Hyperion and The Chew: Recipe for Synergy Success

M.S. in Publishing students, including blogger Elizabeth Forrest (back row, middle), pose with: (front row, far left) Bryan Christian, Elisabeth Dyssegaard, and Mindy Stockfield; (middle row, fourth-sixth from left) Ellen Archer, Harriet Abraham, and Meg Morse-Schindler. (Stockfield is Hyperion's Vice President, Digital Media, and Abraham is ABC's Vice President of Daytime Programming Operations.)
M.S. in Publishing students, including blogger Elizabeth Forrest (back row, middle), pose with: (front row, far left) Hyperion’s Bryan Christian, Elisabeth Dyssegaard, and Mindy Stockfield; (middle row, fourth-sixth from left) Ellen Archer, Hyperion’s President and Publisher; Harriet Abraham, ABC’s VP for Daytime Programming Operations; and Hyperion’s Meg Morse-Schindler.

Delicious donuts (red velvet, French toast, and cookies and cream, anyone?), dancing along with Carla Hall (a chef with cool moves), and learning how to clap and laugh on command as a TV audience member: these were just some of the treats in store for M.S. in Publishing: Digital & Print Media students during a visit to the set of The Chew. We were also given the opportunity after the taping of the hit ABC daytime talk show to meet with the producers and members of the team from Hyperion, who published the bestselling companion cookbook, The Chew: Food. Life. Fun.

The idea and arrangements for this exciting student trip came from Ellen Archer, President and Publisher of Hyperion, who is also on the Board of Advisors of the M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media program. “It’s so important for students to understand the synergy between book publishing and other media such as TV,” said Archer.

The Chew, hosted by Clinton Kelly (formerly of What Not to Wear), also features Mario Batali and Michael Symon, both celebrity chefs and restaurateurs; Hall (a former competitor on Top Chef); and Daphne Oz, author and health & wellness enthusiast.

In discussing the idea for the show, the producers explained that they wanted to create a “party-in-the-kitchen” type of format rather than a typical “how to cook” program. “We knew we were doing something unique: the concept of talk and cooking in one show,” said Executive Producer Mark Schneider. Viewers of the show do not have to be experienced cooks to watch it, but instead tune in for the camaraderie among the five hosts, easy and quick recipe preparation, and to feel like they, too, have the ability to whip up these affordable meals. We learned that an impressive 50% of the audience will cook something they see on the show. So it’s easy to see why Hyperion thought publishing the cookbook was a good idea.

Executive Producer Gordon Elliott
Executive Producer Gordon Elliott

ABC and Hyperion have long worked together to pair books and hit TV shows, for example the Nikki Heat book series based on the works of the fictional title character on the show Castle. “The challenge is finding a show that aligns with a book and partners who see the value in a book for the show,” explained Elisabeth Dyssegaard, Hyperion’s Editor-in-Chief. When The Chew premiered, Hyperion envisioned a cookbook as a natural next step for the brand. Gordon Elliott, Executive Producer of the show, agreed. In fact, he told our student group that he always saw a cookbook as part of the show’s future. The cookbook also replicates the party element of the show by containing lively interviews with the hosts and helpful tips such as what not to bring to a party. (Flowers are actually a don’t because they give the hostess extra work finding a vase, etc. Who knew?)

With such great content, promoting the cookbook is easy, and ABC helps by working closely with Hyperion’s marketing department to publicize the book on the show itself and on The Chew’s website. The strategy involved a slow build. “We didn’t want to exhaust the audience by hitting them over the head,” said Meg Morse-Schindler, Hyperion’s Director of Business Planning and Strategy. Instead, the marketing team began with a cover reveal and eventually worked up to a block party episode on the show completely dedicated to the cookbook. This way, the team was able to build momentum and focus on a six-week publicity push before the September on-sale date.

Bryan Christian with students
Bryan Christian with students

“One of the keys to effective marketing and advertising is repetition,” said Bryan Christian, Hyperion’s Senior Marketing Manager (and a professor of marketing in the M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media program). He explained that usually publishers cannot afford to continually advertise a book after it has been published. The Chew cookbook, however, is mentioned on air whenever one of the recipes fits with the theme of the show.

Another important strategy the Hyperion team discussed with the students was the challenge of publishing cookbooks digitally. Traditionally, the ease of getting free recipes and cooking demonstration videos online, low-cost recipe apps, plus difficulties rendering cookbooks to look good digitally has often meant slow e-book sales. Therefore, the marketing team decided the best strategy would be to create an eBook product that served the dual purpose of giving readers a “taste” of the larger print book through 4 seasonal installments of $3.99 each and providing a year-long merchandising and branding effort with the e-tailers. This has worked out really well for them. In fact, the digital bites serve as a companion to the print book, which has been Hyperion’s top-selling e-cookbook last year.

Carla Hall and lucky student Jael Fogle stage an impromptu photocall.
Carla Hall and lucky student Jael Fogle stage an impromptu photocall.

Our visit to The Chew was a great opportunity to learn all about the collaboration that goes into making a book brand extension of a television show. It takes a lot of people—from television producers to editors to the marketing team—for these types of books to happen, and we discovered that having the right team is the key ingredient. The members have to be passionate about the companion products and genuinely enthusiastic about working to promote the two together.

We all left the set with a much better knowledge of product synergy and an eagerness to head to our own kitchens to try out the recipes we saw on that day’s show. Unfortunately, we would have to wait since recipes aren’t posted on the show’s website until around airtime. Be sure to check out those donut goodies (and more!) on the site and tune in tomorrow (Wednesday, April 17th) at 1:00 PM EDT to see the NYU Publishing students clapping, laughing and chowing down on The Chew!

by Elizabeth Forrest

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