Q & A: Michael Ruhlman on Recipe-Based Apps


Writer Michael Ruhlman (Photo by Donna Ruhlman)

Our industry needs writers willing to embrace the digital future of food writing. Michael Ruhlman, an award-winning cookbook author, dove in. He embraced blogging a few years ago and has now has regular income based on it. Next he put out apps on mobile devices based on his books.

As part of a team, Ruhlman created three apps and he’s in development on the fourth. They are:

1. The Ratio app for the iPhone and iPod. At $4.99, Rulman says the app has sold 11,000 copies, and continues to sell at the rate of 50 per week. Apple takes 30 percent off the top. The team of Ruhlman, the developer, and the designer (Leah McCombe) split the rest. The team worked on spec (basically for free) in exchange for royalties. Ruhlman is working on an enhanced Ratio app for the iPad with the developer, Sideways.

2.  The Ratio Android app. Not quite as popular, it sells 1 for every 10 sold on Apple. The same team created it and splits the revenue.

3. The iPad Bread Baking Basics. Itsells for $1.99. The team comprised Ruhlman; his wife Donna Ruhlman, who shot the photos; and the developer, Will Turnage of R/GA.

4. An iPad app based on his forthcoming book, Ruhlman’s 20. Ruhlman is currently in negotiations with Chronicle Books.

Ruhlman spoke to to members of the International Association of Culinary Professionals on a teleforum last week about apps, and I followed up with this interview.

Q. Why did you decide to make an app from your book Ratio?

A. Because the concept lends itself so beautifully to what a smart phone can do. There’s enough people who have [Read more…]

Chronicle Books To Roll Out Cookbook-based Apps

Lorena Jones became publishing director of Chronicle Books last fall, and she’s focusing on the newest part of her  job: developing dynamic digital content for mobile applications, enhanced e-boooks, and iPads.

The former publisher of Ten Speed, Jones worked at Ten Speed for 15 years. Now she’s going digital and embracing the learning curve.

“Five of us here are trying to learn all this stuff at warp speed,” she said. “We work super collaboratively.” Jones has done about a dozen deals since January, including six iPhone apps and 3 iPad apps. She calls the products “suites.”

She’s developing her talent pool, working with both established Chronicle authors and new writers excited about digital media. “I think of it like the Matrix. I think about what authors know in a [Read more…]

Food and Wine Writing on a Smart Phone

A woman scans the wine aisle at a grocery store, overwhelmed by the selection. She’s looking for a  wine to go with the  chicken her husband will grill for friends this weekend. Then she remembers: she has the information at her fingertips. She whips out her smart phone (an iPhone, iPod Touch or BlackBerry in this case) and finds the exact recommendations: for red wine, Bonarda; for white, dry Zinfandel or Chenin Blanc.

Natalie Maclean made $2.99 when this target reader bought her smart phone application, the Mobile Drinks Matcher.

“The two trends that are exploding in popularity now: interest in food and wine, and the convenience of mobile apps,” says Natalie. “ As a wine-loving geek, I love finding ways for new technology to help us savor all of life’s pleasures, wherever we are.”

How many more target readers will spend $2.99 for this repurposed content? Natalie made a big investment (she won’t say how much) and hopes to find out. After spending eight years developing a searchable database of food and wine pairings for her website, the multiple award-winning writer spent three months with a software developer, creating a database of  380,000 mobile wine and food pairing applications for her Mobile Drinks Matcher. While anyone can look up the information on her website, she wanted a remote application for  liquor stores and restaurants.

Here’s what’s different from people searching her website from their computers and finding the exact same information: She gets paid. Isn’t that nice? Unusual, even.

Of course she has to recover her investment of several thousand dollars at least. It’s going to take a lot of $2.99 purchases. But the trend is increasing. People look up info while on the go.

Watch this quick video demo to see how the application works. And think about it: what food writing do you own that might be repurposed this way?

Update: Hey, I scooped the New York Times. On Agust 3, Gadgetwise reviewed three more apps.