Cucumbertown’s Monetization Mechanics For Food Blogs in 2015 & The Road Ahead

Oct 14, 2015 · 6 min read

here are multiple ways to monetize a food blog and its an easy task to list down all the options. But prioritizing it and getting in-roads by achieving a scalable solution is something which will help you gain incremental success over a period. And that is what Cucumbertown is doing . We have done extensive research and achieved expertise on the ways in which food blogs can be monetized and arrived at the two most important areas to be focussed on. So the focus for the next 4 months is how to make the most optimized use of ads and affiliates while carrying out other monetization experiments on the fringe to make the best monetization strategy for a food blogger.

The crux of monetization still depends on the blogger churning out quality content and using all possible channels for promotion to increase traffic to the blog. Because without building traffic & quality content, it will be a daunting task to materialize monetization. Here’s a sneak peak of what we are doing right now and our plans for the coming quarters.

1. Leveraging Digital Ads

There is no easier way to start monetizing a blog than the traditional revenue channel of digital ads as it is the easiest and fastest way to see the cash flow. There are a bunch of ad networks & agencies like, Google AdSense, Yahoo, Gourmet Ads,Yellow Hammer who deliver ads for publishers on a commission basis. There are niche agencies like AdThrive who have built models that maximize the overall ad revenue.

Here’s a snapshot of benchmark eCPMs from various ad networks for food blogs that we are tracking.

As per our research, most of the ad networks deliver eCPMs in the range of $.5 to $3.0. Managing all these ad networks with limited ad space on the blog is an uphill task. Also the ad placements have to be optimized to get maximum CPMs out of the network. For an individual blogger, simply trying out the different ad networks, going through the approval processes ad evaluating CPM’s is in itself is tedious.

With the expertise of our parent company Cookpad to back us, we are working not only to effectively manage the ad space but also to build an optimized ad waterfall model which will perfectly balance the CPM rates and the fill rates to maximize revenue for bloggers. We are targeting eCPMs in the range of $5 and plan to take it sub $10 levels as we grow. We are also exploring the options of using the PMP model & guaranteed auction model to improve fill rates and eCPMs.

Earnings impact with differential CPMs

Then again, we have the ad block menace which, might impact overall display revenues. One way to overcome this is to serve ads from custom domains. We are exploring ways to see if we could proxy ads from custom domains instead of traditional domains or as a first party (example: instead of This way the url becomes first party vs. third party which ad blocks are conditioned to blog. We believe a simple change here can have a huge impact on the number of impressions and thus increase eCPM.

2. Building a flexible Affiliate sales model

Another easy but moderately effective way to monetize traffic is through affiliate sales. We have started with Amazon’s Affiliate program as it has a robust affiliate model. We plan to run affiliate programs with other networks like Overstock, Shopify, Flipkart, Snapdeal, & many more and tie up exclusively with big basket and target niche audience. We will run affiliate marketing for some of the services we are using as part of the platform technology.

Typical affiliate linking

The challenge with affiliates sales is that most of the merchants have locale specific items in their store. As a result, affiliates deliver less than optimum CPCs in limited regions. By providing a geo location URL for merchandise, we are trying to cater to country specific traffic and improve CPCs.

3.Serving Direct Ads

CPMs delivered by traditional ad networks are directly correlated with the amount of traffic & fill rates. Even though we can optimize on building efficient waterfall models, we can only do so much.

What we have learned is serving direct ads from clients can give far higher ROIs than traditional ad networks although the initial burn rate will be higher. Taking cues from them, we have started the initial rounds of conversation with advertisers and hope to see positive outcomes through this. Being a platform gives us an additional bargaining power with top brands to cut exclusive and effective deals.

The Experiments: Building & Scaling features around content

Besides the focus on optimizing ads and affiliates, we are also woking on some experiments to innovate monetization of food blogs. This is by largely focussing on making the content on a food blog the product which can be monetized. We have already seen some positive numbers through our step image experiment but are yet to find a scalable solutions to some of the logistics.

  1. Premium Images

To take this experiment to the next phase, we are experimenting on the pricing for these premium images and tracking the conversion rate. We are also planning to add a pay as much you can feature and refund mechanism similar to what AdBlock does or what Blendle has experimented with on its users over the years with micro payments. This will help us measure the propensity of visitors towards subscribing to premium content.

2. Developing Ebooks & Courses for recipes

Developing eBooks for cookbooks of recipes, on food photography techniques, resources on food blogging business etc. and making it available through the blog can add to revenue sources. We already have a feature available on the platform where bloggers can create a recipe book (pdf) from the recipes posted on the platform. We intend to fine tune the tool and help bloggers with pricing of the content.

Published Ebooks for recipes

3. Photo & Recipe licensing

Licensing out food recipes and photographs for use in other publications can potentially also become a revenue channel for blogger. We are already negotiating with an online grocer on a possible recipe licensing model where we can start earning fixed revenues over a period.

This is just the beginning of our monetization story and we believe that we are on the right track to achieve our vision of becoming a single destination for food bloggers to host their content and monetize effectively. By the end of these 4 months, we will be able to guarantee that anyone with traffic of 50,000 and higher will find that Cucumbertown will be able to monetize their food blogs much better than what they thought was possible. We will have fine tuned these monetization strategies to such an extent that management of ads, affiliates and any other successful experiments will be a cakewalk.

Are you excited to be part of this journey? We know we are excited to become the platform solution for every food blogger out there. If you want to be one of the early birds on this journey, connect with us. We would be happy to help you out!

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Thanks to Ramya Menon and Cherian Thomas.


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Cucumbertown Magazine Archive

Stories of Inspiration from the World’s Only Platform for Food Blogging