The City That Never Cooks: How Gothamist Got New Yorkers Back in the Kitchen

A full-time job, a side hustle, a social life, a family — with so much going on, who’s got time to shop, prep and cook? This is especially true in a city like New York, where the dining and take-out options are seemingly endless and the temptation to take the culinary easy way out is strong.

Enter the Blue Apron meal prep kit: a handy program that delivers all of the fresh ingredients (in exactly the quantity you need) to make unique and delicious recipes in your own kitchen. The limited kitchen space (and bevvy of dining options) available to many New Yorkers meant that Blue Apron might be a hard sell. That’s why they turned to a voice trusted by so many New Yorkers: Gothamist.

“One of the things that’s really appealing about New York Public Radio and the site Gothamist is the way the news is presented tongue-in-cheek and in a shirt-untucked fashion,” says Tom Stern, Senior Account Executive of Digital Sales for Gothamist. “You can easily pick a Gothamist piece out of a lineup.”

Through the “Fall Routine” program, Blue Apron was looking to help New Yorkers reset their routines after the craziness and unpredictability of summer. The hyperlocal site channeled their creative energy into this colorful content that recommended easy meals for New Yorkers on the go. And who better to create a campaign around reviving your routine than Gothamist, who experienced their own comeback earlier this year?

We sat down with Stern to chat about what makes Gothamist special and why brands like Blue Apron want to leverage their trusted authenticity to reach a specific audience.

Gothamist highlights unique aspects of New York culture that can’t be found in any other publication.

Pressboard: Can you tell us a bit about your career at Gothamist and how you got here?

Tom Stern: I’ve been at Gothamist since July 2014, coming up on five years in a few months, which in this industry is quite a milestone. Gothamist has grown and evolved and we’ve adapted our offering. But at the core, the mission of the company has stayed the same: being New York’s most beloved news site on the digital front. Being able to share what’s going on every day with real New Yorkers and really fill a void in the marketplace that no one else is really covering.

It all comes back to authenticity. If you try to be something for everybody, you end up being nothing to anybody.

One of the things that really spoke to me when I saw [the Gothamist] job listing was that I was already a reader and it was in my daily rotation for restaurants to go to, things to do, news stories that you aren’t going to find anywhere else. So, I saw the job posting listed on the site and thought, “Let’s give this a go.”

Who would you say Gothamist’s core audience is?

The way we think of the Gothamist brand and voice and tone is your friend that’s really in the know and always has the scoop, but they’re always happy to share it with you. They’re not saying, “We’ve got this great restaurant, but if I tell you, I’ll never be able to get a table.” We want people to know about it. And to that end, I always get a kick when you go to a restaurant and you see a Gothamist review up in the window of on a homepage, which happens all the time.

A great example of Gothamist’s “shirt-untucked” tone.

Whether you live here, whether you fantasize about living in New York, or simply want to know what’s going on in the cultural capital of the country, we’ve got things for everybody. We cover such a wide swath of topics between news, arts and entertainment, food, politics, real estate, as well as all the wacky wild things that get shoehorned in that are uniquely Gothamist as well — and uniquely New York. [When Gothamist had its comeback] under New York Radio, there was this moment of, “It’s back.” And you could feel it, it was visceral in the city.

The way we think of the Gothamist brand and voice and tone is your friend that’s really in the know and always has the scoop, but they’re always happy to share it with you.

Whether we want to reach native New Yorkers, people who have lived there all their life, recent transplants, or even people that lived here for years, decades, and now live in L.A., Canada, anywhere else and they’re a bit homesick — we want to tie them to the heartbeat of the city and let them know what’s going on that some of the majors might not be covering. Really kind of peel the onion back and find out what’s happening. Real stories for real New Yorkers on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s talk about the “Fall Routine” campaign. How did you know that you were the right fit for Blue Apron, and vice versa?

We figured working with Blue Apron we’d really be able to help them as they wanted to reach New Yorkers who were settling back into the swing of things with summer ending and kind of doing a fall reset. We worked with them to develop a custom content campaign, particularly around their Whole30 recipes. They were really looking to tap into something they’ve invested in a lot, that if you walk around New York, you hear people talking about Whole30, Keto, Paleo, you name it.

Blue Apron provides customers with everything they need to make delicious recipes, like this curry chicken.

In New York in particular, if you try to go to a Trader Joe’s, the line’s going to be all the way around the block. If you don’t want to wait an hour to pick up the specific items for a meal, Blue Apron was a perfect fit.

We thought, since food is one of our top three editorial categories and there’s a lot of food coverage we’re known for, we’d also be a perfect fit to tap into the New York-centric nature of the post. We could lend some expertise as well as touch on our deep food roots — especially with the ability to feature the visual nature of the recipes they had, and to do so in a way that really looked and felt like a Gothamist piece. Obviously it was written by our sponsorship and sales team rather than the editorial folks, but we really felt that it was a nice fit, that folks in New York would want to know about something like this. Blue Apron wanted to reach folks in New York, so X marks the spot.

We want to tie [readers] to the heartbeat of the city and let them know what’s going on that some of the majors might not be covering. Really kind of peel the onion back and find out what’s happening.

I think the other part of the “New York” nature that really kind of struck a chord is that, with Blue Apron, everything’s right there, they make it super easy for you. [You don’t need] a ton of kitchen space or anything, it’s super accessible, super easy — especially for New Yorkers who are so busy and on the go.

The media industry isn’t an easy one by any means, from changes to Facebook’s algorithm to changes in advertising demand. How is Gothamist adapting to those changes?

We’ve really taken pains to be a reader-first publication, whether that comes from the editorial content, the look and feel of the site or the client partners and advertisers that we work with. We’re always thinking about how we can have the cleanest, simplest experience for the reader. If we’re forgoing some dollars or some campaigns in the short-term, for us the long-term benefits of, not only retaining, but growing the audience through that authenticity has been paramount. It all comes back to authenticity. If you try to be something for everybody, you end up being nothing to anybody.

One of the things that’s really appealing about New York Public Radio and the site Gothamist is the way the news is presented tongue-in-cheek and in a shirt-untucked fashion.

In April we’re launching a weekly podcast, which is going to bring everything from the site to the airwaves. So, when you’re in the iTunes store or wherever you get your content, go and check out the Gothamist podcast.

One final question: we do a book club at Pressboard, so we like to ask everyone what their favourite book of all time is.

When my friends listen to this, they’ll laugh at me because I’m a huge closeted nerd and a big Harry Potter guy. It seems like the obvious answer, but my favorite of those is the Goblet of Fire.

[Right now, I’m reading] The White Van by Patrick Hoffman. It’s a crime thriller that takes place in San Francisco. This guy was a private investigator in San Francisco for years and wrote his first novel, he’s since written one of two more I think, about the seedy underbelly of the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco. I was on a couple of planes last weekend and it’s hard to put down. The ding comes on and you can take your seatbelt off, but you just want to keep reading.

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