Why BuzzFeed's Emily Fleischaker ditched her recipe box for Pinterest

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"Pinterest is really where I go to find a new recipe and to then keep track of it for the future," says Emily Fleischaker, creative director of BuzzFeed Life. "I don't have a recipe box in my kitchen anymore. I have Pinterest folders that I keep recipes in."

Noelle Carter: How has our consumption of food content changed over the years?

Emily Fleischaker
Emily Fleischaker

Emily Fleischaker: So much. One of the things that I think has changed the most recently is Pinterest, the social media bookmarking site. Before the biggest sources of food media were magazines and television. Now people at home can make a recipe, photograph it and put it on their blog. That's just as accessible and just as compelling to your average home cook as a lot of the content that's being made by magazines and being made on television. That's really cool because it adds to this much more communal feeling and a greater, more inclusive feeling about food media.

A huge part of this has been Pinterest because it's like the digital newsstand for food blogs and for the Web at large. Pinterest is really where I go to find a new recipe and to then keep track of it for the future. I don't have a recipe box in my kitchen anymore. I have Pinterest folders that I keep recipes in.

[Find us: The Splendid Table on Pinterest]

NC: You can access them from anywhere?

EF: I can access them from anywhere. I'm at the supermarket and I want to pull up a recipe to make for dinner that night, which of course makes me stand in the supermarket staring at my phone like an idiot. One could argue that's not ideal, but it is convenient and it's a nice thing to have.

NC: One thing I loved that you mentioned was you've called photographs the face of a recipe. Why are visuals so important when it comes to food and social media especially?

EF: Because there's so much media that we're constantly inundated with all day everyday. Visuals tend to catch your eye. If you have a beautiful photo of the recipe, that's going to be able to catch people's attention and also jump from social platform to social platform more easily than just a recipe title.

It becomes the face of the recipe, and it becomes the promotional little content package for the recipe. If you have a great, great photograph of a recipe, it will show up all over the place. It will show up on Imgur; it will show up on Pinterest; it will show up on people's Instagrams. That is going to distribute itself everywhere in a way that is really powerful.

NC: One thing I love about BuzzFeed Food is that you guys have cornered the market on how-to cooking videos and food hack videos, not to mention all those addictive lists. Everything is short, sweet and simple. Can you talk a little bit about how you developed this approach, and why you think it works so well?

EF: When I was at Bon Appetit in 2011-2012, I started reading BuzzFeed. It was just addictive. I felt myself starting to write that way. I would do these lists of "23 sexy corn recipes that you won't get enough of." It wasn't really in the right voice there, but it felt like the voice of the Web, so people were responding to it online.

I think the lists work really well online. People want to know what they're getting because browsing online is often a thing where you feel like there is somewhere else you could be at any moment. You need to know: "What am I getting out of this before I click on it?"

Another thing that's interesting that we've discovered is clickbait doesn't actually work. If you promise someone something in a headline and then you don't deliver, they're not going to share that story. The sharing is actually more important than the click because the sharing grows your audience.

The video thing was an incredible discovery that came out of a context where we were making food every day at the test kitchen and shooting step-by-step photographs. Then one day I just put my phone in front of one of the photo shoots with the Instagram video app setting on and took a video of the recipe coming together. Instagram at the time -- and I think still -- only allows you to shoot 15 seconds of video, so it was by nature short. Instagram also allows you to start and stop shooting, so it was choosing these moments.

We were making these Nutella cinnamon rolls. There are moments of this recipe that are crucial to see. If you watched it later, you would know what was going on. You would spread the cinnamon and the filling out. I'd make sure that was showing and then I'd stop recording. Then I'd show a little bit of the rolling up. We used a string to cut the cinnamon roll rather than a knife; I'd make sure that was in there. Finally, I ran out of time on my Instagram video. It was 15 seconds long and I had to just post the thing.

Nutella Cinnamon Rolls hot and fresh out the kitchen

A video posted by Emily Fleischaker (@emofly) on

Someone who runs our social media saw the video on my Instagram and said, "Hey, can we put this on BuzzFeed Food's Facebook page?" We did and it got millions and millions of views. We were blown away. I think frankly that Facebook's algorithm is really heavily favoring video right now. Everyone knows that.

But after that happened, we just started making little videos of all the things we were cooking. It was really just sticking a video camera in front of stuff that we were doing anyway. There's something inherently entertaining about watching food being made in the simplest, quickest way possible.

The thing that's amazing about cooking is that it is a transformation. You take these ingredients, you put them together, you get something else out of it that's completely different than what you started with. That concept of transformation is really compelling on video. That's what cooking is all about.

From This Episode: 
January 22nd, 2016

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