Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the biggest food holiday of the year. But for many people, food is a year-round personal obsession, which can now be amplified through mobile, social and video technologies. Operating at the intersection of these powerful trends is a startup called Tastemade, which is building a foodie community of digital natives through an innovative prosumer and user-generated video programming model. When I was in LA recently, I visited with Stephen Kydd, one of the 3 co-founders of Tastemade, who all worked together previously at Demand Media.
The first thing you notice upon entering Tastemade's 7,000 square foot studio is the delicious smell wafting from its four state-of-the-art kitchens (the day I visited it was from pumpkin brownies). The kitchens are the core of one leg of Tastemade's programming model - producing its own shows which are currently distributed exclusively on Tastemade's YouTube channel. But as Stephen pointed out, the studio is also a community-building hub for creators in its international network, who visit LA specifically to record in the studio.
These creators form the second leg of Tastemade's programming - a multichannel network ("MCN"), which now includes over 100 channels that are curated by Tastemade's team and are generating 13 million unique viewers per month. Like other MCNs, Tastemade offers these channel creators support services such as how to optimize their reach into YouTube's vast audience, how to monetize their content and how to understand viewer analytics. Tastemade even offers creators a library of rights-cleared music to use. As Steven points out, all of these services are highly valuable to these creators who, like artists, are often focused solely on their food creations and have less time/interest in critical business-building tasks.
The final and most recent leg of Tastemade's programming model is a clever iPhone app which enables food enthusiasts to create 1-minute videos of favorite restaurant and food experiences. Unlike other short-form video apps like Vine and Instagram, the Tastemade app includes a structured template that the user must follow along with specific customization opportunities. I sampled a number of these videos and found they had a more consistent quality feel than typical user-generated content. The videos are meant to be shared not just on Tastemade, but also broadly across the creators' social networks. It's easy to imagine the underlying app technology being applied to other verticals like travel, sports, etc.
Steven notes that the combination of these 3 programming legs has led to Tastemade's audience skewing international (where the majority of its user are) and younger than Food Network, the popular cable TV channel. Steven said Tastemade is now working with numerous advertisers in the food category who value its authenticity, reach to younger demos and ability to creatively feature brands. One example is a show called "Coastal with Byron Talbott" presented by the Stella Artois "Cidre" brand (see below).
Tastemade is a perfect example of how mobile, social and video technologies are enabling completely new video business models to flourish in particular niches. By leveraging YouTube's massive reach initially, Tastemade has been able to quickly establish itself. The company has raised over $15 million from Redpoint Ventures and Raine Ventures.