An occasional review of technology, markets, and ideas.

YouTube, Cooking, and Monetization

"Pasta Grannies" is a great way to understand 1) the unique content that YouTube helps unlock and 2) how the attention economy currently monetizes.

Recently, I came across one of the best YouTube cooking channels I've seen in a while, Pasta Grannies, which was created by Vicky Bennison while she was researching Italian food for a cookbook. As she was conducting interviews, she realized that many of the techniques these women were using were not getting passed down to the younger generations so she decided to start filming them and threw the videos on a YouTube channel. Since then the channel grew to 777,000 subscribers and most of the videos have anywhere between 20,000-200,000 views.

Below is the most popular video in which Maria, 91, walks through her lasagna recipe.

As I was watching these videos, I realized it was a great microcosm to understand 1) the proliferation of digital content and 2) how creators monetize the attention economy.

  • The first video was posted back in 2014 and since then there have been 328 videos (as of this post in July 2021). That's averaging 47 videos a year which means they have been posting roughly once a week for 7 years (!!). That's an impressive pace and underscores that when we talk about "creators" we mean it!
  • Over time, they were able to start grouping the videos together based on various characteristics. For instance, there are playlists for pastas from various regions and there are also playlists for different kinds of pastas. I'll get to why this is important a little later.
  • Bennison doesn't appear to be a techie and yet she was able to stand up a Pasta Grannies website and YouTube channel to serve as the project's online home. That supports the contention that no- and low-code tools will truly help us unlock human creativity in ways that we can't even imagine.
  • The fact that these tools can be used by anyone to publish such niche – yet interesting – content should be the talk track for why the internet is amazing. Subordinate to that is the idea that we can't be pollyannaish and assume that all content that is created will be good. Instead, our Brahmin overlords over at the NYT have inverted this and unduly focus on the bad while systematically minimizing incredible content that YouTube uniquely enables. They continue to push the narrative that YouTube is a dark, radicalizing force that needs to be regulated.
  • On the monetization side, it seems like Bennison enabled ads on her videos which means that she's getting paid by Google based on the number of people who see ads from her videos. Eventually, though, it looks like she gathered enough of these videos and was able to see which ones were popular which she used to create a cookbook which is now being advertised on her YouTube page, which takes you to her Squarespace site, which then has another link to her book's page on Amazon.
Notice the outlink to pre-order the cookbook in the bottom right of the page image

In short, Bennison is monetizing the attention from her Pasta Grannies videos by collating all of the recipes she collected over the years and publishing this cookbook "Pasta Grannies: The Secrets of Italy's Best Home Cooks". Honestly, that's the only real way to monetize an online audience which points to the need for a greater number of business models for the creator economy. That said, given Bennison's book has 4.8/5 stars from 2,198 ratings, I'd say her current strategy seems to be working out pretty well!

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Jamie Larson