Internet Or Die Interview November 7, 2016

Oren Katzeff, Head of Programming at Tastemade

The folks at Tastemade are purveyors of some of the Internet's best food-related videos and content. We chatted with Oren Katzeff about how the Internet is a unique delivery service for incredible food journeys.

Tastemade's 5-Word Speech at the 20th Webbys

Tastemade is a key example of “Internet Or Die” for us. What decisions or innovations were made internally at Tastemade that allowed it to stand apart in an online video landscape dominated by food-related content?

On top of things that are now second nature to us (great story telling, thumb-stopping experiences, relatable content), we go into every shoot thinking about how each piece of content will look and feel on each platform that we distribute it to. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter: Each has distinct audiences that engage with and interact with content in unique ways. We think it’s imperative that our content excites our audience no matter where they view it—while maintaining the Tastemade voice and high-quality aesthetic across each platform. That decision making process is guided both by data and experience – so that each piece of content we create is a mix of both art and science.

Our content has to look just as good on a small screen or device as it does on a huge HDTV.”
— Oren Katzeff Head of Programming, Tastemade

The evolution of video creation, hosting, and producing for the Internet, especially on mobile, has undergone remarkable changes over the last few years. What change over the past five years has been most significant for Tastemade?

Tastemade has always been a video-first company. Frankly, one of the biggest industry trends for us has been the growing consumer appetite for video, coupled with rapidly growing mobile content consumption. With respect to programming to mobile specifically, we focus on ensuring that we are creating compelling and visually engaging experiences quickly and that we are sensitive to the fact that there is likely a material percentage of our audience who may be viewing our content with the sound off. Our content has to look just as good on a small screen or device as it does on a huge HDTV.

Last year, Tastemade’s Snapchat channel, namesake app, and an original documentary were all honored at The Webbys. What do you attribute to your success in all those areas?

We are very proud of being honored at The Webbys last year, and especially for Heritage, which won the People’s Voice Award for Best Documentary and was a collaboration with one of our brand partners, San Pellegrino. The success of that documentary was a testament to the high-quality work that we do and to our dedication to collaborating with amazing brands who share our same views on how to tell a great story.

(Photo by Emily Berl for The Washington Post)
Inside Tastemade’s Offices

With respect to the nomination for our Snapchat channel and our namesake app, that has everything to do with our dedication to creating great content every single day. Both of those experiences entertain our audience with a variety of content updated daily—from Tastemaker recipes to shows about travel to food-driven illustration puns—and we succeed or fail based on whether or not we can be a destination and a brand that people trust enough to know that we’ll be there for them 24/7 delivering exactly the content and experience that they want—and expect from us.

The Internet changes so rapidly that it’s essential to keep innovating to stay relevant (thus, “Internet Or Die”). What does it mean “to Internet” at Tastemade? What does that look like in practice?

It means that you have to be nimble, you have to be willing to take chances, and you have to strive to continue to create new formats and content experiences that your audience will enjoy. Not everything you do is going to be an outstanding hit from the start. We try to be smart about how we view the audience data we get every day, how we make adjustments based on signals that our fans are giving us, and how we create and promote new content experiences on a regular basis.

Tastemade Studios
Tastemade Studios

As an example, although the hands-only recipe format has been one of the top crazes in food video this year, Tastemade has always been about far more than that. In the last year, among many other things, we’ve done a Webby Award-winning documentary (Heritage), a short-form scripted series, a first person travel series, a comedy, an animated series, and Tastemaker-driven recipe videos—where our audience feels like they are right there in the kitchen with some of their favorite Tastemakers.

As Tastemade grows, how will it continue to play in the Internet’s continued evolution? VR or augmented reality experiences, perhaps?

Tastemade will continue to focus on initiatives that grow our audience and our revenue, and we’ll continue to be early adopters of platforms in which we think there is a big demand for video. We were early in our efforts to upload video natively to Facebook and to Instagram—and both of those paid huge dividends for us. In addition, as we reported publicly recently, we do have a few VR deals in the works; we’re continuing to grow the portfolio of brands that we work with and create great content with and we’ll be developing new content formats that we think our audience will get excited about.

Thanks again to Oren for his insightful answers. Tastemade’s Instagram is a great place to get inspired (and get a serious case of the noms). Follow Oren on Twitter and check out the latest goodness on Tastemade’s site.

Stay tuned as we introduce the rest of our Internet Or Die partners as part of the 21st Annual Webby Awards. Don’t forget, the Extended Entry Deadline is January 27th, 2017—Enter today!