Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Food Editors to YouTube Sensation: How Bon Appétit Changed Food Editing as We Know It

(Photo credit: Bon Appétit)

This classic food magazine found a new audience online and became a social media star in the process. See what Bon Appétit is cooking up next on YouTube.  ♦ 
In 2012 Bon Appétit created its very own YouTube channel featuring a series of simple recipe tutorials. Fast forward to 2020 and Bon Appétit has managed to establish themselves among the ranks of popular YouTube content creators. What makes their rise to fame so unique is the way in which the company has managed to step outside of their traditional magazine format to promote not only their recipes, but the whole cast and crew of food editors working in the Bon Appétit test kitchen. Not only has Bon Appétit transformed themselves through their YouTube presence, but they have had an influence on the marketing of traditionally written content like magazines as a whole.

When people hear the Bon Appétit name it is likely that they now associate the company with the series of fun videos that have been posted online, but this wasn’t always the case. The company got its start in the 1950s, a time when magazines were still enough to draw in a significant readership. While the company still offers a print subscription on their site, they seem to have realized that they wouldn’t be able to survive on their magazine alone in the growing digital age. As times have changed, so too has the format and content of Bon Appétit. In an effort to stay up to date and continue to draw in readers the company launched a YouTube channel to take their brand to the next level. The channel’s early videos were largely overhead how-tos and interview style recipe sharing that more or less blended into the thousands of other videos being posted at the time. While Bon Appétit’s early videos seemed to copy popular video trends, the company nevertheless continued to experiment in hopes that the videos they produced would be enough to gain the attention they were after.

It wasn’t until Bon Appétit started to do their own thing and experiment with a series of different video styles that their YouTube channel really started to take off. Introducing more hands-on tutorials with fun and exciting plot lines along with the addition of a whole cast of food editors seemed to be the recipe for success that Bon Appétit had been looking for. It appears that while Bon Appétit had originally attempted to extend their magazine format online, the key to growth was to reinvent themselves and give viewers a sneak peak of what really goes on in the Bon Appétit test kitchen. Not only were people watching to learn how to cook, but suddenly Bon Appétit had tapped into a world of entertainment as well. The takeoff of their YouTube success can in a large part be attributed to the introduction of a few lucrative series on their channels. Some of their more popular series include Gourmet Makes hosted by Claire Saffitz and It's Alive hosted by Brad Leone. These particular series have established Bon Appétit as an entity outside of their physical magazine and as a result their audience has expanded tremendously.

While Bon Bon Appétit’s success can largely be attributed to their YouTube series there is also something to be said for the other use of multimedia Bon Appétit has introduced alongside their YouTube channel. Starting as solely a print company they have slowly become more inclusive in their interactions with online and multimedia formats. Alongside their magazine and YouTube channel, the company owns and runs a fairly successful online website where users can go to find recipes from some of their most popular videos along with a whole host of online exclusive content. Bon Appétit’s website also features some of their newest videos alongside their written content for a truly multimodal experience. The company uses a number of successful social media accounts, including Instagram, which not only serves to highlight the recipes they are working on, but also helps the company establish themselves in the digital age while continuing to provide a crossover in content for their fans. This once again helps them stand out in the traditionally print industry. Outside of the company Instagram most of the editors have their own accounts where they not only share the latest recipes they’ve been working on, but also shed light into each editor’s personal life outside of the Bon Appétit test kitchen. This allows readers to get to know their favorite editors in a much more informal environment. Bon Appétit’s expansion into digital serves not only as a means of entertainment, but as a way for readers to feel as though they have joined a community through their subscription to the brand in all of its entities.

While Bon Appétit seems to have found the winning formula for enduring the digital age, they are not alone in expanding what it means to be a food magazine in the modern era. Because of the relative success that the company has found in their online presence, other food magazines and publishing entities have begun to follow suit in an attempt to keep their companies alive. Magazines like Delish are taking cues from Bon Appétit and reinventing themselves with an online presence. This can all be boiled down to the way in which these companies are attempting to attract new readers.

Not only has Bon Appétit established themselves as a well-known YouTube channel, they have also managed to find a new way to continue magazine subscription growth. First and foremost, Bon Appétit is a magazine. While their YouTube channel has had recognizable success, it all began because the company was looking for a way to increase their readership in a younger audience. This has helped them ensure that the Bon Appétit name is one that will live on in the increasingly tech savvy generations. The company's introduction came at a time when cooking didn’t need to reach a digital audience, but Bon Appétit’s YouTube presence and subsequent success proves that in order to continue spreading culinary knowledge they must do so in a contemporary and accessible form.

  • About the Author
    Natalie Citro is a senior at Miami University where she studies English Literature with a minor in Interactive Media Studies. Natalie also works in the university’s English department where she is a student assistant charged with creating a variety of posters for department events throughout the year.

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