YouTube crucial ingredient as Jamie Oliver targets family home.
A lug of olive oil, a squish of citrus, then bosh it about: Jamie Oliver’s approach to food has always been proudly unpretentious. But this week the TV cook and food campaigner is to expand his commercial empire into the heart of unpretentious cuisine: the family home.
After a faltering start, Oliver’s two popular YouTube channels, Food Tube and Drinks Tube, are to be joined on Tuesday by a third, Family Food Tube. Appearing alongside his wife, Jools, and their four children, Oliver will be introducing a few other specially chosen family-friendly presenters and guest chefs, demonstrating that he is convinced that on-demand internet films are the best way to reach and teach his public.
Speaking to the Observer, the chef said: “The thing I love about the YouTube channels is that they allow a more or less direct connection to the audience, so you can work out what they’re passionate about much more quickly.
“Take the video we put up for scrambled eggs three-ways. It’s had almost two million views and created a huge amount of discussion, because people want to share the video with their friends and also share their own ways of making it.”
Oliver’s existing food channel, which was relaunched in 2013 after a major rethink of its content, now has 2.6 million subscribers. Drinks Tube was launched in its wake last year and within months the app version was topping the profitability charts on UK iTunes.
The decision of a company that makes some £10m profit a year to pour more time and money into YouTube is a symptom of the growing emphasis on this sort of broadcasting, particularly for food-related programming. Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay was in the vanguard and retaining a big audience. Delia Smith followed, claiming that, although she could have continued to work in television, she did not like the pressure to entertain and preferred to just communicate her techniques.
Oliver, motivated by the same yearning for a direct relationship with his audience and consumers, said he has now identified the family as the centre of demand for easy-access recipes.
“With Family Food Tube, we’re making video content for parents by parents, which is exactly what the public have asked for. Everyone appearing on the channel is a parent, including my missus, so they know what they’re talking about, but we’re not preaching at all.”
The channel, he claims, will just be “giving a helping hand”. It will be, he promises, a place to get “no-nonsense, practical advice”.
It is also, of course, the way to ensure that the Jamie Oliver brand stays in contact with consumers and in touch with changing food trends. It is a commercially astute way to promote his books and television shows, as well as his national food campaigns.
“Jamie is obviously backing YouTube channel as the communication platform of the future,” said broadcaster and Observer food critic Jay Rayner. “Has he found a way to make it pay already with advertising and sponsorship? Or is it a way of ensuring he stays ahead of changing television audience habits?”
Food Tube is among the handful of top international food channels, which is quite something when you remember that food is the second most sought-after topic on the internet after sex.
His digital platform already claims to reach 30 million global viewers a month and he also has an advertising venture, Fat Lemon. Some of the most downloaded content is already advertising and Drinks Tube is supported by a three-year sponsorship deal with rum manufacturer Bacardi.
Oliver argues that his YouTube presence is the perfect way for him to develop new broadcasting talents – something that networked television channels were wary of letting him do.
Some of the cooks who have made their name on his existing channels, such as his protege, Kerryann Dunlop, already have their own spin-off channels and operate like kitchen DJs, listing their favourite food videos and posting clips of bloopers and out-takes.
The new family channel is more likely to build on the popular “vlogged” video footage from his own kitchen table and featured in the Food Tube segment known as “What’s Jamie Eating Today?” The use of the Oliver children in this wider context is a bold move for a protective father. Two years ago he was reported to have banned his eldest daughter from Facebook.
The key to a YouTube hit is a personal, informal tone, and food channels such as Vegan Black Metal Chef, Hungry YouTube and SortedFood have perfected the haphazard look. TV executives are leaving networked food shows to learn these techniques; online news services Buzzfeed and Vice have also joined the food business recently. Oliver clearly believes there is still a gap for family-oriented information – to be updated with new content every Wednesday.
“Everything has gone through my nutrition team, so the recipes are going to all be full of good ingredients,” he says. Read more here