The cookbook may soon go the way of the dinosaur, and if that’s true as some trend watchers predict, it’s time to take a closer look at the tools we need to tell a succulent food story in the 21st century.
In the March 24 issue of the New York Times, technology writer Sam Grobart looks at where technology could replace "old school" items, and while he believes that traditional books are still worth hanging onto, Grobart predicts that printed cookbooks will quickly give way to digital content. Why? Because a well-produced cooking app does what a cookbook cannot – provide a better version of everything that came before it.
Grobart cites the new Martha Stewart Makes Cookies app for the iPad as the wave of the future. Every recipe has a photo of the dish, which is now a luxury that is too expensive for many printed cookbooks. Complex cooking and baking techniques are explained with embedded video. The app also features a digital timer built into the recipe, and an ingredient list you can email yourself to take to the supermarket.
Martha has figured out how to "build a better mousetrap" by visually upping the game for instructional cooking content. She’s also got apps in the works for cocktails, smoothies and power foods. Chefs like Tyler Florence have gotten into the app game too, offering access to a staggering number of recipes at minimal cost, and new features the Joy of Cooking could never do, like real-time email consultation for all your cooking issues with a trained chef.
Martha is also launching new versions of her flagship magazines for the iPad. The stalwart "Martha Stewart Living," which was always a luxury experience in print, has now become a living, breathing magazine experience for the tablet with music, rich motion graphics, and instructional videos that will convince you it is simple to prepare a four course meal in under an hour. The iPad launch was quickly followed by "Everyday Food" and other MSO publications.
As communicators, we’ve reached a pivotal moment. Digital food content requires that we go beyond the traditional and the expected and present a multi-dimensional view of food. Food is a sensual experience and digital opportunities abound to evoke a one-of-a-kind experience for the consumer. As we apply these new tools to expand food storytelling, consider these questions to expand the consumer experience:
- Are we delivering content and insights the consumer can’t get from any other source, be it digital or traditional?
- Are we using color and motion to create a fresh and lively virtual food experience for the consumer? Is the experience "drool worthy?"
- Have we expanded the consumer’s knowledge of sourcing information?
- Have we used technology to transport the consumer to a location – be it a farm, a processing facility, or a kitchen – which they might never be able to visit on their own and enhances their understanding of the product?
- Have we introduced them to the people behind the food product?
- Is the talent/storyteller the proper fit for each platform, topic and message? Do their credentials need to be transparent?
- Are we providing indispensable advice, creating a must-have resource for the consumer?
- Have we used visuals and video to make food preparation come to life, illustrating not just assembly, but cooking techniques the consumer can master?
- Do we have a proper distribution strategy?