The cookbook vs. YouTube

Photo of Jamie OliverYesterday I hope I demonstrated that cookbooks continue to be successful products for publishing houses and dominate the bestselling hardbacks chart, despite challenges from recipe websites and TV. In today’s post, I’m thinking about how the recipe book can compete with YouTube, and what the competition might mean for the future of the print publication of the cookbook.

For many, Jamie Oliver is best described as a TV chef with a host of recipe publications, or the man who got rid of Turkey Twizzlers at school. However, Carole Cadwalladr summed up in the Observer a couple of months ago, ‘Jamie Oliver no longer is a TV chef, or a campaigner, or a cookbook author, or the owner of several chains of restaurants, or at least he is, but he’s also… “a very strange brand, a celebrity disruptive force”.’ Jamie is now also being labelled a web personality as a result of his work with Jamie’s Food Tube, a YouTube channel with an ensemble cast of cooks and chefs. He (with much help from his marketing team) has managed to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with on each new digital platform as it arises or becomes the new trend, and he seems to have managed to do this with more success than any other celebrity, and certainly any other celebrity chef.

YouTube seems like it would be a major threat for the cookbook. It is interactive – if you are stuck with a recipe, you can ask the cook in the comments section or via twitter. It also provides what a recipe website usually lacks – we are able to buy into the lifestyle of the Food Tube cooks, as they are all big characters who reflect their personalities into their food. Instead of Jamie’s Food Tube steering the viewer away from print publishing, Jamie’s Food Tube stars are getting their own cookbook deals. The Food Tube is an online channel which brings together lots of pre-existing YouTube cooks, including ‘a self-taught American Italian home chef called Laura Vitales [who] has 1.3 million subscribers; SortedFood, a bunch of young British men who seemingly came from nowhere [who] have 800,000’.

It seems that the consumer is not content with piles of free and accessible YouTube videos; we still want to own our own hardback copies. Jamie’s YouTube channel provides an extensive taster, and if we like it, we will buy the book. The strategy works almost like a freemium model. Of course, some would-be buyers will be happy to stick to free content, but that small loss for the publishing house is counteracted by the free marketing and advertising provided by the Food Tube channel, which has over one million subscribers. Perhaps nothing can replicate the sturdy practicality of the hardback cookbook, and the cookbook shall continue to be a successful publishing product (at least until our gadgets are all spill-resistant!).

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