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I’m Geena Matuson,
arts technologist, educator,
author and speaker.

A multimedia storyteller, I use print, digital, web, video and social to tell cohesive stories that prioritize relationships.

Bon Appétit Magazine Multimedia Teardown

Bon Appétit Magazine Multimedia Teardown

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Bon Appétit is an American food and entertaining magazine started in 1956, published by Condé Nast. They have since branched into social media, podcasts, and videos.

In conversation, I often say, “I’ll say this back to you to make sure I understand what you’re saying.” As I get older, I work things out by saying them aloud, it seems. I like to research and learn by taking things apart and putting them back together, and created a “multimedia teardown,” a bit like a dissection and case study, for Bon Appétit’s online presence.

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Bon Appétit spans many social media channels, but has the most followers – at 3.19M – on both YouTube and Twitter. These are also the platforms on which they share videos, which are very accessible: one-click to play embedded content directly on your Twitter feed or on their YouTube page.

The brand’s Instagram channel mostly features static images, and it’s rare to find a video on their profile.

They do have videos on their Facebook page, and these are the same videos on YouTube and Twitter, but natively hosting these videos on each platform drives more views; Facebook limits or prevents discoverability of offsite videos, so sharing a YouTube link will not have the same reach as one hosted directly by Facebook. The brand also has its own Facebook shows, which are the same videos as on YouTube organized in the same manner.

These live under Facebook Watch’ pages, part of a video-on-demand service launched in late 2017. It’s newer than YouTube and not yet as popular. It isn’t as intuitive as YouTube, either — or, perhaps we are so used to YouTube that a deviation from this layout seems confusing.

There are no CC caption options on these Facebook Watch videos, either. Often, captions are used when people are in an environment in which they can’t use audio on their devices. These are often shorter videos people find by scrolling down their timeline, which is unlike the intent to sit down and watch a 30-minute episode of a Facebook show. It seems the assumption is that a viewer is watching a video with this intentionality doesn’t need captions; while playing to user behavior, this is inaccessible and not accommodating. (And please, correct me if I’m wrong here.)

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The videos on the Bon Appétit website are peculiar. Or, rather, they’re organized and display in a peculiar way. When looking through website articles I noticed what I thought were videos in a native-ad style are actually one-minute “Tasty” style recipe videos – you know, we’re looking from a bird’s eye view and a hand enters the frame to make food – set to autoplay. When you click-through the video link, you’re taken to a subdomain, video.bonappetit.com, with all of these videos. Yes, the brand has a subdomain site on which videos live. These videos are not on YouTube, and are not promoted or organized in the video section of their main Facebook page.

What’s also bizarre is that, because these one-minute videos are on autoplay on an article page, they cycle through a playlist. Therefore, if you’re sitting in that article for more than a one-minute span of time before making it to the video — the video you will see is unrelated to the recipe or content in the current article. (Hence, why I thought these were simply ads.)

The brand is missing an opportunity to use create an effective marketing campaign to promote these one-minute recipe videos on social media, driving more traffic to their pages and, ultimately, towards subscription. It seems, like many other media outlets in the last few years, many companies are creating videos and don’t quite know what to do with them yet.

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The podcast or “foodcast” functions like an audio-only version of the videos in which they reference brand videos and articles. I can’t find information on number of subscribers, however, like any podcast, you’ll have people listening to this at work or at home when they are multi-tasking and can’t look at a screen. It’s just another format for them, it doesn’t seem groundbreaking.

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The website only appears to utilize the “continuous scroll” format. Actually, the site uses large images to create category-based subsections. At bottom – which you will find, because they thankfully do not use continuous scroll – we see a recipe guide, podcast ad and footer information.

Different articles have different page structure; feature stories have large video ads on top while recipes and other stories have thin ad banners. These do not impede with the article itself, whereas websites like Fast Company use video ads, which constantly change size and move the article around (as the page resizes) all while you’re trying to read the actual content they put forth. Here on the Bon Appétit website, I’m able to see the ad on top, but also bypass it.

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I believe in 2017 I saw Bon Appétit job listings online; they were launching a video team. The brand is definitely covering its bases by incorporating all the media — podcasts, video, photos and “more” (noted just in case I’m missing something, haha).

I wonder if they will show more intentionality with their video subdomain moving forward, or if they’re testing a style that is already successful. It’s always interesting to see large brands test new ideas.

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