No crush yet on new Crush! online food and wine magazine

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South Africa’s first digital food and wine magazine Crush! was launched last Friday, a long-awaited online publication under the editorship of respected food and wine guru Michael Olivier.

Olivier studied at the Cordon Bleue Cookery School in London, has done PR for the Lanzerac Hotel, has owned restaurants (Paddagang, Burgundy and Parks), has been a wine consultant to Pick ‘n Pay, has published books (including one called ‘Crush! 100 wines to drink now’), and presents wine programmes on Classic FM and on FMR radio stations.  He announced the launch of Crush! at the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting in May, with an original launch date of 3 June.  The actual publication date was a month later.

Digital magazines have been published in the United Kingdom for a number of years already, but have not made it into South Africa until now due to the lack of ample broadband capacity.   Crush! is published with software bought from Redonline, a British company which publishes GQ, Tesco, FHM and many other digital titles.  It is available for free to what is projected will be just under 1 million readers, and its production is funded by advertising, sponsorships and product placements.  The advertising rates seem reasonable, at a discounted R 7548 for a double page spread for the first three issues.

For me Crush! is a let-down, not only technically, in navigating the 26 pages of the digital magazine, but also in terms of its content:

1.   Its size is smaller than the full screen size, giving the impression of an A5 magazine, something one takes less seriously than an A4 size.

2.  One has to click to the top right hand corner of the right page to turn the pages – it will take some time for one to get used to doing this expertly, without feeling silly in turning the pages efficiently (luckily I saw a “fools’ guide” to turning the pages at the top left, which shows arrows to the right and to the left).

3.  The cover of a magazine is what sells it – I found Crush!’s cover to be unattractive and far too busy, with all sorts of electronic “nick-nacks” to attract one’s attention, seriously lacking a good design hand.

4.  I missed an “Ed’s letter”, in which Michael should explain what Crush! stands for, remind readers of his background and strengths, and detail who is in his editorial and production team.  

5.  Michael does talk on a YouTube video on the third page, but unfortunately the “play” button is on top of his face, a design problem that can easily be addressed.

6.  Crush! has little advertising, but needs advertising support to finance the venture and to pay the royalties to Redonline.  The Pepenero/Paranga/Kove/Zenzero group, Pick ‘n Pay, Old Mutual, Constantia Glen and Pongracz are direct advertisers.   I liked the more subtle advertorial feel of the Arabella wines page.   The double page spread on Warwick is the most attractive of all pages in Crush!, in my opinion, and while I am sure that it is paid-for advertorial, it is the “cleanest” page, with the fewest “gimmicks” and pop-ups of all. 

7.  Given the cost of setting up such a venture, one wonders if it is Pick ‘n Pay financing the venture, given Olivier’s relationship with them.  

8.   Having been earmarked for launch more than a month ago, most of the copy probably was written at that time.  The danger with a delay is that the information gets dated, and the page written by JP Rossouw is dated in two respects – JP Rossouw’s image has been seriously dented by the reaction to his La Mouette review (read here).  Olivier would have done better to write the page himself.   Secondly, Rossouw chose to focus on La Colombe, and Luke Dale-Roberts, just 2 days after the La Colombe chef announced that he is no longer the Executive Chef of the San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurant in the World restaurant!  Ironically, it was Rossouw that alerted the industry to this news, but the information about Luke Dale-Roberts’ relationship with La Colombe was not updated in the two days before launching the publication.  The fact that Rossouw’s Restaurants book is offered for sale on the page commercialises the page and reduces its credibility even further.  When entering the La Colombe competition, I lost the link to the page I was on, and had to go back to the Homepage, and run through all the pages again.   In the running link it mentions, amongst others, that JP Rossouw has reviewed La Colombe, but there is no review!  The next issue of Crush! is to feature a review of a Johannesburg restaurant – while I understand that Crush! is a national publication, reviews about restaurants in other areas have little interest for Cape Town readers, a weakness Rossouw faces with his on-line reviews too.

9.   Alongside a recipe for Salmon Fishcakes, as well as on the “High Five” wine page, the labels of the bottles of the wine options suggested are unreadable.  One is encouraged to click onto each bottle to “roll it over”, but it only pops up with information about that particular wine. 

10.   A profile of Chef Liam Tomlin of the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School is disappointing, in that little information is provided on the page, which mainly is filled with a photograph of Tomlin.  If one clicks on a small “interview” button, Tomlin’s answers to a set of questions are provided, hardly giving one a feel for the character and personality of Tomlin, nor of his background. 

11.   Every page has a running script at the top, a little like on SkyNews and other news television stations, distracting one’s attention from the main body of the page.  

12.  The “back’ page refers to an Uwe Koetter competition, and it is not immediately clear that one does not have to do anything to stand a chance to win jewellery.

In general I found Crush! to be too superficial in that it lacks depth; it is too “thin” in terms of number of pages compared to a regular magazine; it is too hard-sell in encouraging one to buy wines via ‘Crush Cellar’ which takes one to Grapefuel, travel (never heard of Pick ‘n Pay having a travel agency), and Rossouw’s book; and it is too “busy” in terms of pop-ups, running messages and buttons one has to click to read further information.  Ultimately, a digital magazine cannot compete with a glossy printed one.  It cannot be kept for future reference, it cannot be displayed on a coffee table, one cannot tear a page out of it, and it does not offer 100 pages or so of reading joy in bed, which a magazine can do.

To read Crush!, click here.  Twitter: @Crush_online

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

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9 replies on “No crush yet on new Crush! online food and wine magazine”

  1. projected 1 million readers !!!!

    No chance considering the amount of internet users in RSA.

