Since its first show aired nearly 20 years ago, the Food Network has sliced, diced, baked, grilled, and fried its way into the homes of viewers ravenous for a steady diet of culinary showmanship. Now, the channel that introduced us to celebrity chefs and kitchen competitions is poised to change the way we consume recipes—starting with the first course, naturally.
Soup is the focus of the first of a new series of mobile cookbooks that launches October 11th in iTunes. (Amazon will follow in the coming weeks). Dubbed "Food Network Favorites," the apps explore a single subject, presenting recipes and interactive editorial content along with a heaping helping of photographic food porn. One new title will be released every two months and devotees can subscribe to get new releases as they’re published.
Bob Madden, Food Network’s general manager and senior vice president of online brands, says the Food Network Favorites series will build off the success of its previous offerings such as "In the Kitchen," which he says is currently the most popular iTunes paid app. Not to mention pull in scores of users to its website Food.com. The site shared over 450,000 recipes with over 7 million monthly uniques, according to Nielsen NPower, comScore in 2011.
But it’s also not quite going to duplicate the technical bells and whistles within its recently released Cupcakes! app. Though Madden maintains the title is consistently ranking in the top 10 in iTunes’ food and beverage category, thanks to the magic of analytics they discovered that home cooks were more interested in the actual recipes than, say, a bunch of bees flying out of a hive made of cheery, yellow cupcakes.
"We have a little of that in Soups but scaled back to focus on photography and the utility," he says. So much so that if you’re salivating at that glimpse of a steaming bowl of creamy butternut squash soup, you can swipe the screen to move the copy off the page for a better view.
Interactivity isn’t totally missing. There are embedded videos and select pages that allow foodies to take a deeper dive into specific ingredients such as garnishes.
But the most intriguing thing about Soups—beyond turning mac and cheese or pizza into bowlfuls of spoonable comfort—is the potential to go back to the future of cookbooks.
Though Madden says that Food Network doesn’t yet have a virtual binder to store the single titles all together, the series takes a page from those vintage classic cookbooks from the likes of Time-Life, Betty Crocker, and Better Homes and Gardens. Madden asserts that Food Network has a treasure trove of great content from its celebrity chefs as well as from its own test kitchen. So why not sell subscriptions to foodies who can’t get enough?
Amazon’s certainly jumped on that revenue stream with the recent release of Kindle Serials harkening back to the days of Dickens’ fiction installments.
One key ingredient is missing—at least for the time being. Social sharing of recipes and all those glossy photos won’t be available until early next year. As all manner of pinging and pinning food shots proliferates on social media (and Hipstamatic has become an object lesson in what failure to share can do to the bottom line), it’s hard to see why that function wasn’t baked in from the beginning.
Madden prefers to focus on the future, noting that Cookies is being dished up next. "The way tech works now, it’s all done in-house," he enthuses about the soup to nuts process of picking props, photographing the food, and viewing it on the computer screen to tweaking navigation and adjust the layout. There were plenty of bowls and spoons to wash because of the irresistible urge to sample, he adds. You’ll be happy to know that no cameras or computer equipment were harmed in the process.
[Image: Flickr user Jeffreyw]
UPDATE: The original article said the app would be available at B&N. It is currently not offered there yet.