In its first 15 months of operations, American Food Roots has published more than 325 stories, videos and recipes. It recently added a podcast that will soon be available on iTunes.
AFR editors have become regulars on the conference circuit. Since receiving the NMWE grant, we have spoken at the Food Book Fair in NYC, Monticello’s Heritage Harvest Festival, Les Dames d’Escoffier and the Journalism and Women Symposium. This spring, we will speak at the Roger Smith Food and Technology Conference in NYC and at Love and Hate in the Kitchen conference exploring the social issues around cooking . We have appeared twice on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, which airs on WAMU, Washington, DC’s NPR affiliate. We also launched a quiz segment on local television.
We have made tremendous progress on the financial front. We received our first direct ad, from Michigan State University Press, advertising the first in a series of historical cookbooks, Food in the CIvil War Era. The ad, beginning in April 2014, will run for two months. We launched AFR in December 2012 with a fundraising party that brought in $850. At this year’s party, we received $2,300 in donations. A donate button on the site has generated about $700.
However, we do not plan to exist on donations. The money from J-Lab allowed us to hire a business consultant, who helped us jumpstart our social media strategy, understand and apply our analytics and forge ties with other experts. We now have a highly engaged social media presence, with 1,050 Facebook likes and 1,534 Twitter followers. One of our videos, on Wisconsin frozen custard, was named a Vimeo Best Video for 2013.
AFR now attracts more than 14,000 unique visitors a month and our newsletter reaches 750 readers each week with a 40 percent click-through rate. Constant Contact, our newsletter platform, named us among their 2013 All-Stars, a designation assigned fewer than 10 percent of their users.
The grant has also allowed us to engage an ad sales representative who has just begun work, and a startup strategist who is helping us refine our vision and test our theories along the lines of the Lean Startup doctrine.
We are in active discussions about partnership – financial, content or both – with a major food company, two grocery chains and a restaurant group. An early collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution continues.
New partners include Georgetown University. This semester we welcomed our first intern from the graduate journalism program, and expect to expand our involvement to the marketing and public relations departments this summer. We have also partnered with University of North Carolina’s Global South initiative,
to which we donate 2 percent of all contributions we receive. In return, we will be listed as sponsors of their 2015 conference and will also be asked to present.
And we soon plan to launch some revenue-generating events at the Eastern Market in Washington, D.C.