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From one perspective, Tasty—the division of BuzzFeed that is responsible for producing the site’s vastly popular, widely viewed “food porn” videos—is a radically new invention, changing the game and the markets to which it links. From another though, Tasty is just the latest example of how companies can take a good idea and leverage it across multiple channels to reach consumers wherever they are.

The former argument highlights what is new and unique about Tasty. To start, consider that an entire division of the company is dedicated to producing videos, shot from an overhead perspective, of people making food, like “Sliders 4 Ways.” This stream of content is hugely popular for BuzzFeed, prompting millions of hits, likes, and views. Its “Cheeseburger Onion Ring” video alone racked up 167 million viewings. Overall, an estimated 1.1 billion views of Tasty content have occurred. To support itself, Tasty also makes videos for brands that pay it for its services, so the more popular it is, the more it can attract sellers who will pay to get their products featured.

Such popularity in turn has prompted Tasty to expand its operations to other fields as well, including the publication of a made-to-order cookbook and the development of an app that connects to a small cooktop, which users can program to prepare their food using various cooking methods. This Tasty One Top device thus offers fans their own chance to try sous vide or simmer a pot at home, with the help of the app. By expanding this way, Tasty seemingly is taking a wholly new and innovate route: from an electronic content provider and lifestyle brand to a manufacturer of both physical and electronic products and services.

But the opposite perspective on its expansion suggests that even if this transition might look different, it’s not that new. Disney leveraged its popular content, cartoons, and films to establish itself as a provider of theme park entertainment, a retailer, and a cultural force. In both cases, the foundation is the intellectual property that the company develops. The key to their success is finding ways to exploit, share, and sell that property and related products across a broad spectrum of channels and purchase occasions. According to this view, the model is the same. The only real difference is that the content is electronic, rather than derived from movies, books, or television.

Of course, another difference stems from the revenue sources, but here again, they might just be the same concept in different guise. Rather than selling just the content, Tasty earns revenues by getting people to pay to access its skills and abilities, similar to the way dedicated service firms (e.g., lawyers, accountants) do.

Discussion Question:

  1. Which perspective do you consider more convincing? That is, is Tasty a new version of an old story, or is it a radically new approach?

Source: Farhad Manjoo, “How BuzzFeed’s Tasty Conquered Online Food,” The Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2017

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