The Manifesto

It was this year we decided to go with our gut, and get back to our ethos: Quality not quantity. This was the mission statement Laura wrote and published the day of our 2017 fall relaunch and redesign…

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.

57 thoughts on “The Manifesto

  1. Fabulous idea! I’m going through the same evaluation of my own business and could not agree more. There’s a reason I return to the same restaurants over and over for years, usually ordering the same dish! I’ll be following you on this journey and thankful for your reflection and commitment!

  2. Applaud the thought and soul searching behind this testament to current direction. Look forward to being a returning ongoing visiteur to the site.

  3. You could begin by learning English… “It took Danielle and I…” should be “It took Danielle and me..”

  4. Kudos to you. My inbox is inundated with lists of whats out,whats in, and how to piss off a bartender . As a dedicated TCM fan, I welcome an article I can sink my teeth into each morning with my cup of coffee.

    1. I, too, am a huge TCM fan. So I completely know and love where your head is at Gina. Thanks so much for being a reader, and please tell us anything you’d like to see more of!

    1. AGREE! Thank you, thank you, for keeping us engaged and for classically and beautifully written pieces. I’m glad you all have scaled back because it means I am genuinely more excited to read what you have written instead of feeling like I am falling behind or have missed something that I might have already read 15 times just written from a different website, etc. Keep it up, y’all! Happy New Year!

  5. Your first paragraph “Spoke Volumes.” It was a mind-melding, generational gap bridging banging of keys, between you all who likely emerged on the planet sometime in the ’90s, and, us’uns, who are vintage members of “The Silent Generation.” Keep doing, thinking & refining, and you all will get there. A Happy, Successful & Prosperous New Year 2018.

  6. The internet is full of junk, content, volume, and topics of little relevance. Thank you for finding out who you are and what you stand for – a real identity with a purpose. I respect your courage.

  7. Insight, creativity, and connection often get lost in analyzing all the combinations of SEO and traffic data! Excellent content will always remain key. Kudos to you for following your gut!

  8. I totally love the new format. Keep it up.
    Where did you get the name the new potato?
    I’d love to know a little background educationally about you guys. Very respectful of what you do.

    1. I love, love, love what you said. I can hear the passion in your words, I can feel the excitement you have for what you do. Media execs, whether it be in film, music, tv, social media, have lost touch with what is quality. I cannot stand how our world operates today when it comes to entertainment. Quality is so hard to find, quantity is overrated. Entertainment, in all industries, has become bland and dummied-down. People need to have their minds stimulated, their hearts engaged, and their time valued….but all that has been lost. I hope you can find the courage to stuck by your mantra, because the world needs more women like you: strong, not afraid to go against the tide because swimming against the tide makes you stronger, makes you a hero in a world of followers. Thank you for giving me a reason to look forward to 2018. I needed one dearly.

    2. Thank you so much for this incredibly thoughtful comment. We are, indeed, swimming against the tide, and are so happy to have you with us for the journey!

    3. Thanks for checking in Lisa! We started about 4 years ago and wanted to bring food out of food. We believed what surrounds a dish is as important as what’s on it and that led us down the road of using food as an ice breaker that then moved into all things lifestyle. Whether that meant an interview with a designer, a photoshoot incorporating food and fashion or restaurant guides curated by tastemakers! We wanted the name to be “the new something,” and the new potato was a bit like a play on the new black in fashion. It also has a double meaning as new potatoes are a food themselves! Thanks for you support, and don’t hesitate with more comments and questions – we want to hear from you!

  9. Thank God! I am so tired of sites trying to cram crap down my throat. I want more meaning to my life. Not quantity but really good quality. Short and sweet so I can get on with my day. I have removed myself from many sites because they have truly driven off the road as to what they are all about. They have gotten into areas that are not even apart of their mission. If I turn on the tv to watch entertainment, I don’t want someones political view, I just want to be entertained. With you I want to know about food!
    Good luck! I support!

  10. I agree totally. Why go where everyone else is going? i would rather have one gorgeous piece of chocolate cake than a whole slab of mediocre cake.

  11. Please do not center large text blocks. It’s very hard to scan and read. Although this was a trend it’s now no longer advised as it diminishes the user experience. Left justify blocks of text that are more than 3 lines for an improved user experience.

  12. My advice is to continue following your gut and check in on it frequently. There are a lot of content providers in the world. Your quality will make you stand out and rise to the top. I work for a small company that is the best at what it does. For us it has been about doing the best work possible and- very important- being discoverable. Good luck and I can’t wait to see what comes next !

  13. A very inspiring read on this January 1. I’m a marketer and there are some great things to think about in this— I’ll definitely come back to this manifesto a few more times this year 😉 this gave me a greater understanding and respect for The New Potato,.

  14. Sounds great. As someone who is drowning in content, I’m more and more appreciative of those who curate only the best stuff.

  15. Wonderful! I love how your following your bliss and allowing the Universe to direct you not SEO. Get ready for the magic to begin

  16. Good for you! Sometimes you have to toss all the web experts into the orchestra pit. Follow your instincts and all will be well on your own terms.

  17. I love your new concept.
    I am extremely fatigued from information overload.
    I always choose quality over quanity.
    Minimalism over maximalism!

  18. I was going through my emails today; “unsubscribing” to many, I look forward to your fresh perspective–it was why I subscribed to your content in the first place.

  19. I love the honest dialogue and direct approach to quality discussions. I am inundated with mundane and inane content that tries to trick me into reading poorly presented content. I wish you both the best.

  20. Well I read yr entire story and Yes quality…of course over quantity….so yr story was a good read and I await more.

  21. Trying to subscribe but it rejects both my email addresses. If you can subscribe me to the email shared please

  22. Didn’t you post this same column last year? I was looking forward to how it worked for you. I’m a big fan – hope others are too.

  23. Thrilled and excited to check my inbox. We are all inundated with things to read and trusting there is quality wins my attention over quantity every time.

  24. I loved this! Not only did you engage with me, but you told me about your business in a personal way, you connected with me. As an “only sometime” reader, you have made yourself stand out against the other hoards of information that vies for my attention. Thank you and best of luck.

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