We’re No Longer On The Media Hamster Wheel

As I sit here writing this new mission statement for today’s relaunch of The New Potato, a track from Nina Simone is playing in the background. I’ve listened to it many times over the course of my life, but each time it’s different, each time it seems to tell me something new. The same goes for watching Casablanca for the 30th time, or going to a favorite restaurant time and time again, or visiting an exhibit at the Met too many times to count, or coming back to an article in Porter once I’ve had some time to mull it over, or consuming a season of Stranger Things while analyzing every nuance in plotline at dinner with friends on weekends.

After four years as editor of an online magazine, I’ve realized one important thing: Good content is not a one-stop shop. Good content is something you want to come back to time and time again. 

There comes a point in every entrepreneur’s career path that you become sick of what you do. Oftentimes, this can mean you need to slightly switch directions, or find it within you to risk raising money then spending money to expand more because you’ve reached a plateau.

It took Danielle and I around a year and a half to realize that rather than continue to play the game of chess we were playing, we would instead switch the board.

When we started The New Potato, we aimed to be to food what Vogue is to fashion, Rolling Stone is to music, Vanity Fair is to entertainment: It’s something you’ve probably heard us say many times in interviews before. To us, the world of food was a show, the world of food was entertainment, the world of food was art – so food embodied everything. 

In the beginning, when we posted just one story a day, we knew we were delivering something to readers that filled a void in the world of food. We were producing long-form quality photography, editorial and video content that all shed new light on the industry, and had a unique perspective. People were excited, we were getting press, and we knew we were doing something different. 

Around two years in, we were getting asked more and more by advertisers about website traffic. They didn’t inquire about sessions (sessions count the amount of times you visit a site, so if you visit The New Potato 10 times in a month, that’s 10 sessions), instead what they cared about were Unique Visitors per Month. A Unique Visitor per Month only counts an individual reader one time per month. If they visit that site twenty times over the course of one month (20 sessions), they are still only counted once. 

We never really understood why UVM was the most important barometer people were going by. Surely, sessions were also a great indication of engagement and shopping habits. The person who came back twenty times in a month was a more valuable customer, a customer more likely to shop, than someone who came to a site for a millisecond because a random pop-up had led them there.

Aren’t many of the best customers at retail stores the ones who come repeatedly to shop, rather than the ones who accidentally wander in?

The industry wasn’t seeing it this way though, so we began to play the traffic game everyone seemed to be playing. 

We upped our content to posting 4 times a day, and started using a Search Engine Optimization Forecast, going off this trends schedule that many publishers live and die by. It breaks down what readers are searching for month to month, allowing publishers to analyze how to get more traffic and win terms on Google.

Winning terms can be a combination of posting a lot on a certain topic and tagging things the way the SEO forecast and report tell you. So if you publish enough content on the Paleo Diet with grabby headlines, long lists, and slideshows, you’ll perhaps get more traffic and show up higher on Google when people search “Paleo.”

Introductory meetings we went to with others in the industry usually led to us getting the same sort of advice: We should post a ton more content (forget what that content was about), behemoth lists were king (the more stories like ‘200 places to go to get the most decadent burger ever’ the more we’d see a traffic uptick) and be more concerned about patterns on Google Trends than content and topics that excited us, and were on brand for The New Potato.

Initially, the strategy worked perfectly. Traffic grew 100% over the course of a year. Much of our content became formulaic; something we overlooked at first as we basked in the glory of doubling the amount of readers we had. You’d be surprised at the immediate, temporary high one can get from an exponential increase in a number.

That’s exactly what the result was though: A temporary high. 

As traffic started to plateau, we started wondering what “media company” – the phrase we so often used when asked “what do you want to be in 10 years?” – even meant to us anymore.

What did it mean to be a media company in this new digital world? If it meant posting even more content than we already were – much of which had become less meaningful to us – why did we want to be one? 

More importantly though, we started hating our jobs. Danielle and I would go out to dinner and have conversation after conversation about where this all was going. We felt guilty giving up on a formula that was bearing results, but how meaningful were those results? Our content felt like a machine, not a brand.

We couldn’t pinpoint our reader as well anymore, and what’s worse, our site’s content had started to mirror every other site’s in the industry. It started becoming clear to us that so many websites were going off of that same Search Engine Optimization forecast, and because of that they were losing their unique perspective and voice.

We decided we weren’t going to let that happen.

We aimed to do something that’s essentially unheard of in terms of having a website in 2017: We’d dial it back to just one post a day; not because we don’t think content is important, but because we respect good content and the time it takes to digest it.

