I’ll take the Florentine lasagna, please, with a 2D barcode and a mobile app on the side.
Food magazines pride themselves on delectable recipes and luscious photography. Recipe.com, whose title is also its website’s URL, is a new publication from magazine giant Meredith, and while every recipe is indeed accompanied by a photo, the print magazine’s content is thoughtfully integrated with digital tools targeted to cost-conscious home cooks.
Through the development of a unified print, web and mobile strategy prior to launch in June, Meredith crafted an intriguing way of combining these media for value-focused readers who want to plan tasty meals efficiently, using every digital device at their disposal.
Putting It All Together in Advance
Established magazines have to imagine ways that their existing print editions can be extended into digital forms. A new magazine can be developed from the ground up with all the digital tools available today already integrated into its editorial strategy.
Recipe.com is one of Meredith’s most recent print magazine launches, but it all began online with its eponymous URL. Meredith bought the URL about two years ago in a “high six-figure deal,” according to Dan Hickey, the senior vice president for digital engagement at Meredith Interactive. Meredith was looking for a way to extend its strength in food-related content in its print publications into the digital realm.
“We have a tremendous legacy on the print side,” Hickey said. “But on the digital side, we really needed a complementary strategy to drive Meredith into a digital leadership position in the food category.”
Hickey said the site had no content at all when it was purchased, so the Meredith team spent several months working on a plan to maximize its potential.
“We came up with a cross-platform strategy that included a magazine, mobile applications, mobile websites, and TV segments on our ‘Better’ TV shows,” Hickey said. “We looked across all of our other brands in terms of the promotional horsepower we could bring to it.”
Media Matching Consumers’ Needs
The state of the economy was a major consideration for the Recipe.com team. Research in-house at Meredith and elsewhere shows that as consumers have become more price-aware, they are planning meals more diligently, shopping less often, and using coupons more frequently.
Recipe.com, Hickey said, reflects a “360-degree approach,” better accommodating today’s value-seeking and technologically savvy shopper.
“It’s really kind of desktop, to store, to checkout, to countertop, to table. When we think of recipes, we think, ‘I’ll go find it and print it out.’ But we knew the [meal-planning] process was much more involved,” Hickey said.
Recipe.com, in all of its forms, was designed to provide tools to these budget-conscious shoppers. The recipes in the magazine, drawn from Meredith’s many magazines, are each accompanied by their approximate cost per serving. Most recipes also have a Microsoft Tag 2D barcode that readers can scan with a smartphone app to add ingredient lists to a Recipe.com shopping list. The list is then available on the web or through Recipe.com’s own shopping list mobile app.
The shopping list app also syncs with any list items a user has saved on the website. (Both fully featured and mobile versions are available.) More grocery items can be added through barcode scanning or voice recognition. The list itself is then matched to specials at nearby grocery stores, automatically identified via GPS, through the Grocery Server shopping engine. The user can select preferred stores from those suggested, refine the list with the deals offered, and go shopping.
This process makes it possible for cooks to select recipes that look good, then quickly locate relevant coupons and specials, instead of basing meal choices on the deals that are available.
“We wanted to shift the paradigm to digital, but also change the paradigm so [the consumer] starts with what she wants to do, and what we do is go out and find the savings for her,” Hickey said. “I want my coupons and store savings tied to what I want to do, instead of the other way around.”
Finding the Perfect Blend
Recipe.com launched as a print magazine in June with an initial circulation of 350,000 on newsstands and a cover price of $5.99. According to Hickey, the website’s traffic has grown from about 600,000 unique visitors in June to about 4 million in October. There were about 10,000 uses of the QR codes in the print magazine during June alone, and the shopping list app has had about 100,000 downloads since its launch in September.
Recipe.com (the website) also integrates with Meredith’s other sites, including Better Recipes, a user-generated recipe hub. Better Recipes also incorporates Mixing Bowl, focused on social interaction among cooks. All of these include links to Meredith’s other websites as well. Each site is designed to appeal to a unique segment of home cooks, with Recipe.com’s focus on frugality evident in its ads promising coupons and deals.
The Recipe.com strategy was driven by insight into readers’ need for different types of access to food information: at home during meal planning, either relaxing on the couch with print, or at the computer on the web; and then on the go, with mobile options.
Recipe.com demonstrates how a magazine can be created today from the ground up to fit consumers’ evolving media preferences and uses. Print has its role, offering a durable, visually appealing, familiar resource for recipes. Digital tools, in the form of 2D barcodes and mobile/web access, complement print by providing convenience, flexibility and efficiency in using the magazine’s information. Multiple ways to access consumers beckon to advertisers.
Recognizing the persistent utility and pleasures of print — and the new possibilities offered by digital tools — is a valuable model. Other kinds of print magazines, new and old, might also benefit from carefully (re-)aligning consumers’ real media uses with their print and digital tools.
Susan Currie Sivek, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication at Linfield College. Her research focuses on magazines and media communities. She also blogs at sivekmedia.com, and is the magazine correspondent for MediaShift.