    I agree with most of your comments, i just gave up after 10 minutes.

  2. Hello Chris

    I must say I am surprised at how negative you are about Crush Online. I agree on some of your points, especially the lack of information in each article and the annoying “roll over this and press there” buttons. I also found the competitions irritating, as the majority of them are aimed at new subscribers and every time I clicked on them, they took me to the subscribe page.

    I did however also enjoy discovering what the magazine is about – the tech junkie in me I suppose. And as irritating as the roll over this and press that buttons get, it is also amusing to notice that you missed something the first time, and there’s more to the magazine than you initially thought.

    I think that given a bit of time, this can certainly become a great publication. There will always be hiccups in a first edition of something as technically demanding as an online magazine. I think the proof will be in the second edition. Lets see if he can get it 100% on the second attempt.

    Batonage

  3. Thanks for your perspective Hennie. I am a great fan and friend of Michael Olivier. I have invited him to respond, and will add the response to my post when I receive his reply.

  4. The magazine takes too long to download – I lost interest waiting for the little symbols to complete their circles – and I have a fast connection so I hate to think how other readers might experience this.

  5. While I agree with some of the criticism laid – mainly that of the flashing banners, and out-dates information; on the whole I adore Crush for many of the points you don’t,

    Firstly, I adore the use of the technology available and on the screens I read Crush! on everything is sufficiently legible. Please recall your own point that a)it’s a first issue, and hence the brevity is perfect; b)it’s a lovely lunch-time read and c)why look a gift horse in the mouth and whinge about it not being ‘the printed medium’? It is free!

    Finally, the main reason I’m driven to comment is, as a happy ex-Capetonian, I was overjoyed to read that next issue is going to ‘share the love’ with Johannesburg. Only a fool would create a national magazine and fail to cater to the economic capital of the country.

    Finally, I’ve recently experienced (today) the online version of Wine magazine which comes in an identical ‘A5’ format – same pixel format – and is incredibly slow, unwieldy and generally unsatisfactory.

    So, yes, in general, I do have a crush on Crush!

  6. Hi Chris,

    I have to agree with you, Michael Olivier is a respected food and wine guru. That’s why he’s got an online magazine, called Crush. As for all your other scathing points, well now, guess your mom never taught you the saying “if you have nothing good to say, then don’t say anything”.

    I found the online publication perfect, with all its quirks and faults, and the fact that there have been 3 publications, must mean the “Guru” knows what he’s talking about…

    Whale Cottage Blog not only represents bad grammar and punctuation, but it also represents anger and hatred towards fellow human beings. Below is a quote by a French Psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan;

    “The brilliant French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, taught that aggression results as a psychological defense against threats of fragmentation.[1] That is, as infants, we are just a jumble of diverse biological processes over which we have no authority, and our first task in life is to develop a coherent identity which “pulls together” this fragmented confusion. This identity may give the appearance of a unified personality, but it really is just a psychological illusion that hides our essential human vulnerability and weakness. And so, when anything or anyone threatens us with the truth of our essential fragmentation, the quickest, easiest, and most common defense available—to hide the truth of our weakness and to give the illusion that we possess some sort of power—is aggression.”

    The truth is, you couldn’t do better, and as a result, you turn your attention and aggression into anger, and thus have a need to engage in deconstructive criticism, which really isn’t good for anyone, specially a lady in her late ????

    Again, I’d like to quote Jacques Lacan;

    “So the FIRST STEP in learning a healthy response to feelings of hurt and insult is simply to acknowledge that you’re hurt.”

    By doing so, you would come to realize that you have no say as to how the publication is complied. Leave this to the people who know what they’re talking about.

    Food for thought;

    “It’s ironic, then, that a healthy response to feelings of hurt and insult actually leads to compassion and peace, while the suppression of emotions, in trying to protect the surface peace, only leads to a psychological undercurrent of suspicion and cruelty. That’s why people who become social “doormats” and let others walk all over them, rather than admit that they feel hurt about anything, usually have quite a lot of resentment and “dirt” underneath their appearance of welcome.”

  7. Dear David (aka Billy Bob, The WhaleSpotter, etc)

    Crush! clearly cannot COPE (could not resist the pun) with the well-meant feedback we have provided in our reviews.

    I am impressed with the diversity of your talents – from owning your one-man-band PR company called Established (with client Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School), to making The Hedonist wine, to being a movie fundie, and now even pop psychologist!

    I have accepted your insulting Comment on my blog purely to demonstrate to my readers how destructive you are, as already evidenced in your nasty and childish Twitter campaign.

    At the lunch bloggers attended yesterday the general consensus was disbelief that Michael Olivier could be condoning your antics.

    Have a whale of a day!

    Chris

  8. This waste of time will be gone in 6 months, there is almost no advertising and I can’t see any on the horizon, who would want to advertise ? if you want to target foodies you advertise in Taste, I wouldn’t even call Crush the poor relation of Taste. Its a bunch of nobodies and never will be’s desperately looking for an outlet for their insipid copy. Pass me a bucket I think I am going to throw up. As for Michael Whoever’s toddler like reaction to criticism and Cope’s weird crusade against you ? Wierdo’s !

    Keep up the good work.

  9. Ooooh, calm down kids!!! While that was entertaining, I think the topic has moved from Crush to a personal vendetta between Chris and Billy Bob…?

    I can honestly say, that as far as social entertaiment goes (and for someone who loves food and wine) Crush was most entertaining. Maybe you need to be a little more web savvy to get it right the first time around – but hey, it’s free, and it gave me alot more pleasure than some of the mags I spend 30 bucks or more on!! Loved it, thank you Micheal!

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