I’m talking today to Ben Thorpe, editor of York on a Fork magazine, and he’s kindly agreed to answer some questions for me:
- When did the idea for York on a Fork come about?
While I was working as a Business Analyst I seemed to spend more and more time answering queries about restaurant recommendations after spending a number of years pushing my eating out budget to its limit. I thought it was rather indulgent to start blogging, but after a fair bit of encouragement, I took the plunge and started www.yorkonafork.com.
- How did it move from the idea stage, to reality i.e building a team.
The reality as it exists is rather different to at the site’s inception. Initially I just wrote about the places I liked going and was flattered to start receiving invitations to review meals. The involvement of Grace Neal from http://www.graceneal.com contributed tremendous talent for graphic design and resulted in the production of several printed magazines while Bethan Vincent (http://www.bethanvincent.com) came on board with a wealth of ideas, enthusiasm and business experience. We now have a number of fantastically contributors who all bring a different perspective and let us provide a great variety of content.
- What is a typical day for you, the Editor?
There’s not really a ‘typical’ day. After my soft boiled egg, I generally have a bunch of emails to take care of and general administrative housekeeping that needs keeping on top of. In general I have a couple of articles I’m working on at any one time that take up a good chunk of the afternoon including photo editing. Bethan and I work quite closely, so spend a good amount of time proofing each other’s work and making sure there’s a variety of voices coming through on the site. A few times a week, we’ll make sure that we’re out and about checking out the latest happenings in town, otherwise I’ll be cooking for my better half or indulging a passion for obscure cue sports.
- I see from your LinkedIn profile, that you’ve changed direction from the corporate world towards publishing and media. Why is that?
As with many people, I fell into a job after taking something short-term then ended up staying there for some time. I met some great people and was involved in a few interesting projects, but can’t claim to have ever felt particular enthusiasm for financial services. After two redundancies in two years, the time felt right to try and make a mark somewhere else, so with the growing success of York on a Fork I decided to indulge my passion for York’s food scene.
- Is York on a Fork a long-term project?
I can’t imagine a time when I don’t want to write about restaurants in York. Who knows what the future will hold, but it’s already been an absolute privilege to work with fantastically talented people and eat some superb food and I’ve no desire to change that.
- As a digital magazine, is Fork financially self-sustaining? If not now, what plans are there for it to become so in the future?
Monetising online media is the key question isn’t it! The only overhead is time (assuming I’d eat out too much anyway) and attaching the appropriate value to that is tricky. I know that the work we do is of a very high standard but we aren’t in a position to pay contributors what they deserve at the moment. Many organisations seem so reluctant to recognise the value of people’s time, so it’s an ongoing concern, but we believe we have the contacts and relationships to continue growing this with a business model that supports all our contributors.
- When you’re not working on York on a Fork, what other ideas are you working on?
As we’ve gathered such a lot of knowledge about the food scene in York, Bethan and I have recently set up www.coffeeyardmedia.uk to help promote local food and hospitality businesses. We also run events in conjunction with local restaurants to help them reach the people in York who really love food. I also contribute to www.frontseatdriver.co.uk on an occasional basis when I have something interesting to say about cars.
- What other publications or internet sites do you follow for inspiration and ideas?
In terms of other food sites, I’ve a great deal of respect for www.squidbeak.co.uk who have colossal amounts of experience on this topic. Over the last year we’ve worked with http://www.nutmegsseven.co.uk a lot which has been a great privilege. I don’t subscribe to much, but Viz is puerile fun on occasion and Private Eye well-researched. My non-fiction writing hero is probably LJK Setright, a man whose variety of talents seemed only matched by his bloodymindedness https://www.theguardian.com/media/2005/sep/19/guardianobituaries.pressandpublishing
- Lastly, what would you want your readers to do after they’ve read York on a Fork?
Remember some of it! If a reader has a few ideas in their head next time they’re strolling through town debating where to eat I’ll have done my job.