After a 13-year run, Elise Bauer, one of the most successful food bloggers in the world, has sold her blog and business Simply Recipes. Fexy Media, a digital media investment firm that also owns Serious Eats, bought the site for an undisclosed amount.
Fexy Media announced the news in a press release, and Bauer followed up with an announcement on her blog. Bauer will continue as president of the blog, and as an employee of Fexy Media. (If you’ve never heard of Fexy Media, the Seattle-area company is only two years old. Lisa Sharples, who co-founded it with her husband, ran Allrecipes for six years. Under her watch, Meredith Corp. acquired Allrecipes for $175 million.)
It’s a big shift for Bauer, who has presided over the blog alone since launching it in 2003. “There’s so much care that I’ve put into [Simply Recipes] over the years, said Bauer in an interview with the Sacramento Bee, her hometown newspaper. “I want to make sure it continues to grow and thrive, and I think the best way to do that in this market that is constantly changing is to do that in a bigger organization. They have the resources I would need to continue to grow the company.”
In my interview below, Bauer explains her decision to sell Simply Recipes, and how it will change as a result:
Q. How did Simply Recipes grow from a family recipe blog in Carmichael, California, to the “number one cooking blog for women 25-29,” as the press release says, with more than 6 million unique visitors per month?
A. Luck and 13 years of hard work! I was very lucky to fall into this years ago before the space got so crowded. In 2003, almost all of the attention was on tech and political blogs. “No one cares what you ate for lunch today” was a meme, rather ironic since oddly and actually, people do care what you eat for lunch. Cooks.com was the number one cooking website back then, and the only food magazines that had a web presence were Gourmet and Bon Appétit through Epicurious. So, I was able to create a brand, and start to build momentum when there wasn’t as much food and recipe activity online as there is now.
For many years blogs reaped search result benefits because we food bloggers like to link to each other, “sharing the love” so to speak, which I think gave us a distinct advantage over the larger branded sites. Google is fickle and these days seems to favor the big branded sites over blogs, but we did have an advantage for quite a long time.
The hard work has been consistently posting over all those years, and continually striving to improve my skills on all levels—recipe development, writing, photography, and now of course, video. I’ve also been rather OCD about the quality of the recipes on the site and every aspect of the usability of the site. I’m constantly retesting and updating the recipes.
Q. How do you keep up your enthusiasm for finding and creating new recipes, after 13 years?
A. It helps to be naturally curious! I’m always hunting for recipe ideas, asking my friends, family, and even strangers I meet randomly. Actually, “what do you like to eat? and do you have a favorite recipe?” are great conversation starters, because everyone has a favorite food, even if they don’t cook.
Once I start with idea, I don’t know know where it will take me, but I’ll keep working it until I have something that I really like and think others will too.
I also love cooking with friends and family and have collaborated for several years with people with some serious skills, like James Beard award-winning Hank Shaw, and former Zuni cafe and Chez Panisse chef Kathi Riley. Also my partner Guy is French, from Provence. He is a fabulous cook and a constant source of inspiration.
Q. Did you always think you would sell your food blog?
A. From practically the beginning I decided to not use my name in the name of the site. I wanted to create something that could live beyond me, that didn’t have to be tied to me personally. So, selling could be a possibility.
Q. Why was it time to sell Simply Recipes?
A. I think I reached a limit of how much I could do on my own to continue to grow the site. The market is changing at lightening speed. Every food blogger I know is struggling to keep up with all of the demands with effectively running a blog—in addition to brilliant recipes we need drop dead gorgeous photos in every format—horizontal for the site, vertical for Pinterest, square for Facebook and Instagram. We need viral-worthy videos, and compelling copy.
It used to be that people would come to our sites to find our content. Now we need to promote our work on social media—Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat.
It’s a full time job for several people to do this well.
I needed to add resources, and expand the team. I could either self-fund, or look outside for capital. When you self-fund, you may reap all of the rewards, but you also carry all of the risk. Selling the company is a financing decision that transfers much of the risk to the investors, while enabling me to focus on building the business and creating great content.
Q. When Fexy Media approached you, and what was your initial response?
A. I was intrigued! They bought Serious Eats a year ago. I’ve been cheering on Ed Levine since he started Serious Eats. When Ed reached out to me on behalf of Fexy, I was interested. My biggest concern about selling the company to anyone was that the buyer would wreck what I’ve built. That hasn’t happened with Serious Eats. Instead, that site continues to just get better. The management of Fexy really cares about preserving what makes their sites special.
Q. What attracted Fexy Media to your blog, besides the astonishing numbers of people who visit?
A. The quality of the recipes and content, as well as the staying power of the brand. Simply Recipes is also complementary to their other properties like Serious Eats and Roadfood. There are great opportunities for collaboration and synergy with the different brands.
Q. How many people will be affected, who work at Simply Recipes?
A. I and Jesse Gardner, our head of web development, are now employees of Fexy Media. There’s just the two of us.
Q. What is your new role? Do you have a contract to stay on for a limited period, such as two years?
A. The same! I’m still president of Simply Recipes. But now I have more resources so I can focus on the parts of running the website that I like to do. As for a contract, I have a regular employment contract with Fexy, and as with every employee of Fexy, stock incentives.
Q. Will you be hiring contributors?
A. Yes! I’m looking for contributors who can develop delicious, memorable, approachable, original recipes using classic scratch cooking methods, who have great photography and writing skills as well. If you’re interested, send me an email at elise AT simplyrecipes.com.
