The Fastest-Growing Online Food Publication Partners with TV Talent for New Series

The Fastest-Growing Online Food Publication Partners with TV Talent for New Series

Vic Belonogoff

30 years ago, there weren’t many choices for watching video content out there. You’d have maybe a handful of channels on TV, or you’d go see a movie. Fast forward to the present, and there are millions of video options out there on the Internet. An average American spends roughly 118 minutes per day on social media, and most of that goes to video-hosting platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. So there’s a lot of competition for your (the viewer’s) eyes. Even in the relatively niche space of online food and cooking content, there are millions of videos to choose from, creating a real need for us to continue innovating with our food vertical, Cooking Panda.

To this end, we’re continually experimenting with radically new ideas and formats at Render Media to build a roster of recurring series that people will visit our pages every week to see. Cooking Panda is unique in the sense that our audience engages with our content at a very high rate when compared with some of our competitors. This means that the ratio of viewers who actually interact with Cooking Panda’s videos (like, share and comment) is quite a bit higher than even some of the biggest names in the digital kitchen, including Tastemade and BuzzFeed’s Tasty. We know that we’re already achieving significant connection to our audience, but we wanted to take it a step further by incorporating the personalities behind the food. So we partnered with several culinary personalities to bring our audience something different than what they were used to with Cooking Panda. We have several series in our lineup for the first half of 2017:

  1. Everyday Elevated with Sharone Hakman: Creating healthy (and tasty) meals at home doesn’t have to be intimidating. Everyday Elevated stars chef Sharone, an alumnus of shows such as MasterChef and Kocktails with Khloe Kardashian. He believes that you can “elevate” the mundane dishes you eat everyday with simple, whole food ingredients -- and you don’t have to be a Master Chef to do it!
  2. Wine-ding Down with Fabio Viviani: Wine-ding Down features Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani. In this comedic series, Fabio is here to help you unwind with hearty Italian food and selections from his own line of wines. After a long day, cooking yourself a meal should be a relaxing experience, and Fabio is here to show you how that’s done. And he’s excellent company!
  3. Food Science: The first episode of Food Science was posted this week on Cooking Panda. Hosted by Katy Stoll of How I Met Your Mother and CSI, this female-driven “science” show performs relatable experiments with items that can be found in any kitchen. With its fast-paced fun, Food Science shows that science isn’t just performed in labs by men in white coats. Anyone can be a scientists in their own kitchen with just a few common ingredients.
  4. Southern Savvy: Southern Girl Desserts, a duo made up of Cupcake Wars winners Catarah Hampshire and Shoneji Robinson, bring a taste of Southern charm and hospitality to the Cooking Panda studio. In this series, Catarah and Shoneji recreate classic Southern baked goods with a modern, and often unexpected, twist. Southern Savvy is launching in Q2.

Incorporating personalities for video content that still largely lives on Facebook was, admittedly, risky. While we firmly believe in the quality of these series, it took some finessing to figure out what would work with our audience while still maintaining the integrity and personality of the videos we created. 90% of Cooking Panda’s audience watches the videos with the sound off, for example, and our initial pilots were being skipped because people couldn’t hear what the onscreen talent was saying with their phones on mute. So we added subtitles, and through that, we actually found that more people were turning on the volume to hear the talent in the video. After a couple of tweaks, both series we’ve already launched ended up performing really well - “Everyday Elevated” averaged around 700,000 views per video, and the first episode of “Wine-ding Down” racked up over 1.2 million views and averaged around 800,000 views for all subsequent videos. Ultimately, we’re here to create great content that our audience connects with, so we partnered with people whose energy we really liked and who we thought could really inspire our audience even more to get out there and try these recipes, and to have fun doing it.

I think what’s really important here is that we are more than willing -- happy, in fact -- to experiment with diverse video formats in the name of pushing the content both on Cooking Panda and in the wider online food community. That’s the secret to innovation in this space: Don’t be afraid to try new formats, even if they are very different from the norm. Render Media is well-positioned to continue to experiment in this vein: We dedicate 25% of our creative manpower and resources to “piloting” new content like these personality-based series. I firmly believe this is crucial for continuing to push forward creatively and to diversify our offerings on Cooking Panda.