Even while some forms of print (see 2019 marks the end of metro daily newspapers) are dying, investors still feel that value exists in others, such as glossy local magazines.
One of Pittsburgh’s best-known examples, Table Magazine, with its stunning photos of food, drinks and interior design, has new owners as of Monday: Keith Recker, the magazine’s editor-in-chief since last summer, and Justin Matase, who was Pittsburgh City Paper’s associate publisher, bought the publication from its founder, Christina French.
Recker, 57, who grew up locally and moved away after attending Carnegie Mellon University, said he’s excited about building on what Table does well while expanding into new areas that celebrate Pittsburgh’s still-emerging visual and design fields.
“It’s all about expansion and going deeper,” Recker told me. “We are certainly focused on food and drink and the local creativity from those zones, but we’re also going into fashion, design, travel and other forms of creativity and experience. It’s just about going deeper.”
French founded Table in 2006, just as Pittsburgh’s restaurant scene started to blossom, and she used that platform to expand into broader community topics.
Matase said that French brought him together with Recker about a year ago, and started a conversation with them about transitioning into the future. The new owners are thinking about Table as more of a brand, with an increased focus on digital content, events and more. He declined to say how much they paid for the magazine.
“One of the things that drew us to Table is the strength of that Table magazine brand and the foundation built by Christina French,” Matase, 31, said. “She’s such a pillar in the food and beverage community with the work that she did, and people really have a strong positive association with the brand.”
The magazine publishes 30,000 copies each run, with 20,000 paid subscribers and the remaining balance split among single-copy sales and free distribution to advertisers, high-profile retailers and potential new customers, Matase said. The company has six employees, including four sales people, and a deep bench of contributors.
Table will continue to come out quarterly, with four seasonal editions, and it will add two concept issues per year, each on a single theme.
By making a bigger push into digital content on its website and social, Table can generate content on a more regular basis, as things are happening, and work with advertisers who want to promote something more immediate, Matase said. Already, Table has 10,000 active op-in subscribers for its emails.
Table hosts the Western Pennsylvania Lamb Cook-Off/Lamb Fest, an event that expanded in 2019 to an outdoor location in the Strip District and that drew more than 1,000 people. Matase said that event has grown each year and makes money, adding that Table will continue to look at events to grow revenue.
After 31 years away from the region — largely in New York and San Francisco — Recker returned five years ago.
“When our child reached a certain age, I realized that I really want her to grow up here,” Recker said. “I value a lot of things about my own childhood, about honesty, integrity, follow-through, work ethic, friendliness, politeness. There is a lot Pittsburgh brings to the table that is really admirable.”
While he was away, Recker spent time in retail, notably working as vice president of home furnishings at Bloomingdale’s and at Gump’s San Francisco, and as a director at Saks Fifth Avenue. He has worked on two books about color: True Colors, which came out in September, and Pantone: The Twentieth Century in Color, from 2012.
He founded Hand/Eye magazine, an online publication about textiles, artisan crafts and design. When he returned to the region, Recker and his sister started an artisan jewelry shop called Barberry Handmade in Sewickley.
“Keith has proven in a short period of time that his passion for our creative production is simply outstanding,” French said in a statement. “He’s bursting with new, artful ideas and has brought inspiration for expanded issues of Table as well as a new breath to our digital offerings on social media and the website.”
Matase, meanwhile, has headed up business, sales, marketing and strategy at City Paper, and has been leading the publication’s move to a digital-first strategy. He plans to stay on as a strategic adviser. Before City Paper, he worked at The Pitt News, at the University of Pittsburgh, and at Matrix Solutions, a media technology company.
“Justin has a respected background in both print and digital media as well as event production,” French said. “I’m excited to see what kind of creative packages we will now offer to advertisers, sponsors and collaborators looking to share their story in multiple meaningful ways.”
French, who started Kingfly Spirits in the Strip District with her fiancé Mark Willson, will focus on growing that company and will continue working with clients through her marketing company, FrenchPress Communications. She will stay on as a consultant at Table through 2020.
Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University, writes the On Media column at NEXTpittsburgh with support from The Heinz Endowments. You can find all of his columns here, and you can reach him at PittsburghPublicEditor@gmail.com.