We decided to be something you’re going to look forward to each day, not simply something to scroll through.

Rather than thinking of our website as a platform to get as high a volume of content out as possible, we’d now think of it – and our social accounts – as a way to communicate one incredible piece of content each day in a variety of different, unique ways. 

If you’ve gotten this far along in the mission statement you may be wondering, “Ok, that all sounds great, but what is The New Potato now? What will be their perspective going forward?”

Good question, Potatoheads. 

We are content creators who believe – like Shakespeare – that “all the world’s a stage,” and for us, that stage is the world through the lens of food. Since most of us live at least 50% of our lives on the internet and on social media in the present day, there needs to be a destination that treats it as such on those platforms. We are that destination. 

We are now not only a publisher, but also a full-on creative agency. There’s The New Potato, and now – its sister restaurant – The New Potato Studios.

We’ll approach and present entertainment, fashion, design and lifestyle cinematically, through the lens of food, and always as a production. Our original ethos has always been quality content, where multiple viewings are required. 

A famous restaurateur can serve the same dish for many years, tweaking it and perfecting it for both new and repeat customers who come over and over again, and the same goes for the old Hollywood studios who have produced films that all of us still watch nostalgically growing up, or the old TV networks who produced shows whose reruns we consume time and time again. How can you say no one has an attention span when Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows on television?  

Why is it that content-creating websites – the equivalent of Hollywood studios or TV networks in the present day – can’t create that quality content? Why can’t they produce just one piece of content daily that’s consumed multiple times in multiple ways across multiple platforms, rather than scrolled through absentmindedly until the next piece of meaningless content pops up? 

When we produce one Feature Presentation each day, we see ourselves as a studio like Warner Brothers, a television network like TCM, a restaurateur like Thomas Keller. We’ll promise to present something you’ll consume every which way and then eventually – after scrolling through some other website – be dying to come back to and revisit. 

We hope this promise excites you, and if it doesn’t yet, let us prove it to you. Because from this day on, we’re putting you, and us, first.

72 thoughts on “We’re No Longer On The Media Hamster Wheel

    1. Thanks Pam! We’re happy to have you back, and hope each Feature Presentation delivers you something you devour like before! We think it will 🙂 Don’t hesitate to let us know what you’d like to see more of! XOX Laura

  1. I’m glad you are back in control. And totally agree most websites produce garbage that they post over and over again. I use to ❤️Your website at the beginning and started to loose interest. I’m defo excited again

    1. Glad to have you back Julie! And you’re absolutely right, we’re excited to be switching the chess board 🙂 – Laura

  2. …oh here’s a book buffet, a magazine platter, some tv power breakfasts, blog tasting and a whole lot of event seasoning to cater for your re-launch. Enjoy!

  3. Thank you for this – being bold is the way to go!

    As a publisher of a new print and digital magazine (ROSE & IVY Journal – you should check it out – it covers food, fashion, travel and beauty!!) that is trying to do something different, convincing potential advertisers to do SOMETHING different (aka meaningful content that isn’t just churned out without thought or the sponsored stories that don’t even make sense) amid the sea of homogenization and boring same/same content is tough. I am hoping this is the new wave of how content is produced. Thank you!

    1. Such a good point Alison, and we’re really excited for this new direction in terms of meaningful content. Looking forward to checking out your digital magazine, and glad to have you as a Potatohead! XO Laura

  4. I read the whole article, I didn’t skim it, and I’m so excited for the “old” New Potato. I know there will be great content, and I am definitely a repeat consumer.

  5. Bravo! I’ve been an avid reader for over three years now and I have to admit that the quick click-through content that was appearing in the last 9 months started to lose my interest. The stories that you guys post are why I love visiting the site everyday. Looking forward to seeing more of them. In an age where we are bombarded with quick reads that are low on quality, I find The New Potato so refreshing. Keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks for checking in Veronica! For now, if you just search old stories on Google they’ll come up! We’re in the process of deciding how and what to migrate and where to put it, but all the old content is there if you just search for it. Thanks for your patience as we sort through this, and happy you love the new site!

  6. I am very excited to see where you go. I have loved your content since I started getting the newsletter right after your launch. Best wishes to you both!

  7. So thoughtfully and honestly expressed. I’m positively thrilled with this news! I began reading as an undergrad and very much look forward to falling back in love with your content. xo.

  8. This has me so excited. I used to love and visit TNP often, but it became a chore and the emails seemed like sponsor-driven clickbait. Really looking forward to this course correction. And bravo for having the bravery and clarity to attempt it!

