Industry Voices

Christine Hayes | Food Group Editor-in-Chief | BBC Good Food, olive, Immediate Media

By Jess Browne-Swinburne

2 Jun 2021

*What made you want to work in publishing? *

I fell into my first proper job at EMAP Metro, working on the launch of more! magazine straight out of school. It was such a confident, lively place to work and so much to learn from geniuses like Dave Hepworth. Everyday I’m inspired by my colleagues at Immediate Media where our audience centric, data-led approach is balanced with strong editorial instinct.

*Chart your career from the start to where you are now. *

During a ‘gap-year’ job at Gruner & Jahr I met fashion stylist Jo Bell who took me on as her assistant at Emap Metro’s more! I worked my way up to Beauty Editor, then moved to Looks as Deputy Editor. I then joined IPC Media in the mid-90s as Editor of Wedding & Home. Following that, I transferred to Sydney in 2001 where IPC had a joint venture with Time Inc and spent almost two years there editing Bride To Be and launching 25 Beautiful Homes. I then returned to London to launch olive magazine at BBC Worldwide with a brilliant team headed up by Orlando Murrin. In 2015 I became Editor-in-Chief of BBC Good Food and was part of the management team who sold the brand to Immediate in 2018. I’m now Group Editor-in-Chief across olive and Good Food.

What has the past year looked like for the BBC Good Food and olive brand?

We saw record stats online and subscription growth, brought on new talent in line with our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion and, by bringing the olive and Good Food content teams together, created a more cohesive, high-functioning team across the Food Group. We envisaged 4 stages of the crisis - Panic, Boredom, New Normal and Hardship - we adapted our content accordingly to provide comfort and guidance; encourage Britain to feel connected through cooking, keep children well-fed and entertained, and help manage anxiety. The team created, tested and photographed reactive recipes in their homes and uploaded in record time. On, newly published content brought in 723k page views in the first two weeks of the lockdown. We reached record page-views of 215million and 52.8M users (April) and the site had its biggest traffic day with 8.7m page-views in one day. We launched webinars, a new personalised cookbook, several new podcast series, and a new BBC Good Food Together Facebook group which now has over 75k members.

Can you explain a bit about the thinking behind the olive rebrand?

Working closely with olive’s Commercial Director, Simon Carrington we have broadened the magazine’s appeal for a core print demographic with relevant content and design that enhances our digital output. Last year we brought olive and BBC Good Food’s Content Team together within a hubbing structure so that we can apply learnings from market leading Good Food to support and grow the smaller brand. Three new areas of focus Cook, Discover, Unwind speak to and evolve the brand’s curiosity and passion for trying foods from around the world and has introduced a new interiors focus reflecting the home as haven.

What plans do you have for 2021?

Continuing to offer useful, ever-more personalised content. Our customers are unique with different tastes, lifestyles, dietary restrictions, and goals so to protect our number one status we to need meet the needs of our audience as individuals. A 360-degree view of the customer allows us to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Further developing the careers of the talent we work with. As the market leader it’s our responsibility to give a platform to new voices, as well as the more established players we are known for. There is still work to do to ensure we better represent our existing audience and attract new audiences. Food should be about bringing everyone together, exchanging ideas and stories. We will strive to make our content better, richer, more relevant to how we live and eat today.

What’s on your radar?

I’m fascinated by the impact of social media on mental health. A colleague recently introduced me to the Blindboy Boat Club podcast which explores such topics in highly-intelligent, personal and irreverent fashion.

What magazine would you stockpile?

Elle Deco and CN Traveller


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