Tastemade is a leading MCN that is focused on food, nothing but food. The company’s mission is to be “Connecting the World Through Food.” And investors have bitten—to the tune of $25 million in their latest round led—predictably (and smartly)—by Scripps Networks Interactive (owner, of course, of the Food Network). Megamedia companies Comcast (via Comcast Ventures) and Liberty Media also are investors in the company’s latest round (which is on top of $15 million previously invested).
Csathy recently visited Tastemade’s Santa Monica, California, headquarters and studios and met with CEO Larry Fitzgibbon. They had previously crossed paths a couple of times—when Fitzgibbon ran CitySearch and Csathy was CEO of SightSpeed, and while Fitzgibbon ran Demand Media and Csathy ran Sorenson Media. Demand Media is where Larry honed his chops for short-form video content. After Demand Media’s IPO in 2011, Larry and his other cofounders used their recipe of best practices and mixed in key ingredients of experience, learnings (e.g., focus on a passionate target audience/vertical market and build a brand), expertise, and passion for food to bake Tastemade. And, here we are.
Larry shrugs off the label “MCN,” choosing instead to call Tastemade a “modern” media company. Csathy mentioned to him that it was intriguing for him to use that word (“modern”), because that is a rarely used word in this day and age. His response to that was equally intriguing—i.e., “we are not a next-gen media company, because the audience has already migrated to digital platforms.” He is dead-on there. And, Tastemade’s content is developed natively for those digital platforms, unlike content produced for the Food Network or other traditional platforms like television (that is then frequently transitioned suboptimally to digital channels). Different strokes (content) for different folks (platforms).
And, here’s the interesting thing about Tastemade as opposed to many other major MCNs. Most major MCNs have thousands of channels. Not Tastemade. Tastemade counts about 300. And every single one of them—each one—is identified by pin, string, and individual profile on a massive world map on one main wall inside the company’s offices. Yes, old-world recognition by a new-world “modern” media company for the old-world art of cooking and food.
Here’s another one. Tastemade’s app (definitely worth checking out) enables anyone to be a “foodie” and instantaneously and easily make a beautiful professional video at their favorite restaurant while they order food and enjoy a meal. Everything is automated (editing, etc.)—and you can also select music tracks to accompany your “rave” (not reviews, because reviews can be negative) of your food experience so that others can enjoy. But here’s the punch line. Every single prolific Tastemade raver has his/her picture and profile on that same Tastemade office wall in an old-world format (via post-its this time), so that the Tastemade team sees their audience, their users, all day, every day. It is a great authentic reminder of what it is all about—to connect the world with food! Bravo to Larry and his team for those nice human touches.
Tastemade now gets 18 million unique visitors per month, and its core audience is, not surprisingly, 18-34 and about 60% female, with over 50% residing outside of the United States. This truly is an international play, because food travels well (at least digitally). The company’s business model is, as expected, primarily ad-driven (including significant branded content and sponsorship opportunities). But, the company—like many other MCNs (and virtually every media company)—is also experimenting with paid content (via subscriptions and/or micropayments for access) and ultimately with relevant commerce opportunities.
Tastemade is a company worth noting for its innovation and leadership in the multiplatform media/video world.