One of the great mysteries in the Web 2.0 world is: how and when to make money for your enterprise. This has been an issue for Key Ingredient right from the start, but in a surprising way. When we were demoing the site, one of the first questions frequently was: how much does this cost? It turned out that our splash page (implemented by Emily Busey after about 20 iterations) looked “far too good to be free”.
Well, we are consumers too, and we feel that most food sites make their money by bombarding you with display ads. Literally. In fact, Recipezaar took this to such an extreme that the only path to ad-relief was to pay them. This has changed now that they are part of Scripps, but the ad density was like watching 3 televisions at once. Food Network, also part of Scripps, has toned it down some recently as well. Allrecipes was another ad blaster, since reduced after their acquisition by Reader’s Digest and subsequently by Ripplewood. So the solution to ad overload seems to be to sell to a company that doesn’t need the revenue.
But the question remains: how can you make money in a way that is reasonable both to the consumer and the site? I think the answer is to add value. By this I mean offering services that are attractive to the consumer (that includes us!) and that offer the company a sustainable revenue stream. We have created on-demand publishing services for cookbooks, we are working on our recipe transcription service (coming as soon as we can manage it), and we are working with forms of recipe sponsorship that will not destroy the calm aesthetic we have created around our recipe interface. Stay tuned.