Food Network Retools Website

The Food Network plans to retool its website, redesigning portions of FoodNetwork.com and gradually adding elements that take advantage of broadband capabilities.

The new edition of the website goes online April 1. It'll still have the recipe searches and other capabilities that the traditional-minded users want while adding a simpler navigation system, new connections with Food Network chefs and other features. The site hasn't undergone an extensive reworking like this in about three years.

Don't expect that, at least initially, FoodNetwork.com is going to be a high-tech showing of Flash and other rich-media formats. Beth Higbee, VP/new media for The Food Network, said that the typical user is still utility-oriented, searching the site for recipes. A challenge for the site - and the channel - is to keep that functionality while still adding more vibrancy to the TV section of the site.

"We're trying to introduce broadband elements as we go along," Higbee said. Her goals for the site include embracing the TV sections for more robust content that refers to the TV shows, adding breadth, draws more users from the website to the TV network and introduces viewers of one show to the network's other offerings. "We're not just a cooking site ... We want to be alive in both worlds," Higbee said.

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The site's content categories - Cooking, Recipes, TV, Entertaining, Wine & Drinks, Contents and Offers and Food Network Store - will be strengthened and expanded. There will be not only menus but also cooking demonstrations, online content designed to complete the viewership circle and a quicker way to search both recipes and Food Network episodes on the site.

Food Network's TV channel is available in 78 million households nationwide. The website had 3.9 million unique visitors in February 2003, an increase of 58% compared to the same time last year. FoodNetwork.com served more than 118 million pages in the same month, up 27% from February 2001. Both are units of the E.W. Scripps Co., which also owns Home & Garden Television Network, Do It Yourself and Fine Living. Behind the scenes, FoodNetwork.com is going to be more integrated and centralized to other Scripps TV websites.

The new content has built-in spots for advertising messages. Higbee said these go with advertisers' desires for convergence. FoodNetwork.com and the TV network have also worked successfully in cross-platform opportunities, primarily in advertorials that feature recipes with specific brands that drive viewers online and mini-ads that are tagged to advertisers.

Higbee said the April 1 rollout is "a platform of things to come," and not everything that will be possible for convergent advertising in the future. She said more features will be available in the coming months.

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