Site Goals: Clarify and expand the brand voice beyond recipes, boost traffic, develop new revenue streams, innovate within the food website world, get more press.
How We Got There: Re-launched blog with celebrity columnists, executive produced cocktail video series, syndicated to more partners, co-developed the Epi app, added wine pairings with help from a third-party site, sold tickets to “Epi Entertains” events.
When I took on the role of executive editor at Epicurious.com, it was a sleeping giant that had grown complacent because it could rely on content from Condé Nast’s two enormous food magazines: Gourmet and Bon Appétit. The site didn’t just need traffic; it needed an identity, daily content (more than just recipes) and better distribution—all united under a focused strategy.
Hired Quality Columnists
One of the first things I did was create a newsy blog with best-of-breed columnists in SEO-rich categories. We had Rick Bayless discussing the challenges of being a celebrity chef, The New York Times’ Melissa Clark sharing her cooking highs and lows, Doug Frost explaining how food-friendly cocktails work, Raphael Kadushin covering culinary travel, and best-selling author Neal Pollack tackling father-centric topics with his unmistakably sharp, comical voice. I trained all editors, even recipe developers, how to identify and develop good stories, add their own personal voice, source images, write quickly, and move on to the next post. Equally important, it was fun; I was glad to be forced to write regularly. People loved my kitchen renovation tales of woe. Who knew?
In the three years I worked at Epi, we won six national awards for writing, including a Webby, two digital ASMEs, a James Beard, a MIN and an OMMA.
Got More Eyeballs with Coordinated Syndication
With better content, and more national recognition from our peers, we had a critical mass of articles to offer syndication partners. I coordinated regular content feeds with Yahoo, The Daily Beast, and AOL Slashfood. I worked with our marketing department to create chef-filled events that made money while garnering great press (“Epi Entertains”). And I helped launch the Epicurious Twitter account in 2008—long before competitors like Bon App and AllRecipes found social media.
Traffic grew from 4 to 6 million unique visitors. More important, we finally had pageviews on non-recipe pages, which made a huge difference to advertisers.
Added Value to the Product
Our primary e-commerce endeavor was ambitious. We successfully partnered with a wine app company (Snooth) and created an algorithm that automatically generated smart wine pairings with every one of our 25,000 recipes. Readers, in custom-created surveys, had said they wanted it; we found a way to create it—but let Snooth do all the heavy lifting/coding (as a wine lover, I managed this project personally).
Made High-Quality Evergreen Videos
We had already proven that readers would click to watch videos if the content is right. In fact, the “Around the World in 80 Recipes” how-to video series won a New York Emmy in its first year. At the same time, I learned how to make the most of a budget by producing a cocktail series with mixologist Eben Freeman—we shot 20 videos over two days. The videos continue to get views nearly a dozen years later.