    1. Thanks Elisabeth! What you said is exactly one of the reasons why we did this in the first place. Excited to have you back in a real, authentic way. Let us know if you’d like to see more of anything!

  9. Kudos to being true to yourselves! I know that as you dare to think different, your journey will evolve and test the boundaries of the unexpected. Keep exceeding expectations. We’ll stick by you!

  10. Wonderful initiative. Bold and brave – exactly what we need in this day and age! Please reach out if you ever want to collab with us at Imperfect, a wonderful company fighting food waste.

  11. Dear Girls,

    I’ve always followed TNP, but I think this is the best thing I’ve seen yet. I’m the founder of the online magazine/blog The Italian Rêve, from Italy.
    I know what it means to always innovate and trying to do the best. Your choice is the best, and you are truly inspiring. Thank you! #GirlPower

    Thank you

  12. I posted a separate comment about the Chloe Sevigny piece a few minutes ago. I wanted to read a little more “about” you, so I tapped into this mission statement. Thought you ladies might appreciate knowing I genuinely do look forward to receiving your posts, and I thought so before I read that this was precisely your mission! So , mission accomplished, for this reader, anyway. I very much admire your commitment to not just be part of “the noise” that is our world. There are glimmers of the rise of something much better. Thank you for demonstrating the discipline to hold to your own truth and vision in a sea of often mindless and soulless chatter. That is a remarkably difficult task these days. You are an oasis. Continue to remain true to yourselves.

    1. Wow Kimberley, thank you so much for such a beautiful message. You’re completely right, the chatter has no doubt become soulless, and it’s a difficult task to rise above it. Readers/commenters such as yourself make it worthwhile, and we are so happy to have you as part of our audience. We’ll continue to deliver great content, and don’t hesitate to tell us anything you’d like to see more of! – Laura

  13. This might be the most refreshing thing I’ve read on the internet in a long time.. that’s because the internet, as you put it, all started to sound the same. The lists, omg, the lists. I applaud your thoughtfulness and your courage. Most of all, I applaud your desire for quality, not quality. I have fought the numbers game forever, I know exactly what you mean and how you feel. Did a client even like my photograph? Doesn’t matter, it’s about numbers. I hope this is a the beginning of a change, we needed this mission statement. So proud of you guys. In other news, I LOVE the new design and the illustrations!
    Thank you and love to you both!
    Jamie

    1. We love you, love your work, and can’t tell you how much that means coming from you! It’s so nice to have incredible artists like you out there who support us (and we support you) and know and understand where our head is at.

  14. Ladies, bravo on creating a true destination for your readers to savor. I wholeheartedly agree with the comments that this may be the most refreshing statement on the internet. With so much content coming at us all, it’s actually quite hard to find a destination where you want to spend time. I was always a TNP fan, but I’m delighted to see the evolution. Best of luck!

  15. I, firstly love the new potato.
    Im 67 years old, a retired yoga and Pilates instructor after20 years. When I started teaching, there was one pilates book in the store just to show you how long ago that was.

    My generation grew up in the 60’s which in itself was wonderful,however it didn’t prepare us for a lot.
    I think you guys today are smart, driven and just great.
    I have 2 daughters in law who are successful in their own fields and both very driven and organized.
    I would love to know your backgrounds in education and how you got to this point.
    Hope to hear back.

  16. I really love this. I started my blog a little less than two years ago and in the beginning was just excited to share what I was passionate about…healthy tips for busy families. But as the blog got a little more popular, it became more about logistics, SEO, advertising, spinning out content. I lost the passion because I so was overwhelmed and focused on traffic. It’s refreshing to go back to pure passion and even more refreshing to see that people respond to that. I love The New Potato and have been loving your new focus!

    1. Thank you so much! We’re so thrilled it resonates with you and are so happy to have you as a reader 🙂

  17. Just catching up! &after reading this after getting your email this morning, I am now just so excited for TNP. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve flipped open an issue of a food magazine only to think how unimpressive and quick the content and photography has gotten, mirroring the online world. Coming from a person who spent 4 years getting a BFA, it has definitely been disheartening, but I am relieved to hear that there are still companies who want to do more than just churn out content in the blink of an eye. I hope this inspires many to do the same! Thank you for your complete honesty TNP! All the Best-

    1. Thanks so much Emily. That means the world to us. Don’t get disheartened, there are so many people out there who are in complete agreement with you and we’re all going to move the chess board together rather than play the game 😉

  18. I honestly don’t remember what it was that I read that I clicked to start getting your newsletter, but it always seemed like something I’ll come back to and then never found the time to do so. I stopped on this email today to read it completely and am looking forward to all postings henceforth!

