What Publishers Can Learn from Eat Drink Lucky’s E-Mail Success
Executive editor Gillian Britt explains the brand’s unique format.
Email newsletters have long been attractive to publishers because they allow for direct interaction with their audience, which is typically comprised of readers who are very attuned to the brand's message, choose to receive content daily, and are thereby often more engaged than other audiences.
A more recent trend, food and drink related content, has taken off across different platforms over the last few years, from Buzzfeed’s Tasty videos to Time Inc.’s launch of Extra Crispy, a brand focused entirely on breakfast, just last week.
But Eat Drink Lucky (EDL), a daily e-newsletter launched in January 2015, saw a way to differentiate itself from other food news brands by modernizing the platform, focusing on mobile-first, short, and localized content.
Co-founded by Gillian and Jim Britt of gBritt PR and Kevin Phelan, a former partner at Gutenberg Communications, EDL targets ten markets across the U.S. Each email contains three tips, one for each category (Eat, Drink, and Lucky), and typically ranges between 70 and 200 words.
By modernizing the format, EDL becomes more appealing in today's on the go culture and cultivates a loyal subscriber base. In conjunction with the recent boom in food and drink content, it's no wonder that the brand has already launched a blog on The Huffington Post and worked with celebrities like Anna Kendrick.
Folio: had the opportunity to sit with Gillian Brit, co-founder and executive editor, to discuss the inspiration for the brand, its unique format, and future plans.
FOLIO: What was your inspiration for launching Eat Drink Lucky? Did you see a particular demand or a void in the market for the brand?
Gillian Britt: There are a lot of websites you can go to, and you can read magazines and newspaper sections [dedicated to food], so there’s a lot of food news out there. But there wasn’t really anything that had a local voice and was super short, and designed specifically to be read on the go. [Eat Drink Lucky is] definitely designed to be read on your phone. So it has that kind of mobile-friendliness to it. The length of it is also very different.
FOLIO: Why did you choose to be mobile-first, and how does this platform impact the type of content you produce?
Britt: If you look at the way people are using their smartphones now you know that most people are getting their news that way. It’s a trend that has continued to grow and, in fact, we know that 56% of our readers or more are reading it on their phones. So if you think about that trend as being something that’s only going to continue, then obviously you would want to create something that was mobile friendly. Once you start thinking about what works really well on the phone and how you share content on it, then logically you want it to be designed in a way that would be easy to read. It scrolls from top to bottom, it has the images at the top and then the copy below, so visually we think about how it’s going to appear. Then the content itself also has to be short, because when something is really long and it’s on the phone, it isn’t an easy read any longer.
FOLIO: So did that influence your decision to include three tips per email?
Britt: Well, the concept always was three tips. Each Eat Drink Lucky has a tip for the category Eat, which could be a bakery, an entrée at a restaurant, or a lunch, but it’s always something to eat. Drink, likewise, is always something to drink. Then Lucky serves a couple of different purposes: it could be a long lead for an event that you should know about ahead of time and prepare yourself for, buy tickets for, or it can be a special dinner, or it could be as simple as a great place to pick up items for a picnic and a great spot to take that picnic. It really serves as a reminder of what makes where you live so great. So it’s where we also put cultural events, like museum openings, gallery exhibits, concerts, symphonies, things like that.
FOLIO: How is your content developed; is it just staff writers or do you reach out to freelancers?
Britt: We work with a team of freelancers. They cover their markets and then submit it to a managing editor. All of the content is reviewed and then it’s reviewed by me one more time before we send anything out. We have a calendar that tracks upcoming holidays and events, things that we want to be aware of. Right now its Negroni week, and I think all 10 of our markets have written about Negroni week in some way. If they haven’t yet, they certainly will this week. Then holidays—we want to make sure we are preparing people in advance for those as well if there’s something that they need to think about. Often you want to give somebody a longer lead. For example, Mother’s Day is always big for brunch, so we would want to remind people at least a week before that they need to make their reservation, so they’re not left stranded.
FOLIO: What are the ways in which Eat Drink Lucky is monetized? Is it mostly ad-supported?
Britt: We have had some advertisers and we’re working on hiring a sales person now; it’s kind of been sporadic to date. We have a couple ideas we’re working on that we haven’t unveiled yet. But definitely advertising would be one of the methods for revenue.
FOLIO: Your content has been featured on The Huffington Post, is that something that is ongoing?
Britt: We do have a blog there. It’s nice to have the blog, it definitely does add another layer for people to see longer pieces if they’re looking for more information. It’s been great, too, for round-ups, because we do see a lot of trends in our different markets.
FOLIO: What are some of the ways that, in a short period of time, you’ve been able to cultivate authority for your brand and the trust of your audience?
Britt: Our writers are really great and they have a lot of knowledge about food and the industry. We do also have a Facebook account, Twitter, Instagram, and we are able to share food news that way. The food community overall is really great. First of all, there’s a huge audience for food and just being able to reach so many people who are curious about something right now is great. Then the fact that it is local content, it really resonates with people. We’re not only focused on what’s new, so it also serves as a reminder. Everything else is always so focused on what’s new, what’s opening now. We want to have a mix of those really standard classics that you don’t want to forget. So when you’re building that food audience and that reader base, it really does connect with people.
FOLIO: Is that part of why you think consumers are hungry for localized, sort-form, mobile content?
Britt: I think they’re hungry for it because it makes it easier for them. I think the curiosity for food information is already there, but right now there are a lot of different sources that you have to weed through. So we’ve created something that really makes it easy, comes right into your inbox. As I said, it’s really short and it’s mobile-first. We’ve had people say it’s like theSkimm. There are a lot of people too that say it reminds them of Daily Candy. It’s not a format that has never existed before, it’s just that we’ve taken it and made it a little more modern.
FOLIO: How did you select the markets you’re currently in?
Britt: There was a lot of research. Portland, Maine is the smallest population, but we looked at population size, food news, restaurant coverage, and what kind of foodie markets they are. We picked 10 really strong food-centric cities. The reason Portland is there is because Portland has been growing a lot in food recognition, and it’s also where we’re based.
FOLIO: What are your plans for future growth?
Britt: Well, there are a lot of cities that we’re really curious about. Right now, we’re really focused on the 10 we have, but there are cities that are definitely on our radar that we would like to introduce ourselves to or launch in. We’ve also talked about some coverage abroad as well—international editions—but that’s quite a ways off. The fact is that it’s really something that could be started by us anywhere because we have the content management system built; we have the whole model in place. You find a really good food writer, make sure that person is knowledgeable about their region, and we can be up and running. But we want to stick with what we have for now.
FOLIO: Anything else to add?
Britt: I think that email is one of those really great ways of connecting with readers. When you’re reaching somebody and you’re in their inbox seven days a week, you really do become a kind of trusted friend. You become a very familiar sight and it’s nice to have that relationship with readers. They are very loyal. It’s a low unsubscribe rate, which has been really great to see because it’s a lot of email to be reaching out with. But we hear routinely from people that because it’s so short, they really enjoy it. They read it in the morning—it takes them a minute to read—and then they go on with their day. The tone is fun, which also lends to that.