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Food & Wine's Unconventional Tumblr Strategy

Taps non-food bloggers to cover signature event

The F&W Classic photo project. | Photo: Chris Ozer, Alice Gao, Noah Kalina

There are a lot of creative ways media outlets use Tumblr: to post niche content that wouldn’t otherwise get published, surface archived material, interact with their audiences and answer subscriber questions. But with as much freedom as the platform allows, companies tend to draw from their own resources and audiences.

That’s what sets apart Food & Wine’s Tumblr initiative for its signature event, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. The American Express Publishing brand has hosted the Classic for 31 years, long enough for it to have been covered to death by food journalists.

This year, editor in chief Dana Cowin enlisted three photographers not known for food, per se, and asked them to shoot the event, which kicks off Friday, for their followers. They are food/lifestyle photographer Alice Gao, interiors photographer Noah Kalina (who was part of this digital self-portrait project) and Instagram star Chris Ozer, who focuses on portraits and landscapes. A fourth, Nicole Franzen, who was commissioned by the initiative's sponsor, Stella Artois, to blog on its behalf, is known for her still lifes.

Cowin said she was inspired by a Disney Tumblr project that had photographers from around the world shoot its theme parks. “This event has been covered by journalists forever,” she said of the Classic. “But we’ve never had that insider, more personal, artistic point of view. We're giving the bloggers access to everything. It's really to have them showcase their point of view."

The images the four produce from the Classic will be posted on their own Tumblrs as well as on Food & Wine’s, potentially reaching a much bigger audience than the epicurean title's own. One image will be picked to run for a single day (June 19) on Radar, Tumblr’s ad unit that gives the sponsor a major share of voice across the social platform.

Tumblr global head of sales Lee Brown said that while a lot of brands have used creators from across the social network to promote their message, Food & Wine is unusual in that it’s going outside its domain. 

“Brands are looking for influencers to help tell their stories in new and interesting ways,” Brown said. “This is a rare example of a brand taking creative from our community and creating content from the event and using a paid placement to promote it across the network.”

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