Tasting Table, the daily epicurean email publication in the same vein as Thrillist, doesn’t fancy itself just another “To the trash bin with you!” newsletter. With stringent editorial standards (“no pay for play”) and a management team plucked from established print brands like Condé Nast, Tasting Table is quickly eking out a space for itself in the crowded foodie sphere.
The New York-based startup has doubled their year-over-year revenue for the last two years, and projects revenue of $10 million to $12 million and a count of two million readers by the end of 2012. Tasting Table does it by producing quality editorial work packaged into daily emails, with advertisements for various restaurants and bars sprinkled throughout.
Betabeat spoke with David Hamilton, Tasting Table’s new chief revenue officer, who recently left his position as associate publisher at Details to join the team. Prior to that, Mr. Hamilton served for nine years as publisher at Interview magazine.
We thought that seemed like a dramatic shift in responsibilities, but according to Mr. Hamilton, his old job as publisher and his new position are actually quite similar.
“To be honest, it’s not a drastic change,” he said. “Maximizing revenue is the goal of the job, which is really the same goal as in the publisher’s job at a print publication–managing the brand in a way that appeals to advertisers.”
Still, a move from Condé to a startup seems like a pretty big change, primarily when it comes to company culture. Why’d you decide to do it, we asked?
“I think the real impetus to come to Tasting Table had to do with the opportunity to work at a pure play digital brand,” he said. “Having spent nine years at Interview and then also working at Condé Nast and seeing how the print-based brands are approaching digital, it really does seem that they’re not making the transition very well. It’s really hard for them to let go of the revenue-based model of advertising based on their print brands. They just can’t quite give digital the attention that it needs, when it’s clearly a place that all media is headed in the future. For me, [Tasting Table] was really appealing just because it’s a really successful pure play digital brand.”
Mr. Hamilton said that Tasting Table’s current focus is to beef up their staff–right now they only have 40 staffers, spread out across six U.S. cities–and he will work primarily on formalizing the ad sales process.
What is most interesting about Tasting Table is that it has mostly flown under the radar, while still managing to see impressive growth since its launch in 2008. With its strict editorial rules, the team also considers the publication a competitor to traditional food and wine print magazines, instead of the myriad food blogs out there.
“There’s a real editorial integrity [at Tasting Table],” said Mr. Hamilton. “It’s real food journalism by real journalists, which I think is unusual in the digital space–to apply the standards of print journalism to a digitally distributed medium.”
“We’re most likely to compare ourselves to print media, such as Food and Wine and Bon Appetit and Saveur, just because of the level of content,” he added.
Looks like they have some big shoes to fill.
UPDATE: A previous version of this article stated Tasting Table is under the Thrillist umbrella. In fact it is not owned by Thrillist, and simply shares the same investors–Pilot Group–with both Thrillist and Daily Candy. “We consider ourselves sibling publications to Daily Candy and Thrillist,” clarified Tasting Table’s director of communications, Kai Mathey.