  19. Change is always a necessary component to success. Good luck going forward. I will continue to read your messages delivered to my e-mail and be inspired and impressed.

  20. oh man! You’re speaking my language. As an instgrammer and content creator, I certainly get what you are talking about and have felt a lot of the same feelings. Congratulations to you for not being afraid to be yourselves and do what makes you happy. I’m choosing to believe that if I just be my honest, kooky, original self, that I will attract exactly who I enjoy interacting with, and that is all I need. I am a fairly new subscriber to The New Potato and I am looking forward to see what this change will bring. 🙂

  21. Brave! and Bravo!
    I love the expression “move the chessboard rather than play the game”
    Warriors! Proud of you! Supporting you!

    1. Their grammar is correct. A trick to check this is to remove the other person from the sentence, i.e. if they removed Danielle from the sentence, it would not then make sense to say “It took I…” but rather should read “It took me”.

  22. I’ve been a fan of TNP since I happened to stumble upon it one day while planning a trip to NYC and researching hidden gems to check out. I was even able to wow some of my New York friends with places you highlighted. Lately I noticed that some of the content was getting a little stale so I’m so happy to see you going back to your roots! I always recommend TNP to my fellow midwesterner’s when planning to travel New York. Keep up the wonderful work and continued greatness on your terms!

    1. Thanks so much Jenny, it’s great that you’ve used the site for recommendations, and I’m happy you’re back and happier with the content. Please don’t hesitate to let us know what you want to see more of!

  23. This is music to my ears. Thank you for being brave enough to stick to your virtues. I recently relinquished my bohemian life approach as I was convince that we are all doomed to sell out – this post came just in time and refreshed my dedication to what’s real. Thank you for being a good example. May you be happy and inspired for the rest of your days!

  24. I am spanking new to TNP – was curious – then the posting on “being addicted to being nice” grabbed my attention. That’s me through and through – anything to avoid confrontation and having an issue with my “house-mates” – we live in a 100+ yr old school and they’re across the hall – won’t take up your page explaining – but it’s been hurtful, and that post gave me hope that things can change 🙂 I shall be back to your page time after time after time. Love that it’s SO different and not all “bloggy and soggy” LOL

    1. Thanks so much for the honesty Jeannie. We can all relate to the awkwardness of confrontation when it comes to people you live with, because you feel stuck with them (I had many of those situations in college)! But I’m a believer that it’s better to be up front, than to let things fester, and it’s their problem if they can’t respond well to you respectfully voicing your issues. Once you’ve done that, you’ve done all you can; after that it’s their issue. So happy to have you as a Potatohead!

  25. You sound like the most wonderful people. I will continually look forward to what you have to show us! Congratulations!

  26. I remember loving your content when I first started following TNP a few years ago. But at some point I remember thinking, ” this just isn’t the same” and could not remember why I started following in the first place. Bravo for having the confidence to follow your instincts and do what you and your readers love. It will be interesting to see if the media market and advertisers start to pay attention what readers really want – good content.

  27. Bravo! Doing it old school. Thanks for being honestly transparent. I nearly unsubscribed! Looking forward to your next post.

  28. I came upon TNP recently – actually it just seemed to appear in my Inbox one day and I wondered for a while what it really was about. Since I didn’t recall having signed up for a subscription and was busy with other things (selling a home, moving to a new place with spouse and animals, finding a new job…) I didn’t stress about finding our more about TNP. Until this post and I’m so glad I read it through, even if it did take me a couple of days, with all of the aforementioned activity swirling about me. I love it when I find people like yourselves who appreciate the value of having respite from the insane pace of life and other so-called news sites. I felt like I was sitting next to a quiet brook in the forest while reading this post. I look forward to returning and taking as long as needed to read and “grok” what you have to say. Reminds me as well of the Delayed Gratification publication – “Delayed Gratification is the world’s first Slow Journalism magazine. It’s a beautiful printed quarterly publication which revisits the events of the previous three months to see what happened after the dust settled and the news agenda moved on. It is proud to be ‘Last to Breaking News’.” https://www.slow-journalism.com

  29. That is a great mission statement…I was deleting you in my inbox but now I am back. One great topic a day-what a welcome relief amongst all the sponsored content so many formerly great websites/blogs are now posting. Good luck!

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