Why BuzzFeed’s Recipe Videos Are So Insanely Popular

BuzzFeed’s Tasty channel is drawing huge numbers with its distinctive food clips. The reason may have something to do with human psychology.

Each month, 500 million people watch recipe videos made by BuzzFeed‘s Tasty channel—a remarkable number, especially given that Tasty is just 15 months old. During a presentation at the company’s Manhattan studios for the Fast Company Innovation Festival, Tasty global GM Ashley McCollum offered some thoughts on what makes those clips so addictive. “We didn’t set out to build a food network,” she said. “We didn’t sit in one of our conference rooms and say, ‘Oh, let’s do some market research.’ What we did is build content around the concept that people would share it with people in their lives. It’s not just how to make the recipe, how to chop the onion. It gives you a reason to reach out to your friend. It allows you to connect with another person.” It’s working. McCollum showed one video—quick recipes for four kinds of sliders—that has 147 million views and a whopping 4 million shares (the latter figure is the one that BuzzFeed really cares about).

Tasty GM Ashley McCollum (left) at the Buzzfeed Innovation Festival.

A big part of the appeal is the recipe videos’ distinctive look. The clips are shot from directly above, showing just a pair of hands as they make the food. The action is sped up and set to music—no talking necessary. “It is really from the angle of the user, from the angle of the audience,” McCollum explained. “It’s your hands; it feels like you’re cooking it. It’s a totally different point of view than we’ve seen in the rest of the food-media space. The psychology is a really interesting question. When you are holding your phone and looking [at] it and it feels like it’s your hands, that is a big factor in why you feel connected to the media. We didn’t invent the top-down format, but the combination of that plus the way we think about media—which is social—and then plus food has created this amazing combination.”

But it goes beyond the way the videos are filmed. Tasty has found a way to connect with its audience that feels authentic and true to the way they themselves actually make and eat food. “Our point of view is that 99% of food media is made by food professionals, but 99% of food is made by amateurs,” McCollum said. “So what is the [difference] between food media and real food? We think that massive gap between media and reality is what we’re filling. I think that’s why we’ve been so successful and why we have a lead in this emerging space.”

The set of a Tasty video. The channel racks up 500 million views per month.