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Spring is apparently new-product-launch season at the Times: Barely a month past the debut of NYT Now, along comes its new cooking site. (In various reports over the past year, it’s been referred to as a food product, a dining product, and a cooking product — the final result is more Julia Child than Zagat.)

It’s really quite beautiful — finally giving the Times’ food coverage a digital presentation comparable to the sumptuous spreads it receives in the print edition. (Compare the current Dining & Wine web section front — perfectly fine, post-Times redesign, but nothing to inspire salivation.)

nytimes-cookingCooking is a rich area for digital news experimentation, because while new pieces are added all the time, a six-year-old recipe is almost precisely as valuable to the reader as one published yesterday. It’ll still taste good! It’s a test of the strength of an outlet’s archives and a site’s ability to surface content within them. The new site’s collections feature is aimed at exactly that: A raw eating collection can easily include recipes from 2002, 2007, 2009, or last year. And the idea of a recipe box ties into the Times’ strong registration base and lets a news site act more like a customizable app. (I hope the robust recipe search tool can over time learn enough about core users’ habits to recommend recipes unprompted.)

Reaction on Twitter has been altogether rapturous:

What hasn’t been made clear yet is how this lovely site will convert into a paid product, presumably, like NYT Now, at something less than the standard full freight of a Times digital subscription. The current site isn’t responsive — which could be an artifact of its beta status or an indicator that the mobile experience will come primarily in app form. (Or it could be something else entirely!)

Are there people who would pay for this? Sure, as other paid cooking sites can attest. Questions about the scale of that audience will be left to the market. NYT Co. says the “full product” will launch “later this year.”

My only real complaints — and these are egregious errors I hope Times executives jump on to fix immediately — are (a) only 22 Cajun recipes out of 16,346, which is scandalous, and (b) spelling crawfish as “crayfish,” like a confused Swede or something, which is an existential insult to my people.

Since it’s in limited beta (about 10,000 users/testers for now), here are some screenshots — click any for a larger version.

nyt-cooking-600

NYT Cooking -

NYT Cooking - Raw Eating

NYT Cooking - Recipe Box

— Joshua Benton
                                   
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