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An Appetite for E-mail Digest Trendsetters

  |  March 11, 2010   |  Comments

Tasting Table gives DailyCandy a run for its money in the e-mail digest market.

Anyone who thinks that e-mail is dead doesn't get out much – to great local bars and restaurants, that is. Never before have foodies (and anyone hungry for the latest in social and city trends) been more excited to check their inboxes, thanks to a fresh crop of e-mail digests, related sites, and mobile applications offering content that's nothing short of delicious.

For years, it seemed as though DailyCandy ruled the roost in this coveted digital henhouse. It covers food and drink, of course, but also the latest in fashion, beauty, travel, products for kids, and more, all of which adds up to more than 3 million e-mail subscriptions by way of 28 different editions (the publication was acquired by Comcast in 2008). If the region-specific digital newsletter had one flaw, it's that few competing publications could match its trendsetting caché or boast the same loyal following of affluent, educated consumers; a whopping 95 percent of subscribers say they read the digest every day (now there's a case study on how to boost open rates).

Despite its phenomenal success, DailyCandy's monopoly isn't quite what it used to be. There has been a proliferation in the lifestyle and leisure content category in recent years that has marked the emergence of several new promising players, and these have managed to attract a highly desirable audience of consumers in a relatively short period of time.

The success of these newcomers hinges on the same strategic approach to content development their predecessor is known for: valuable, up-to-the-minute information coupled with a hearty dose of witticism. Consumers and advertisers alike are lining up to get their fill.

A Taste of the Good Life

In 2008, a new daily e-mail digest called Tasting Table launched with the intention of delivering information on New York City's prolific food and drink culture. Since then, a national edition and several other city-specific digests – including Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC – have emerged, all of them offering the latest word in dining, drinking, and cooking.

At the moment, the publication is, as it's quick to point out, "the only major daily e-mail publication devoted to food and drink." This laser focus is resonating with an affluent, educated, influential, and well-established crowd of consumers. The median age of its consumers is 34, with 49 percent aged 35 to 49 and 28 percent aged 18 to 34, and 37 percent of subscribers have a household income of $100,000 or more. They are overwhelmingly college or graduate school-educated (78 percent), appreciate a good bottle of wine (62 percent), dine out one to three times each week (80 percent), and make purchases as a result of Tasting Table recommendations (69 percent).

The site's niche focus has also attracted many major advertisers, most of them from within the wine and spirit, financial services, and travel categories. These include Absolut Vodka and OXO cooking tools, each of which recently took a different approach to integrating themselves with the publication's content.

To promote its new Absolut Berri Açai product, Absolut placed interactive banners featuring a collection of drink recipes throughout the Tasting Table site. This online buy was complemented with a sponsored e-mail highlighting Tasting Table's self-proclaimed "Entertain at Home Month." The e-mail included a link to a PDF-version Absolut-branded party guide that, in addition to food and drink recipes, also emphasized the attributes of the advertiser's product.

OXO's partnership with Tasting Table, meanwhile, helped to increase awareness of the brand and its vast product line and increase the publication's subscriber base. It centered on a limited-time contest in which subscribers could be entered in a new year-specific sweepstakes to win $2,010 worth of OXO cooking tools in exchange for providing two e-mail addresses of friends to whom Tasting Table would send an invitation to join the digest. This wasn't the first effort OXO launched on the site; other campaigns have included the promotion of an exclusive code that Tasting Table readers could use to shop the OXO.com site, and a contest to win online shopping gift certificates.

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Like a traditional print publication, Tasting Table offers advertisers the opportunity to align themselves with monthly editorial themes, from seasonal fare like February's Valentine's Day gift ideas premise, to self-imposed topics like "Green Eats Month," in April. Brands can devise custom content guides or choose to increase their presence on the Tasting Table site with a month-long sponsorship. The publication will also launch an exclusive recipe edition designed for home cooks in the coming weeks, promising to be a good fit for food advertisers.

Next week's serving will feature another food and drink-oriented e-mail publication that's sure to whet digital marketers' appetites, particularly if it's a dialogue with savvy urban males they crave.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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