As we begin to adapt to new routines amidst the coronavirus crisis, food publishers have seen a large rise in audience numbers and engagement. People facing weeks at home with limited take-out options (and even limited cooking skills) have turned to food sites and networks in droves. They’re looking for inspiration and guidance about everything from baking to budget meal planning.
However, these publishers have had to deal with challenges of their own. Production teams, editorial staff and studio stars have all had to adapt to remote working and changing audience demands.
One food publisher rising to the challenge is Condé Nast’s digital consumer-focused food brand Epicurious. The site has seen a surge in overall traffic of 69% year over year, according to Digital Director David Tamarkin. For the five years he has been at Epicurious, he says the title has focused on “realistic cooking: the kind of cooking that happens when you’re juggling childcare, or got home late from work, or the kind of cooking you do on the weekends when you have more time.” And that, it seems, aligns with the times.
Epicurius’ focus has pushed daily average traffic up +88% as audiences search for accessible recipes. The publisher is also seeing unexpected success with its eCommerce revenue. It’s seen a “huge increase” in sales of baking-related products, such as kitchen scales, which have seen a 1,000% year over year increase. Meal delivery services sold through Epicurious were another stand-out–up an astonishing 388% in March. And even individual grocery items, which are typically not high performers for the site, were up 59%.
“Because we’ve been operating with what we call a ‘home cook realness’ always in mind, it feels like we’ve been preparing for a moment like this – a moment where people suddenly find themselves cooking more than they ever have before,” Tamarkin explained. “Our content is all about helping people be smarter, more nimble, more joyful cooks, so it makes sense to me that it is resonating at the moment.”
It’s not just food-focused websites seeing growth. In April, Discovery Network’s Food Network channel saw record-breaking ratings over the weekends, as audiences tuned in looking for entertainment, community and recipe inspiration. The network reached more than 46 million viewers, which is a 6% year over year increase, and also delivered its best month ever in Weekday Daytime ratings. Early figures for May have yet to be finalized. But a Food Network representative confirmed that it is showing a similar pattern to April.
Adapting content strategies
Epicurious was quick to fine tune its editorial strategy as stay-at-home measures kicked in. “We pivoted to pantry-building content almost immediately, creating a two-week meal plan that exclusively uses shelf-stable ingredients,” said Tamarkin. “Then we launched Cooking Through It – a series of 10-day meal plans that used hyper-flexible recipes.”
This approach allowed people to do one big shop that would last for ten days or more, in order to minimize trips out. Epicurious has also seen success with its recipe-finding tool that allows readers to search recipes based on the ingredients they have on hand. They are also preparing to launch a series of articles about affordable cooking, which will continue for the foreseeable future.