BON PIMPIN’: For almost two years, the most-viewed story on Bon Appétit’s Web site was “25 Ways to Use Sriracha,” a photo gallery that looks just like it sounds. When Adam Rapoport presented his first issue as editor in chief in May 2011, the magazine’s Web site was skeletal. So he instructed his staff to churn out more of the kinds of blog posts that were thriving online, like quick-hit lists and endless galleries of beautifully photographed dishes.
“I insisted the blog posts have more voice, more personality and emphasized smarter search optimization packaging,” he said recently at his office.
Despite only the most basic investment in infrastructure or technology, Rapoport said, the site grew on the strength of galleries like the Sriracha post and its huge recipe database from a little more than 600,000 unique visitors in June 2011 to 1.1 million this past June, according to comScore. Bon App’s internal numbers put June’s uniques at three million, Rapoport said.
This week, Rapoport will unveil an overhauled site that aims to build on that readership but also keep them longer at the site than for just a breezy photo gallery, like “10 Crazy S’mores Recipes,” another recent feature.
“It’s kind of like Tiger Woods rebuilding his swing after he wins the Masters. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? But my feeling is that it’s not about what we have done, but about what we want to do,” the “dude-itor” said as he jammed in his fifth-floor office overlooking Times Square to dad-rock hero Ike Reilly.
What he wants is to hit five million uniques and, not incidentally, attract more advertisers with new site fixtures. The site will be presented to advertisers Tuesday afternoon in an upfront.
The redesign tweaks the site’s clean layout slightly — “sort of minimal in a sense, if you wanna talk Raf Simons or Kanye” — and beefs up daily blog posts — about 15 from seven; video features; “pimped-out photography,” and the kind of bells and whistles that readers already take for granted on other sites — recipe ratings; better commenting and search capabilities, and more social media buttons. Features from the magazine will make it online in a staggered fashion over the course of two weeks. Rapoport said there will be 30 percent more video this year in anticipation of Bon App’s own dedicated YouTube channel in the first half of 2014 through Condé Nast Entertainment.
The magazine’s feature on 2013’s top 10 new restaurants, online on Monday, is a preview of what’s to come. Each slide on the list comes with a write-up as it appears in the magazine, a photo gallery, video and related recipes.
“I wanted the reader to pinball around the site more. Each recipe page is like, ‘Hey, you love these pancakes, check out these 20 other pancakes, watch this video on how to make pancakes,” Rapoport said. “It’s not a single-lane experience. It encourages you to not be stuck on that one page and get out. We want you to be swerving in and out without causing any accidents through all that content.”
The site’s build-out is a reflection too of the industry-wide recovery of the food advertising category, which plummeted about 17 percent in 2011, according to the Publishers Information Bureau, but has since slowly bounced back — it’s up nearly 10 percent in revenue so far into the first half, and nearly 5 percent in paging. Bon App’s print pages are up 20 percent through August to about 451, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Publisher Pam Drucker Mann said the magazine’s print pages are up because certain advertisers, like Chase Sapphire, are buying more integrated digital-print packages — revenue grew 129 percent from 2011 to 2012, she said without disclosing dollar amounts. The growth is coming from a low point, however.
At Bon App, anyway, she’s not seeing advertisers increase digital spending at the expense of print.
“What we’re starting to see is an even evolution from that,” she said. “Advertisers are buying into brands. Ultimately, that’s the direction we’re starting to move in, buying holistically. To compete on that level, you have to have a strong digital platform.”
There was one encouraging sign for the title’s juiced-up redesign on Monday: The top 10 new restaurants gallery finally dislodged from the most-viewed perch the mighty Sriracha opus, which fell to second place.