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For The NYT, Digitizing 16,000 Recipes From Its Past Is Part of Securing Its Future

Food editor Sam Sifton says it's about service

Photo: Brendan McCarthy


Specs
Current gig Food editor at The New York Times
Previous gig National editor at The New York Times
Age 48

National editor to food editor seems like a big shift. How's that going?
Running [the national news] desk, it takes its toll. When the opportunity came up to help invent something new, to see if we could not take essentially what had been a morgue, all these old recipes that sat static in black and white in our archive, and breathe life into them, I thought, "Golly, that could be a pretty interesting thing to do."

Why launch the Cooking app, with more than 16,000 archived recipes, for The New York Times now?
I have always believed that service is at the heart of what newspapers do. In the old days when newspapers had no websites, everything came from the newspaper. I believe we are coming back to that now, and tools like Cooking, the website and app we've built to go along with our food coverage provide real service to our readers. We believe that is one way that we can keep ourselves alive and indeed thrive.

People love taking and sharing food photos. Do you think a lot about Instagram and Pinterest?
Instagram, which I'm kind of mystified by and love, is not a big driver of traffic because it's not designed to be. You can't really put links in there, but boy oh boy do our users love to interact with us there, in sharing their own images of food and in sharing our images of food. Photography is hugely important in the recipe game. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just delusional or lying. There is a level on which this is pornography. The job of the recipe title, the recipe image, the recipe top note is to excite the user into action.

Where does your recipe inspiration come from?
I live in what I consider to be the greatest restaurant city in the world. I try to eat out a lot, and when I find something delicious, I try and figure out how to make it. I take recipe inspiration from the food I eat in the great city every day.

Will we see food coverage on Facebook's Instant Articles?
If I understand Instant Articles at all, it may be more helpful for a long load time, big serious read than it is for a relatively small file like a recipe for clams casino, but I'm eager to find out and take part if that's part of the master plan.

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