Yahoo Inc. is going into the food business. The Sunnyvale, California-based company said on Wednesday it was offering Yahoo users thousands of recipes, advice from regional celebrity chefs, video cooking guides and easy-to-use Web tools to help cooks answer the daily question: What’s for dinner?
The Web media giant is looking to create a new lifestyle business in a category that, while well-established in Internet terms, is largely fragmented among food industry players and niche recipe sites, with few big independent media players.
Yahoo Food (http://food.yahoo.com/) will be served up to the U.S. market initially. Early in 2007, it aims to move into other English-speaking countries like Australia, Britain and Canada, then expand into other global markets, officials said.
Among Web users, the U.S. food reference category is dominated by cable television’s Food Network, suppliers such as Kraft Foods, BettyCrocker.com and Williams-Sonoma and specialist cook sites like Cooks.com and Epicurious, according to U.S. data from audience measurement firm Hitwise Inc.
Other than the Food Network, independent media companies are not big players online. AOL Food is active but has a tiny market share, according to Hitwise. Gadget review company Cnet Networks Inc. recently relaunched Chow.com.
“This is very much of an extension of Yahoo’s media business,” Deanna Brown, general manager of Yahoo Lifestyles, said in an interview. “It’s a very compelling experience for Yahoo advertisers.”
It’s a category Brown knows about as well as anyone. She founded Epicurious in 1995. She went on to launch AOL Food. A year ago, she was hired to develop Yahoo’s lifestyle business.
Media partners include Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., Wolfgang Puck, Everyday with Rachael Ray, Food & Wine, Epicurious, allrecipes.com, Cook’s Illustrated, Eating Well, Taste of Home, and Reader’s Digest.
Yahoo offers a searchable recipe database, personalized features that remind Yahoo users of their prior searches for recipes or articles on the site, and a potentially vast social network of people united by common interests around food.
It’s Yahoo, so search underpins the workings of the site. The technology indexes thousands of recipes via a partnership with allrecipes.com. Users can search by ingredient, cuisine, foods for special occasions, or by taste or mealtimes.
Food joins technology as the first of two in a line of new lifestyle businesses that Yahoo is developing to both drive greater usage of its network of sites among existing customers and woo attractive new online demographics — the hungry, in this case — that its blue-chip advertiser base covets.
Yahoo Tech and Food are the first new Yahoo media properties launched in five years. Since it was introduced earlier this year, Yahoo Tech has grown to become one of the top three U.S. properties in the gadget review category.
“We think we will go to No. 1 with some promotions we are doing over the holidays,” said Scott Moore, Yahoo’s vice president of content operations, based in Santa Monica.
“In the next six months, we will have several launches, new categories or extensions of existing categories,” he promised.
Moore estimates Yahoo Tech already attracted around 2.5 million monthly users. “One of the reasons we did Tech was not that it was a big user category, but it is massive with advertisers,” he said.
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