something like salt. Apparently he's about to launch a new video series on YouTube soon. It's exciting to see him developing new shows which expand from his TV presence in ways that sort of burst with ideas he wants to share about food and the people who make it. For me, the new podcasts and video series are just inspiring. As far as I can see, the series are independently produced and what I admire is his approach to just do it, rather than wait for the gatekeepers of traditional media or brands for permission to create and distribute content.
Online channels are opening up big audiences with niche opportunities for creative people to execute more of a variety of ideas than traditional media allowed and get great stories out to people who are interested without media buyers and broadcast executives getting in the way (and that's got media agencies getting into the content business too). It's huge (Netflix and House of Cards and Orange is The New Black), medium-sized (Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, produced with brand sponsors Acura and Sony) and small (Alton Brown's podcasts don't promote any brands and at the micro end of the spectrum, YouTube is full of video content of best friends or aunts from around the world making their famous dish as if they're a Food TV star). Both as a marketer and as a fan, it's exciting. And I can't wait to see Alton Brown's new series.
Brenda van Ginkel
Every great brand that's making a difference to people or the planet deserves to stand out and be noticed. I write about creative direction and brand strategy for entrepreneurs and those supporting them, packaging concepts with messaging for growth and audience engagement in a crowded, noisy digital space.