My mate Ryan alerted me to an excellent article today. Although I’d never heard of Christopher Kimball or his magazine “Cook’s Illustrated” (I’m not much of a cook) I loved the story of his idiosyncratic personality, and the magazine’s anything-but-business-as-usual model, and its (going by mainstream publishing wisdom) unlikely success.
It’s a fascinating and entertaining read, but what really jumped out at me was this:
From the start, readers latched onto Kimball’s strange magazine with crablike tenacity. Today, roughly three-quarters of subscribers renew, a rate that’s the envy of publishing. In 2007, they signed up their one millionth subscriber, and over the years Kimball has supersized his idea into a franchise that includes 12 seasons of “America’s Test Kitchen,” the most-watched cooking show on public television; a second magazine, Cook’s Country (with its attendant show); reams of special issues and books; a battery of paid Web sites; a radio program; and even an online cooking school, and he has done it without discounting subscriptions or giving anything away or taking on a single advertiser [emphasis mine].
I’ve always believed that personality, intelligent opinion and honesty will always make a product more attractive and successful than focus groups, following the herd and conventional “wisdom”, and it’s lovely to see Mr. Kimball and Cook’s Illustrated prove this so clearly.