Just sharing this post I originally wrote for Clever Marketing’s digital marketing blog, you can see the original at Recipeasly: A Lesson in Digital Disruption
“Digital disruption” has been a popular topic in recent years with technically-savvy businesses looking to use digital technology to change the status quo.
But what exactly is digital disruption?
In a nutshell, digital disruption is a change or transformation, brought about by innovative digital technologies, that impacts existing business models.
A clear example of innovative technology that has caused digital disruption is the ride-hailing service Uber. The traditional method of grabbing a cab has always been to make a phone call to the taxi company. How people got that number in the first place could be anything from a business card pinned by a phone to a look in the telephone directory, usually online these days.
What Uber did was to centralise the whole ride-hailing business into an app. Mobile phone users simply downloaded the app, hailed a ride, and Uber’s network of owner-drivers would be alerted to a nearby fair.
Of course, that’s the digital side of the concept. The disruption part came from traditional taxi firms being “undercut” as Uber used self-employed drivers, often unlicensed, thereby reducing its own financial responsibilities and placing them on the drivers. This cost saving was passed on to the customer who could get a cab cheaper on the Uber app.
What about Recipeasly? What have they done?
On Sunday 28th February 2021, Twitter user Tom Redman, posted:
Some personal news! ?
Two friends and I created a new thing to fix online recipes ?https://t.co/3ZNkSV82Y5 – your favourite recipes except without the ads or life stories ?
Feedback and RTs appreciated! ? pic.twitter.com/WerUH34AGG
— Tom Redman (@redman) February 28, 2021
From this tweet we can surmise that the Toronto tech innovator and his companions had identified what they thought was a problem – the internet is full of recipes but they didn’t like any “fluff”.
One business model on the internet for nearly twenty years has been to monetise popular content. If, for example, you run a popular website dedicated to a single model of car, then you can monetise your site by showing ads for specialist car insurance and include affiliate links for visitors to buy car manuals. Not only are you providing value for your website visitors but you are also earning a little commission or an advertiser fee for your time.
Add to this a little story-telling and you personalise the experience. Visitors to your car website can see your passion and your experience. They get to know you and build a rapport, you connect with your visitors and you build a relationship. Building a fan base is extremely valuable, as even on a personal level, you are building a brand.
Tom Redman, and his Recipeasly team mates, saw a benefit to being able to both curate this content but also to remove the ads and “cut the chat”.
Being from an engineering background and now being in digital, we see the merit of “more signal, less noise”. However, from a moral and ethical standpoint, taking someone else’s content, “curating” it and stripping away their opportunity to earn revenue and build an audience has been removed.
Additionally, there’s a potential legal aspect here with the possibility of one party “trading off” the other. [We had this just yesterday where a rogue web design business was passing off one of our logo designs as their work – Ed]
After making the announcement, the feedback came rolling in. Some of it was positive, with some commenters agreeing with the methodology, highlighting that some recipe blogs are propped up by an overabundance of ads. [Core Web Vitals, Page Experience Ranking and the Cumulative Layout Shift may soon put the dampeners on that – Ed]
However, other comments did highlight the fact that food writers and recipe bloggers were being done a disservice from having their content curated on someone else’s aggregate feed.
Redman did clearly say in the comments of his post that they had no intention of monetising the curation of content on Recipeasly. However, the model of offering something for free and then later charging for it is something we’re currently seeing with LastPass and their free account being payable from March 16th – Many users are dropping the password management tool and moving to other free alternatives like BitWarden.
But we digress…
Despite the intention to digitally disrupt, the model looks very similar to what Google have done with their search results; featured snippets are the content taken from websites to fulfil a searcher’s need and displayed in the Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) so that users don’t need to go any further unless they really need to. Google does “credit” the resulting featured snippet with a link to the originating website. No wonder organic traffic has been going down foe the past few years.
Listening to all the “strong feedback”, the Recipeasly.com website was swiftly taken down. In a follow-up post on the 1st March, Redman said:
I’m sorry, we hear you.
Given the feedback, we are taking https://t.co/3ZNkSV82Y5 down as we re-examine our impact on the community.
Our goal is to amplify the voices & content of creators, not diminish them. And if we come back, it’ll be with changes where we have fallen short
— Tom Redman (@redman) March 1, 2021
The digital disruptors listened to the community feedback and, with great humility, removed the “offending article” or rather, the whole of the Recipeasly website, txt files, XML sitemap and all!
[UPDATE]: The team at recipeasly.com have replaced their site with the following message…
We have nothing but respect and admiration for the time, money and effort that go into creating great recipes & websites. We don’t want to minimize the results for all that hard work.
We realize we’re not demonstrating the huge respect we have for recipe creators. We missed the mark big time today and we’re sorry.
Given the feedback, we are taking recipeasly.com down as we re-examine our impact. We commit to making changes where we have fallen short.”
This was a strong lesson in what can and sometimes does happen in the world of digital disruption. What seemed to be a very genuine attempt to make a positive impact on the digital landscape actually tipped toward being the opposite.
Tom Redman did however take a very positive response to the feedback, particularly the negative feedback. As a Public Relations (PR) activity, what seems to be totally disastrous for the Recipeasly concept may in future have a sliver lining…
What will they come up with next to appease the concerns of the community yet still deliver a game-changing service?
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