Fishbowl Five With Taste of Home EIC Catherine Cassidy

Q&A with TOH's top editor for the past 10 years


Catherine-CassidyPrint may be facing an uncertain future, but magazines like Taste of Home are finding ways to do more than just keep afloat. Last year, Taste of Home’s print ad pages grew 9.2 percent year over year, its digital traffic increased by 56 percent year over year, and the mag was among the top three publications in terms of social engagement. (The TOH brand as a whole gets 50 million-plus impressions each month.) Even its popular Live Cooking School events have expanded — online. Editor-in-chief Catherine Cassidy, who’s been at the helm for more than 10 years, credits the magazine’s success to its being especially in tune with its readers:

“We are based in Milwaukee… and I find it to be a huge benefit to live in an area where you walk among your customers all the time. When I see someone pick up Taste of Home in a grocery store, I’m all over them, like, ‘Oh, what made you pick it up?’ So I think it gives us an interesting advantage.”

Here, Cassidy answers five questions on the mag’s community of sharers, why she’s found it beneficial to “ski the conditions” and more.

FBNY: You were named among 2014’s Most Intriguing People in Media by Min. What was that like, and to what do you owe that recognition?

Catherine Cassidy: Well, it was an honor and a privilege. Most of my career, I have worked outside of the New York City media, and — Taste of Home is a very, very big brand, but I don’t move in New York City circles, so it really was cool to be recognized in that group of people.

Our brand is really unique. We have scale and we have engagement at the same time. It’s really vast. We have a lot of customers, but they love Taste of Home — they love us, and in every platform that we’ve expanded to, we continue to delight customers. And the fundamental reason is that there’s a great deal of trust of our brand, because all of our recipes come from our readers, so they sort of invent the brand themselves by sharing their recipes with us and their stories with us. I feel like I’m not really the powerful editor; I’m kind of a steward of the brand and it’s the customers who inevitably shape what our magazines and our books and our website become.

FBNY: The magazine has seen large growth, on both the print and digital sides. How has your team accomplished this?

Cassidy: I think we really listen to our customers. And I was saying this at the Min breakfast, if we listen to them and understand what they like and what they don’t like, that, yes, they do cook with cream soup and they eat Jell-O and they go to church and — you know, if we really tune ourselves to that and get out of the way and create the product that they want, it grows. I have an amazing team. They’re very, very much in touch with what our readers and our users are looking for. And honestly, one of the things that we’ve been focused on very much the last three or four years, is what I call ‘back to the future’ — you know, looking at the older magazines and [figuring out] what was the magic then and how do we replicate that in a modern way for today. [For example,] looking at the issues from 1993, the photography is funky and old-fashioned, but people loved it.

FBNY: What’s the secret to your success on social media?

Cassidy: People love to share. We have over 3 million Facebook fans. They love to talk to one another. They always have. We used to have a column in the magazine called ‘Does Anyone Have…?’ and literally people would write letters and say, ‘I have this recipe that my grandmother had. It used baking chocolate and cinnamon’ and blah, blah, blah, and we would publish it and then people would write letters to this person answering their question. We kind of were doing what social media does before there was ever a Facebook. If you go onto our Facebook site, we will put a post up, ‘Here’s a great recipe from so-and-so,’ and within an hour it’s got 1,000 likes.