By Sahil Patel
Beauty and music might be massive on YouTube, but there’s another genre that can lay claim to being the fastest-growing on the world’s biggest video site: food. This is according to a recent YouTube Insights study from Google, which made the aforementioned claim and provided some data to back it up: In 2013, the top 20 food and cooking channels generated 370 million views while seeing a
240% increase in subscribers.
But it’s not just YouTube, food is cookin’ (I regret nothing) all over the web.
The world’s second-biggest video platform, Dailymotion, is also seeing positive numbers. “Not only in terms of the number of people watching food shows and other videos uploaded to our platform,” says Roland Hamilton, managing director, US, of Dailymotion. “But also in terms of the searches we’re seeing on Dailymotion.” Cooking, food, and chef are among the most-searched terms on Dailymotion, a platform that reaches more than 230 million unique viewers worldwide every month.
This level of audience demand has resulted in Dailymotion inking deals with several food-content providers over the years, from TV networks like CBS to newer video programmers like BuzzFeed and Conde Nast Entertainment, to bring more professional food content on to the platform.
ulive, a lifestyle video platform launched by Scripps Networks Interactive, the programmer behind Food Network and Cooking Channel, has more than 20 original short-form series directly about food or mentioning food in some way. And that doesn’t even include the full episodes of TV shows from Food Network and Cooking Channel that the platform offers.
NBCUniversal’s Bravo has won an Emmy for “Last Chance Kitchen,” a companion web series tied to the cable network’s hit “Top Chef” franchise — the success of which spawned a second companion web series, “Padma’s Picks,” for the 11th season of “Top Chef.”
Why, though? Why does food content work so well on the web?
On YouTube, that’s an easy answer — all you have to do is look at what’s popular within the food genre, and how it ties directly to what we already know about YouTube.
According to Tubular Labs, the analytics company behind the above data from Google, YouTube users of all sizes uploaded nearly 113,000 cooking- and recipe-related videos in 2013, altogether generating more than 436 million views.
It’s easy to see why. As much as it’s a daily life utility, cooking — like YouTube — is social. “Cooking has always been a social activity,”
says Karen Sauder, Google’s industry director, food, beverage, and restaurants. “And YouTube gives people a chance to come together share ideas, recipes, and conversation around a global table.”
And just as in life, on YouTube, people tend to gravitate to others who they want to “hang out” with. “YouTube gives a chance for personalities to shine, and for creators and audiences to find their own niche.”
For instance, you’re a guy, and you just really love bacon (a lot of men do, as Tubular Lab data shows that 31% of males who watched cooking videos on YouTube in 2013 engaged with a video that had to do with bacon in some way). There’s a good chance, then, of you being a fan of Epic Meal Time, the insane food-loving dudes who love bacon, among many other food items, and have more than 6 million subscribers.
Or, let’s go another way. You’re a geek who also loves food. There’s something for you, too: Rosanna Pansino’s “Nerdy Nummies,” the most popular baking show/channel on YouTube according to Sauder, with more than 1.4 million subscribers and 200 million views. Every Tuesday, Pansino publishes a new geek-inspired recipe for delectable dishes like Spongebob lemon bars and Star Wars Lightsaber popsicles.
Personality-driven content, connecting viewers with the creators who they can relate to (and virtually cook with), is also the philosophy behind what digital food network Tastemade is currently doing.
“The mission of Tastemade is to connect the world through food,” says co-founder Steven Kydd. “It’s finding people with diverse culinary points of view and trying to engage that community to get into the kitchen.”
Tastemade has been doing this by not only running an MCN that works with almost one hundred talented food creators, but also via a mobile app that allows anyone to create their own food or cooking “show.” If the content is really good, Tastemade will bring the user in to continue creating the show for its network.
But it’s not just about finding a virtual cooking buddy. Food, as a topic, is no longer restricted to itself. Food is universal. It can speak to a way of life.
“I think it speaks to a broader trend of the content that’s being created out there,” says Hamilton. “Food is common to everyone, it cuts across a lot of different categories,” he adds. “Even in comedy there are ways to approach it.”
For instance, Epic Meal Time, which also distributes content on Dailymotion. Yes, they’re teaching you how to make an insane dish, but it’s also a certain type of living to say you’re going to cook and eat a food that can only be described as a “bird within a bird within a bird within a bird within a pig.”
The best example of this universality? Scripps’ ulive, which offers an array of short-form original series. Many are completely about food. Most have nothing to do with food directly, but feature food as part of a larger theme. (For example: In “What You Don’t Know Could Kill You,” an episode about how leftovers can, yes, kill you.)
For its part, Dailymotion is aware of the universality of food. Just look at how it categorizes the genre: If you’re looking for food content on the world’s second-largest video platform, it’s actually available within the movies and entertainment category.
Yes, the success of food content on the web begins with the fundamental fact that we think about food every day. But it also helps that the genre and platform are uniquely flexible.
“There’s much more flexibility, much more that can be done, and with that comes the ability to offer more voices and many more types of voices,” says Kydd, “and that’s exciting.”
Welcome to VideoInk’s latest special issue: Video Food Fest, devouring all things food and video on the web over the next seven days. So that the next time you’re around the dinner table, and your Aunt Judy asks, “Hey! What’s happening with food video content on the web!?” you’ll know exactly what to say.
Epic Meal Time photo: The Ethical Adman