Cooking Sites Whip Up Audiences

Online recipe sites might not be the first thing to come to mind when launching an integrated media plan, but according to recent findings, the sites have big audiences — and surprising value for advertisers.

For one thing, more people turn to the Internet than magazines for tips on cooking and recipes. According to new research from Stamford, Conn.-based market research firm InsightExpress, 23 percent of about 800 polled households said they preferred the Web as their primary source of seeking out recipes, versus 21 percent favoring magazines. (Thirty-four percent used cookbooks — which came out on top in the survey — as their primary source.)

That’s a pretty significant finding, inasmuch as cooking magazines have long been a staple offering of the big publishing houses — Conde Nast, for instance, owns Bon Appetit and Gourmet, which it aggregates online at Additionally, family- or female-oriented lifestyle publications include recipes as a matter of course, because it’s believed that the areas are some of the magazines’ most regularly-read (and regularly saved, even after the publication itself is thrown away). But it appears that, with the emergence of the Internet, home cooks have found these publications lacking important capabilities.

“The best Web sites allow you to get recipes, they also allow you to get the personal opinions of fellow cooks on these recipes. It’s a much better information model than a static magazine page,” said InsightExpress chief operations officer Lee Smith. “Magazines and newspapers do not provide the kind of feedback, like reviews, substitutions and preparation tips, that you find on the Web. The Web provides the opportunity to get immediate feedback from other cooks, and our research clearly shows that this is what home cooks want.”

Better news still for marketers, product placement and advertising could reap big windfalls, as the findings suggest that more than a third of online home cooks would buy a brand specified in a recipe.

“This statistic makes a strong case for how effective the Web can be for consumer packaged goods companies,” Smith said. “This information medium is fast becoming one of the most influential among consumers.”

According to InsightExpress, which is affiliated with the Interpublic Group’s NFO WorldGroup, independent Web sites are the largest benefactors of home cooks’ online searches, who visit the sites 49 percent of the time when they’re looking for recipes.

That kind of traffic helps independents rake in attention from advertisers. According to Nielsen//NetRatings, five-year old, Seattle-based — ranked number one in the category — features advertisers including General Mills, Hershey’s, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, and a host of others large firms eager to get at the site’s two million monthly visitors and 800,000 newsletter subscribers.

In other good news for marketers — and the interactive agencies they hire for such projects — supermarket and food brand Web sites also ranked highly among home cooks. Respondents said they visit sites operated by food retailers and consumer packaged goods firms about 40 percent of the time, mentioning 44 different food brand Web sites that they visit regularly in search of recipes. Among the group, Kraft’s proved the most popular, visited by 33 percent of home cooks; garnered 30 percent; and was visited often by 25 percent.

Additionally, the study found that 38 percent of home cooks find recipe ideas via portals, 37 percent go to magazine Web sites, 28 percent go to TV network/program Web sites and 7 percent of home cooks go to cookware/appliance manufacturer Web sites.

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