The site now averages four million unique monthly visitors. After building up content, 98% of which is contributed by readers, Food52 had the audience to add an e-commerce arm. That section, Provisions, went live in August of 2013. That same year, the publisher began selling advertising directly.
The site doesn’t write content that it think will drive sales; instead, it looks for natural fits between the content and products. Below most stories, there is a recommendations module with two links to related content and two links to related products.
“You might come to Food52 for advice on grilling steak, but you might also need a rub for that steak, or a cutting broad, or steak knives to serve it with,” said CEO and co-founder Amanda Hesser. “Those things have been separated from the helpful content. We brought together everything you need and created one place for it.”
The site’s approach is working: 40% of commerce conversions come from a piece of content.
The rest of those sales come from more traditional channels: social, email, affiliate programs, and paid social or search. One and a half million people subscribe to Food52 emails. Affiliates – often smaller food, cooking, and lifestyle sites – together form a network that extends the same principles of marrying content and commerce.
Food52 found its commerce focus put it on the same page with its advertisers.
“Because we have commerce as a big part our brand, we have proof that we can activate our audience. It gives us a huge advantage in the relationship building for advertisers and proof that we understand our audience,” Hesser said.
E-commerce businesses are known for their clean data and easy attribution from ads to sale. Food52 is working on organizing and applying its data for use internally and on behalf of advertisers.
Its entry point into understanding its users better is Collections, a Pinterest-like service that allows users to collect and file their favorite online items. One of Hesser’s collections, “Cocktail Hour,” features a mix of recipes and products, such as whimsical drink stirrers. (more…)