Tastemade knows its audience will buy things on its recommendation. Now it’s going to start making things to sell them, rather than curating and sourcing those products from elsewhere.
On Monday, the venture-backed publisher, just weeks after closing a $35 million round of funding, will unveil “Good Food Book,” a hardcover cookbook comprised of 50 recipes designed for gatherings and get-togethers. Each recipe has a unique QR code that readers can scan to watch a video showing how said recipe is prepared. “Good Food Book” costs $29 and will be available for sale on Tastemade’s website and through Amazon.
The book is Tastemade’s first step into its next phase as a media company, one that focuses more on generating revenue by selling things to its audience, rather than advertisers; it currently makes most of its money by producing branded content for advertisers. It will sell things focused on food, the content vertical where Tastemade got its start, but it also has plans to sell things in the home and travel categories.
“When you think about the next step for us for commerce, we have incredible intellectual property that can be used in different ways,” said Geraldine Martin-Coppola, Tastemade’s chief operating officer. “Next year you’ll see us move more aggressively into developing our own products, not just curating a third-party assortment.”
It is difficult to gauge how big a bet the cookbook represents. A lot of the assets used to produce the cookbook, from the recipes themselves to the photographs of the food, were sourced from Tastemade’s existing library. The cookbook’s contents were chosen by members of Tastemade’s content and commerce teams, using a mixture of data, such as video view counts and more subjective input from editors. Martin-Coppola also declined to offer specifics about how many copies of “Good Cook Book” were printed for its initial run.
It will push those copies across a multitude of digital channels. Martin-Coppola said the book will be promoted through a combination of shoppable ads on digital platforms as well as natural integrations into regularly scheduled programming on Tastemade’s linear streaming video channel, which is available on YouTube TV in addition to popular OTT platforms including Roku and Apple TV.
It will also push the product using shoppable ads on Snapchat and Instagram, as well as direct email marketing efforts targeted at its existing customer base.
Tastemade has only been exploring commerce for about a year, but it has done so aggressively. It launched a subscription product, which gives customers unlimited, ad-free access to Tastemade’s library, as well as access to cooking classes; it has sold a wide variety of products, ranging from skillets to crock pots, via affiliate deals struck with brands and manufacturers; and it has experimented with brand licensing, opening a small number of Tastemade-branded cafes in locations ranging from Santa Monica to Sao Paolo.
While the company has been cagey about how those tests have gone — Martin-Coppola would not share how many people have subscribed to its service, or how many members of its audience have purchased a product from them — it does have a few success stories it shares: At the 2018 Digiday Video Summit Europe, Tastemade’s global head of brand strategy, Andrew Saunders, revealed that Tastemade had sold enough Smithey’s cast iron skillets, which cost $180, to generate $600,000 in revenue for Tastemade.
Heading into 2019, Martin-Coppola said that it will be developing both original products and original content it can sell to its audience. “As a retailer of third-party products, that’s given us a lot of insight into what our audience wants to purchase, but it’s also told us where are the white spaces,” she said.
Tastemade is part of a small cluster of media companies embracing the opportunity to sell products directly to its audience. Some of the most enthusiastic proponents of this strategy, such as BuzzFeed’s Tasty and Vice’s Munchies, have come from the food space, through fashion and beauty publishers including PopSugar and Clique have had success too.
“As publishers see more engagement from their audiences involving commerce offerings or content, they begin wondering how they can drive more margin and loyalty from those interactions,” said Josh Payne, the founder of commerce content platform StackCommerce. “Going direct to brands or leveraging your own brand are certainly ways to do that and in the short-run it’s proving very viable.”
In most of those cases, Tastemade included, affiliate commerce data provided the signal needed to figure out what kinds of products and content to develop.
“We’re trying to use the affiliate as well as drop-shipped approach to learning what categories our audience is interested in,” Tastemade CEO Larry Fitzgibbon said. “That influences the content we create.”