Occasionally, a new magazine will try to create its own niche. Men’s Health reached out to ab-craving males who like monochrome photography. Monocle noticed that what the Economist really lacked was good shopping tips. And now we have Beef!, a curious new offering from Gruner + Jahr, one of Europe’s biggest publishing groups.
“Beef! is like Esquire, but with meat instead of suits: clean design, good illustration and photography, four different kinds of paper (all thick and matte), original content ideas, and a lot of “what modern man simply has to know.” Which in this case means teaching 30-something advertising executives how to skin a rabbit, how to distinguish the different odours (and their meanings) of a wine gone bad, and that the world’s best whisky comes not from Scotland, but from Japan.
“The magazine tries hard to distinguish itself from “female” cooking magazines (and male cooks from female ones) by focussing on technical details, chemical compositions, and the idea that men have more of an eye for details and quality than women.
“One feature determines the best piece of meat through a Steak World Cup (spoiler: the Irish Hereford Rib-Eye beat the Wagyu Rib-Eye from New Zealand in the final); another compares furniture design classics to food. There’s a piece about a male cooking club (“no women and no limits on spending”) and a musician talking about the most memorable bottle of wine he’s ever had.
“Even soft porn and self-help are present and correct, in a photo feature on sexy knives no-one will ever be able to afford, and an expert interview about whether it’s possible to seduce a woman through food (answer: only if she likes you anyway). And the strangest article is a list of the dishes served in a Beijing restaurant that specialises in male genitalia. Turtle and deer penis salad anyone?
“Doubtless the best feature of the magazine is a centrefold recipe that teaches you how to cook a four-course meal in five hours, with precise instructions on what to do at certain times. The most disappointingly written feature is an article on Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market. Clearly, in this first issue, photography and How To knowledge has been valued over quality journalism.
“Anyway, I read the whole thing cover to cover on a flight and thoroughly enjoyed it. I might even occasionally buy it, despite a cover price of €9.80 and the fact that some of the most interesting content, the recipes and food reviews, are available for free on its website.
“One of the most interesting aspects of the magazine, however, is its business model. As well as its standard advertising pages for big-name brands, Beef! also functions as an inverted supermarket magazine. All the products that are tested or recommended in the magazine, and all the ingredients to the recipes, can be bought via their website. It’s definitely useful, as your neighbourhood supermarket is unlikely to stock wagyu beef or untreated milk. However, it remains to be seen whether they manage to pull a Monocle in maintaining their readers’ trust despite the obvious tie-ins.
“All in all, it’s a weird title for for G+J to launch, considering that their usual portfolio – the Stern and GEO titles and traditional women’s, house-and-garden and cooking magazines – is rather stuffy. But on closer examination, it does fit with the publishing house’s recent strategy of pushing for a slice of the young, male lifestyle market. Together with Beef!, G+J have recently launched Nido (for young and trendy parents), Business Punk (for young and trendy men in business) – and a male gossip magazine, Gala Men. We’ll try to get you a review of that soon.”