Last year I began reviewing new or redesigned magazines as a response to some notable folks like Gwyneth Paltrow, Ree Drummond and Chip and Joanna Gaines extending their brands into print magazines. Last year wasn’t the start of this this trend by any means though. Oprah, Rachael Ray, Dr. Oz, and others are among those who have looked to print to get more mileage out of their name recognition. Less than a few weeks into 2018, we’ve already seen our first new entry into this category with Meredith’s launch of Hungry Girl, a magazine inspired by Lisa Lillien’s website.
For the most part, all of the celebrity-driven titles I’ve reviewed so far are extremely on brand. Further, they all have broad content mixes and double as lifestyle titles. When it comes to Hungry Girl, I would say this is on brand for sure, but it’s content mix is more singularly focused and feels like a print companion to the website, but I will get to that more in a bit.
Let me first start with design, and bear with me, because it’s not all bad news. The cover is atrocious. I hate to be so critical, but it’s a total mess and I feel like I just went back in time to my childhood in the ’80s and am looking at a copy of my older sister’s Tiger Beat magazine, but instead of “The Coreys” on the cover we have pictures of food in mugs. The number of different fonts along with the high impact colors of the fonts make this a busy nightmare and a chore to read.
Okay, now that I got that out of my system, let me talk about the interior design, which is quite good. The TOC is a bit jumbled, but not bad. It’s just a bit too busy. That said, the next page has a really cool recipe guide with thumbs of each recipe and coded icons letting you know if the recipe is 30 minutes or less, gluten free, five ingredients or less or vegetarian. This is a really clever navigation tool and one other food magazines should borrow from.
I absolutely love the use of photography throughout the issue and way the designer allows the images to really own the pages. I wish more magazines and cookbooks used photo treatments like this. That said, showing food that looks that amazing can sometimes be discouraging to the home cook who may be disappointed when their versions don’t turn out as beautiful.
OVERALL DESIGN: B-
I have to be honest, calling this a magazine is a bit of a stretch. This is really a cookbook formatted like a magazine and produced by a magazine publisher. This is recipe after recipe and little else. The recipes are diverse, however, and really offer something for every taste. There is a smattering of magazine-type content, like an editor’s letter from Lillien, light fare bits like tips pieces and Hungry Girl success stories, a crossword puzzle and a single page behind-the-scenes outro. That said, it’s loaded with dozens of recipes and a Hungry Girl fan will probably love getting their hands on a copy.
CONTENT MIX: B
To my eye, the book is short on advertising. The issue opens with a full-page Green Giant unit (looks like a recycled asset), and closes with a Hungry Girl branded flatbread. The only other spot I noticed was a full-page ad for the low-calorie ice cream Enlightened. This is great for the reader, but you have to question if there’s enough meat on the bone, advertising wise, for Meredith. It would be nice to see more custom ad units and products integrated into the recipes.
Hungry Girl hit newsstands this week with a $9.99 price tag. While that is a few bucks more than a typical magazine, it does have heavy stock paper, and its 96 pages are almost entirely editorial. I wouldn’t say this issue is good enough to be a coffee table book simply because the cover is so awful, however, it’s a great value for folks who like to try new recipes and regularly buy cookbooks.
CONSUMER VALUE: A
Hungry Girl is a solid pilot issue with a lot of potential. If this magazine maintains a frequency there’s plenty of room for improvement. But even still, as is it’s a great concept for recipe chasers looking for new ideas.
FINAL GRADE: B