Allrecipes.com, headquartered right here in Seattle, is the world's biggest online food community, and starting this week, it's flipping its image. No longer is it just a content-driven bulletin board for recipes; it is now a food-focused social community, in which the user (that is, the home cook) is the star. Here at Eater.com, we know that you follow us primarily for breaking news about local restaurants and the comings and goings of professional chefs. We also know, though, that many of you know your way around a kitchen yourselves, so wanted to share this bit of national online recipe news straight from Westlake.
Allrecipes.com was founded by Seattle natives Tim Hunt, Dan Shepherd, Carl Lipo, Mark Madsen, Michael Pfeffer, and David Quinn in 1997, early internet entrepreneurs with an interest in cookies, of all things. He and five friends created CookieRecipe.com as a platform to trade recipes; it turned into one of the first sites to take advantage of a concept soon known as User Generated Content, and just kept growing.
Today, from its offices overlooking Westlake Park, Allrecipes keeps tabs on home cooks around the globe (sites in 24 countries, content in 19 languages), who spend $300 billion a year on food and plenty of time in the kitchen. It has ten million registered members and houses 250 million reader-contributed recipes. It gets 1.3 billion site visits and 110 million video-views a year.
How is it different, now branded as a social community? Instead of just waiting for users to search its site, the new Allrecipes sends users recipe ideas and step-by-step instructions, along with Amazon-style, context-appropriate ads. If you register with on the site, AllRecipes stores personal information like your eating preferences, food allergies, shopping habits, so nearby supermarkets can target you with weekly specials. Also part of the change: more engaging visuals, a personalized "cooking graph," and an "I Made This" button that celebrates your favorite foods.
How is AllRecipes.com different, now branded as a social community? Instead of just waiting for users to search its site, the new Allrecipes sends users recipe ideas and step-by-step instructions, along with Amazon-style, context-appropriate ads.
In the works for months, this shift hasn't come easily. But the investment is worth it, according to Stan Pavlovsky, who runs Allrecipes for the site's owner, powerhouse publisher Meredith (Better Homes & Gardens, and a stable of related food, family, home, and lifestyle magazines) which spent $175 million in 2012 to buy the property from Reader's Digest.
Why is it worth it? From the perspective of the user, the site is a friend to whom you've confessed your deepest secrets (e.g. the fallen soufflé, the sweet tooth, the guilty pleasure ...) From the perspective of the advertiser, the new format is even more helpful, providing access not just to 10 million people but to (say) half a million families with gluten intolerance. Or vegetarians, or consumers of German rye bread. Or households that don't have (but need) heat-proof spatulas. (In fact, if a recipe calls for stirring something with a heat-proof spatula, you can bet there will be an ad for kitchen gadgets next to it ....)
"We may have built the technology," Pavlovsky says of his Seattle staff (some 225 in editorial, tech, marketing, ad sales), "but it's the cooks who build the brand."