Cooking at home may be enjoying a renaissance thanks to the down economy, but with dozens of creditable Web sites offering free recipes, not to mention thousands of food blogs putting even more out there, does the world really need another recipe site? David Feller, who has worked at Half.com and eBay, says yes. A longtime cooking enthusiast, Feller was fed up with what he calls the limitations and inaccuracies of online cooking sites, so he launched Yummly. Its hook: the site helps users find recipes based on their tastes. Of interest to publishers: Yummly is actively seeking cookbook content.
Yummly, which is in Beta now and is officially launching June 22, already has about 500,000 recipes collected from cooking Web sites and other places. It's free for users, and its search function is extensive, with options including ingredients, tastes, time, price, cuisine, diet, source, allergens, and nutrition. Users can find ingredient substitutes for unwanted items; and customize recipes and save them as their own versions. Yummly's angel investor is Harvard Common Press. It is keen on luring more investors, though, and HCP's Bruce Shaw and Adam Salomone have already met with some 25 publishers, including Chronicle, Random House, and Weldon Owen.
Current content on Yummly is pulled from publicly available databases, including Allrecipes.com, Epicurious.com, and FoodNetwork.com. The plan is to incorporate recipes from magazines and cookbooks, too. "We are focused on trying to get recipes from every conceivable source under the sun," said Shaw. None of Yummly's recipes are from cookbooks—yet. Salomone told PW, "We've been pounding the pavement trying to get cookbook publishers on board." The idea is for recipes that come from elsewhere on the Web to be free, and for cookbook content to somehow be paid for. Just how, though, remains to be seen: Yummly is toying with a pay-per-recipe model, a subscription model, and an advertising model. Its specificity should help lure advertisers; Shaw and Salomone envision users who, for instance, gravitate toward recipes that prominently feature olive oil getting targeted ads from olive oil companies.
Yummly isn't the only site that's putting cookbook content online; Cookstr got into the game about a year and a half ago. Shaw, who said he and Salomone know Cookstr founders Will Schwalbe and Katie Workman well, thinks there is room for both sites: "Cookbook publishers have two places to go. We both want to support cookbook publishers." He sees Yummly's technology as the primary difference between it and Cookstr. Yummly makes recommendations based on what users "like to eat." It also has a social community where users can interact, swap and share recipes, and "friend" one another as a "TasteBud" (Schwalbe told PW that Cookstr is planning to add a social component). Like Cookstr, Yummly lets users save favorite recipes, so they can return to them easily. Unlike Cookstr, though, Yummly users can make changes to the recipes they have saved.
For now, HCP is the only publisher invested in the site, and Shaw and Salomone have taken it upon themselves to get publishers and, in some cases, individual authors, involved. They are still in what they call "exploratory mode" and have not asked publishers to commit to contributing recipes. But, they said, the reception has been "very open and very intrigued." Non-publisher investors include Jeff Jordan, CEO of OpenTable; Bruce Cobb, former president of eBay; and Brad O'Neill, CEO of TechValidate.
"Publishing's getting turned upside down," said Shaw. "How are we going to find other ways of getting our content out there? It's a very interesting place for the publishing industry to start thinking about how we take our content and do other things with it." The plan is for Yummly to have cookbook content by the end of 2010 or early 2011.