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  • Recipe Guru Team

Three Reasons Cookbook Publishers Are Embracing Digital

Digital content is more popular than ever. Global online content consumption doubled in 2020 as we sat out the pandemic at home and global consumer spending on media grew an estimated 6.1% to $2.012 trillion in the same period. This is an astonishing number even before you consider that paid-for content is competing with the staggering amount of free digital content that is available to consumers. Also competing in this space are more traditional content creators such as book publishers. For cookbook publishers, digital content is a particular issue. While embracing digital has enabled publishers to accelerate their marketing endeavours, the sheer volume of free recipe content that is available online has an impact on the bottom line. Why purchase a cookbook when you can find a wealth of recipe content online? There is still a core group of cookbook fans however for whom the tried-and-tested nature of cookbooks remains a draw. Our own shelves are groaning under the weight of glossy, vibrant cookbooks by food giants like Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson and newcomers such as Liam Charles. Not only that, but cookbook sales are increasing yearly and the Print Books top-ten in Amazon's Trend Report is consistently dominated by cookbooks. Between January and September 2020, sales of cookbooks grew by 15% in the U.S. Sales of bread cookbooks alone increased by 200,000. Regardless, digital content poses a real threat to the traditional publishing industry.

Not content with sticking to the status quo, cookbook publishers are embracing digital content and all its benefits. From our conversations with publishers and our experiences of working with the likes of Octopus and DK, we have gained insight into the reasons cookbook publishers are jumping on board with digitalisation. Here are just three of the benefits publishers that embrace a digital transformation can enjoy.

Smartphone with picture of bookshelf on the screen

Breathe new life into back catalogues

There were 1,956 cookbooks published in 2002 in the U.S. alone. By 2016, this number had jumped to more than 3,000, so it's clear that competition for sales is high. As the number of published cookbooks increases year on year, it only makes sense that sales of previous titles will decrease. Cookbook publishers are eager to monetise these extensive back catalogues. Their white-label and niche titles are packed with reliable, inspiring content - the sort of content grocery retailers, food brands and recipe apps are crying out for. Not only that, but new platforms for ready-to-use recipe content have emerged as the connected kitchen has evolved. Appliance manufacturers understand that it is vital to integrate a range of reliable recipe content into their smart appliances in order to drive interest in the product and to continually refresh this offering with fresh content. Recipe development is a time consuming and expensive activity. While it gives companies full control over their own content, the investment required not just in monetary terms, but in time and infrastructure, is a barrier. This is good news for the cookbook publishers we work with. Our customers are in search of ready-made digital content at scale in order to fulfil their ongoing recipe requirements, and publishers are by far the largest, most trustworthy source of this content.

Reach new audiences

Millennials are digital natives who are often more comfortable searching for recipe inspiration online than flicking through a cookbook. They're also foodies who love to share their food experiences with friends, both online and offline. Gen Z is showing increasing interest in cooking from scratch. For cookbook publishers, reaching and engaging these audiences is key to growth. Building an audience from scratch is no mean feat. Creating partnerships in order to leverage an existing millennial audience is a more efficient option. Millennials may have a reputation for choosing experiences over material possessions, and for eating out, but they still need to shop for groceries and interest in home cooking over eating out has increased due to the pandemic. Grocery retailers possess the data and machine learning capabilities required to put the right recipe in front of the right millennial, and for cookbook publishers, this is a strategy that could help engage new audiences. Sales of new titles benefit from a portion of the recipes being made available for free to the media as a marketing tool. What if cookbook back catalogues could benefit from similar brand awareness and sales uplift using a paid-for model? For celebrity chefs looking to move into a new market, or hoping to increase sales of older titles in an existing market, syndicating recipes from previous cookbook titles to interested parties is a winning strategy. Our customers understand the power not only of celebrity chef recipes, but also reliable generic recipe content, and are interested in the long-term gain associated with purchasing and sharing trustworthy recipe content.

Uncover fresh revenue streams

Syndicating content to companies in search of recipes is just the beginning when it comes to fresh revenue streams for cookbook publishers. As shoppable recipe content continues to gain traction as a valuable, engaging marketing tool for both grocery retailers and guided cooking systems, the possibility of affiliate revenue share and percentage of basket value is an attractive prospect for publishers who want to re-monetise their cookbook content. Not only that, but there is potential to link to relevant books and related products, increasing both brand awareness and sales and bringing the marketing strategy full circle.

The cookbook publishers we work with are placing innovation at their core. They have long-since mastered content and supplying readers with the content they desire and are keen to conquer the digital world in a similar way. By tapping into new and emerging ecosystems, cookbook publishers are on the cusp of doing just that. Not only that, but they are reaping the rewards, from increased brand awareness and fresh revenue streams to long-tail monetisation of their back catalogues. Recipes are a hot commodity right now, with everyone from Walmart to GE in search of digital recipe content at scale, while also creating partnerships with recipe websites and apps. Publishers considering innovation might ask 'What's the point when we're competing with technology giants?' but technology giants are crying out for recipe content. Cookbook publishers that position themselves as a partner rather than a competitor in this space can expect to benefit from a captive audience with an immediate need for digital recipe content.

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