‘Embracing the imperfections’: The test kitchen is now a WFH kitchen
Food publishing requires a very visual level of content, including recipe videos and photography, but with production and editorial staffers working remotely, publishers are trying to figure out how to continue producing this content from their homes or are adjusting their editorial schedules completely.
Tastemade, which publishes a range of video content from “hands in pans,” quick-form recipe videos to multiple season series, started investing in external hard drives and sent its employees home with camera equipment. Meredith’s food titles turned its staff’s home kitchens into studios. And The New York Times Cooking has put an emphasis on reporting on the impact of coronavirus instead of recipes.
“We’re getting aggressive with testing for remote teams,” said Amanda Dameron, head of content at Tastemade.
Five weeks ago, Dameron said Tastemade began preparing for the shift to remote working, including sending some of its staff home with cameras, tripod rigs and lighting equipment. The goal initially was to continue creating hands-in-pans recipes videos, which she said are the easiest to execute remotely. This week, she said the focus is figuring out how to get its tiny kitchen cooking sets in order to produce that series from home as well.
For post production, she said the company invested in more hard drives and a courier service to share them among team members.
While the larger series and documentaries had to pause that production temporarily, that programming tends to be produced one to six months out from when it will be published, giving the brand some lead time.
One of its series, Struggle Meals, which has 22-minute long episodes about cooking meals for less than $2 per plate, however, is continuing production in a new format because of its recent surge in popularity. On its Facebook page, Struggle Meals received a 434% increase in total views from March 1 to March 23 compared to the previous 23 day period. To not miss out on that audience, the show’s host, chef Frankie Celenza, started live streaming daily episodes on Instagram from his kitchen in Idaho.
In the past two weeks, Dameron said that Tastemade’s viewership on its social channels was up more than 25% and its streaming network had a 40% increase in viewership on certain platforms. Site referrals from search were up 30% month-to-date in March versus the same period last year, and Pinterest was up 33% during the same period, according to Google Analytics. In February, Tastemade had over 300 million video views across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, according to Tubular Labs and had over 6 million unique visitors to its site, according to Comscore.
Meredith has also seen an increase in its food site traffic. Allrecipes, in particular, which has 43 million unique visitors in February, has experienced a 40% increase of sessions on Allrecipes.com week over week.
One of Allrecipes’ shows, “Food Wishes,” is hosted by chef John Mitzewich and produced right in his kitchen where he cooks two to three featured recipes from Allrecipes.com. Since his show was well equipped for remote working already, Williams said he was able to easily transition and continue producing that program.
For many of the other shows that are produced in Meredith’s studios, Williams said that those teams typically shoot videos months ahead of when they will be published, so the bulk of the focus right now is on editing.
In the meantime, to make sure there isn’t a gap of content a few months down the road, she said the team is currently figuring out how to prioritize filming shows and recipes in their individual home kitchens, which may include shipping the camera equipment to staffers since most of the content can be created on DSLR cameras.
“We’re embracing the imperfections of home cooking,” said Andrew Snyder, svp and head of video, and encouraging the editorial staff to share their cooking process on social media if they are already making meals for their families.
The New York Times Cooking’s production schedule has been “completely upended” and new recipe creation has slowed due to the remote working conditions, according to Sam Sifton, assistant managing editor.
Previously, the site typically published between a dozen to 20 recipes per week. He said his team still has content that it will be publishing over the next several weeks, but it likely won’t be in the quantity it’s previously been published in. Additionally, with slowed production, the publisher isn’t working with its network of a couple dozen freelance photographers and recipe developers at the moment.
Despite that, this past weekend, the site’s traffic was up 60% over the previous weekend, which, itself, was the biggest weekend for the site in terms of traffic so far this year, according to Sifton.
As for producing this content at home, Sifton said, “if they can come up with a new recipe and we can figure out how to get it tested and shot, great,” however much of the editorial assignments have shifted towards reporting. The food critics and recipe columnists have even begun contributing coverage of how the coronavirus has impacted the restaurant industry.
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