Gourmet's back! That is, as an iPad app. It promises to be an "all new, and incredibly rewarding way to experience Gourmet." So is it? Not really.
Let me explain: After downloading the free-for-now iPad app, the opening page displays seven magazine-style features, with glossy photography and, in some cases, recipes. With few exceptions, most of the images, beautiful though they are, are static.
CHOW editors found themselves tapping to no avail, hoping for outtakes or slideshows. (We did find one on an article about Eataly, Mario Batali's new Italian food emporium in New York.) One of the only videos we found was attached to a feature about autumn cocktails and was simply footage of the photo shoot for the feature with music playing over it. Why did I just watch that?
Annoying interface issues: You could mostly only scroll the pages down, not to the right. In order to get to the next story, you had to go back to the front page by clicking "close story" at the top left of the screen. We've been taught by the Web to look for "additional content" buttons on the bottom right, or at the very least to see multiple points of entry offered somewhere. This made us feel like we were constantly getting stuck and having to backtrack.
There were some quirks: An introductory video about Gourmet Live explains that "the more you explore, the more ... savory rewards you'll earn." These rewards are "exclusive content." How "rewards" would be delivered, or what "rewards" are, was not explained very well. I can only venture a guess that CHOW staffers played around on the app long enough to unlock our rewards, because by the time I had my turn with it and tapped the little "rewards" button in the upper lefthand corner on a whim, I found some more stuff such as an article on fall ingredients, more fall cocktails, grilling, etc.
OK, a few words about the content itself: Quick caveat before I come off sounding like a total jerk: The iPad is really new, and it would have been shocking if Gourmet Live had radically taken advantage of all the device had to offer by offering a mind-blowing new way of presenting food media. They didn't, it's no big deal, but here are some things to think about as we try to create new food content for the iPad.
The mix of Gourmet Live's topics was interesting and the writing is good, but it felt very old school magazine-style. For instance, the Eataly article was well done but lengthy. A piece on gourmet tailgaters contained a quote I found ironic given the platform: One of the characters, referring to a friend who couldn't be at the game, said, "We've all been sharing texts and pictures with him of what's going on right now, so he's been here in spirit." The immediate, real-time, socially networked connectivity the guy's talking about couldn't be further from the experience of reading the story, which, by the time it gets to the reader, is ancient history. How will social media and real-time interactions be incorporated into this type of story in the future? It's kind of intriguing to think about.
One last thing: The Eataly story was written by Eater NY editor Amanda Kludt, and tailgating by Serious Eats' Adam Kuban. This will be an ongoing partnership, apparently. According to a Diner's Journal article, Serious Eats gets a fee for its work, and the Eater brand gets exposure while its individual writers get paid by Gourmet Live. It did seem lame, though, that there weren't links to the contributing publications.
Image courtesy of Gourmet Live