Susan Lyne
Ruth Reichl
gilt taste

Exclusive: Gilt Taste Is Cooking Up An iPad App That Will Let You Swipe Without Touching

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Earlier today, Gilt launched the latest addition to its group-buying sites with Gilt Taste—a very pricey online purveyor of produce, meats, fish, cheese, and other “artisinal” foods. While it’s easy to get distracted by the jaw-dropping prices ($50 steaks anyone?), the part I find interesting is that Gilt Taste is also an online magazine.

Mouth-watering food photography helps to move the merchandise. The entire design of the site started with what it should look like first on a tablet and then worked backwards to the tiled view on the Web. In fact, a companion iPad app is in the works. When you are cooking in the kitchen, a propped-up iPad would be perfect for reading recipes, except that you wouldn’t want to touch it with wet or greasy hands. So instead of swiping, Gilt is prototyping a way to use the camera to create “motion-activated recipes.” You would swipe your hands through the air in front of the screen instead of touching it to go through step-by-step recipes, which could include video and more photography.

The editorial side of the site is overseen by advisor Ruth Reichl, who was the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine for ten years and before that was the food critic for the New York Times. Mixed in with the articles on how to cook broccoli and chicken with ramps, is also an in-depth story by Barry Estabrook on the impact natural gas fracking could have on the food supply.

“It is very important to me that we create a new kind of magazine here that is not advertising-based,” Reichl tells me. Foodies love to read about food, learn about food, and related issues. Content brings buyers. There is a chinese wall between the online market and the editorial, just like there is between advertising and editorial at a traditional publication. But this is the direction that lifestyle publishing—from fashion to food—is going (see also, Thrillist or Refinery29)

Reichl comes from the print establishment, but she is already liberated by working online. “This wasn’t even conceived of six months ago,” she says. “In print, there is no way you could do this in six months. We have 8 people. You’d have 50 at a magazine.” And some of those are engineers who like to build things like that iPad app. It also costs a lot less than launching a splashy new magazine, which can easily run $50 million to $100 million. In contrast, Gilt chairman Susan Lyne says the launch of Gilt Taste “is a few million dollars. It is nowhere close to what it would cost to launch a magazine.”

And what of those expensive food items and departure from Gilt’s discount model? Well, there will be weekly specials, but Gilt Taste is not supposed to replace your grocery shopping It is for special occasions, and for foodies who want access to the same farms and culinary sources that the best chefs in the world go to. Also, Lyne knows there is demand for fancy foods because she tested it out on the main Gilt site where flash sales of food items “really flew.” It makes sense. Food is a perishable item, even more so than fashion. But the team at Gilt felt that shoppers needed more context, and in fact, editorial to attract them, educate them and keep them coming back.

Personally, I can’t wait to try out some of those “motion-activated recipes.”