When Ideal Media purchased the Restaurant Business franchise from VNU about three years ago, the publisher realized it needed to break through a cluttered landscape of food industry magazines and Web sites. ‚ÄúWe had to adopt the motto of ‚Äėthink different,‚Äô‚ÄĚ says vice president and group publisher Scott Allmendinger. ‚ÄúOur guiding principal was to embrace Web 2.0 initiatives, not Web 1.0.‚ÄĚ
That included dropping the 100-year-old Restaurant Business brand for MonkeyDish.com (a monkey dish is a shallow side dish bowl used in restaurants). ‚ÄúWe asked, how can we send the strongest signal possible to our audience that this is not just another repository for print?‚ÄĚ says Allmendinger. ‚ÄúWalking away from a 100-year-old brand was a very hotly contested decision, but that‚Äôs what we did. The term monkey dish‚ÄĒif you know what that is, you belong on the site. If you don‚Äôt, it‚Äôs not for you. We picked that term to convey, ‚ÄėWe understand what it‚Äôs like for you.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Ideal Media hired a director of new media away from Reed Business and positioned the site as a collaboration of content partners, including the Culinary Institute of America, which jump-started the site‚Äôs video business by providing 170 videos. AC Nielsen offered a database of local demographics so restaurant owners could write business plans and expansion plans on hard data from local markets‚ÄĒ‚Äúsomething that‚Äôs hard to do in print, but something that the Web excels at,‚ÄĚ says Allmendinger. One well-known consultant for the restaurant business folded his own site into MonkeyDish because he was so impressed with it as distribution vehicle for his content.
Ideal Media outsourced the design to Luna Graphics and the engineering (based on open source CMS Joomla) to PCG (Performance Communications Group). The navigation bar offers premium features, including an Ideas tab, a Buying tab (restaurant operators spend 13 hours a week buying for their business), a Translation tab and even a weather widget (restaurant owners keep a running log of the weather year-to-year, which can heavily influence business).
Lean Budget, Big Return
MonkeyDish was developed on a tight budget of less than six figures, according to Allmendinger. ‚ÄúThe real heavy lifting came in strategy and concepting and picking the right vendors,‚ÄĚ he adds. Visits to the site are up 19 percent and page views are up 56 percent, while the average time spent on the site is up 60 percent since the relaunch. ‚ÄúThe video player is one of our biggest surprises,‚ÄĚ says Allmendinger. ‚ÄúPeople are watching almost 2,000 hours of video every month.‚ÄĚ
The site also offered new opportunities for advertisers. ‚ÄúWe needed to emphasize engagement over display advertising,‚ÄĚ says Allmendinger. ‚ÄúThe manufacturers are also our content partners. They have a huge amount of expertise themselves.‚ÄĚ
MonkeyDish reduced the total number of display opportunities in favor of sponsorship opportunities. While Allmendinger wouldn‚Äôt reveal specific dollar figures, he did say MonekyDish is running close to double its initial revenue projection on a month-to-month basis and the site is 60 percent sold out on sponsorship opportunities.