Q. How will Simply Recipes change as a result of this acquisition?
A. More and better recipes and cooking how-to’s, more video, and more social outreach. That’s all I know for now. As I mentioned, the landscape is constantly changing, so who knows what will be needed to stand out and provide value a year from now? Whatever it is, our intention is to be there.
Q. Is it hard to think about people changing Simply Recipes, when it has been just yours for so long?
A. Yes. Fexy first approached me last October and we closed in April. So I’ve had many months to think about the transition. I’ve moved from that pit in my stomach at the thought of giving up my baby for adoption, to the butterflies in my chest as I watch my baby grow up, and get married. I’m not giving away what I’ve built, but sharing it with others who are committed to its continued success.
The web, like all of life, is constantly changing. Growing is a process of letting go, isn’t it? Simply Recipes will change and thank goodness! As long as we focus on continuing to provide great value to readers, we’ll be in good shape.
Leticia Moreinos Schwartz says
Thank you Dianne for the great article! Been a fan of simply recipes for a long time. So nice to read about this hugely sucess story! She rocks! And you rock too! Cheers! Leticia
Thanks Leticia. She’s been around before most of us started blogging, and remains a huge influence.
Thanks so much Leticia! And thank you too Dianne for the opportunity to do this interview. You have always been so supportive of me and all food bloggers.
Marge Perry says
Great interview, Dianne: you hit all the questions I’d Have of Elise (with the exception of the “undisclosed amount” of course 😉
Elise, congratulations on keeping the integrity and quality of your site all these years, and finding the buyer who will continue what you started. I look forward to seeing how you use this new infusion of capital.
Exactly. I was dying to know, but I also know Elise and there was no way she would divulge it. She will also have a very nice salary for the next several years, and stock options.
Do you remember this story I did about the acquisition of Food Wishes by Allrecipes? http://diannej.com/2011/chef-john-hits-gold-with-allrecipes-acquisition/. And did you notice that Flexy also owns Jane and Michael Sterns’s site?
Thank you Marge! As the case with most food blogs this has been a labor of love in every way.
Rick Jaworski says
Congratulations Elise! That must of been a difficult decision to let go of your baby. Having been approached by two different companies in the last six months is it something we haven’t been able to wrap our heads around successfully. We also struggle big time with the idea of working for someone after 19 years totally on our own. I’m sure that has to have been an issue for you as well. Stephanie and I wish you all the best on your new path!
Joy of Baking
So you’ve been approached too! It doesn’t surprise me Rick. And it sounds like a great path to retirement, if you can let go of your baby.
Rick Jaworski says
We could retire today if we wanted to so that’s not an issue. With so much doom and gloom talk out there everyone assumes we must be desperate. Joy of Baking has already bought and paid for our life at the beach so it’s a value issue especially when it comes to video. Everyone talks about how they are going to do video, but it’s mostly just talk. Once they realize the steep learning curve and the hard work it takes, if you can even do it and few can, they stop talking. We’ve got 400 videos which is over 95 hours online. Until the industry realizes the value in that and how hard it would be to duplicate, let alone draw an audience of millions, we’ll be on our own.
Hi Rick, I think you and Stephanie were prescient with your shift of focus to video a few years back. It is really hard to do well and you guys have made it work!
Geat move from Elise!
susie norris says
Thanks for this interview & article, Dianne. What an interesting perspective Elise has, and congrats to her. Glad she will stay on producing great content.
I guess the worst news would have been if she would be replaced by some corporate person. Her site still has her personality all over it and some of the headnotes are quite personal. Eventually, if she wants to ease out, it will be interesting to see how the site changes.
Elizabeth F. says
It’s been 3 years since you typed your reply stating that “Her site still has her personality all over it …..”. So here we are in October of 2019 and no, it bears no resemblance at all to Elise’s Simply Recipes I and so many others loved.
Alas, that’s life. I’ll be tuning out from the site now but I’ll keep an eye on what Elise is doing in the future.
It’s true. Things change. Elise is still associated with the site and still doing work for it. The editor-in-chief, Emma Christensen, formerly of The Kitchn, is a friend and an awesome writer and recipe developer who added a team of excellent writers. So I think the site still has high quality recipes and information, and I’m still a fan.
Jerry Russell says
All the best to Elise. It couldn’t happen to a better or nicer person. I’m sure that this will make Simply Recipes an even better experience.
She certainly thinks that will be the case! I like that you’re thinking positively, Jerry.
Ah Jerry, I love you! You’re the bestest.
Maureen C. Berry says
Wow. Exciting times! Congrats to Elise and thanks Dianne for another terrific article. I always look forward to your Wednesday posts.
Thanks Maureen. This one came in right under the wire. The problem with news is that you have to drop everything and get it done!
Jill Silverman Hough says
Thanks for sharing this exciting news, Dianne–seems like it couldn’t happen to a more deserving person than Elise. So much hard work and bravery over the years, and now being brave about letting her “baby” go. Your story has always been so inspiring, Elise, and you’ve always been so generous with sharing it–thank you for that, and congratulations!
She has worked hard to get to this point, I agree. The acquisition is a wonderful reward and I hope it works out exactly the way she wants. She is probably inspiring other food bloggers to think about their site’s lifeline, moving forward.
Thank you Jill! It does feel like a leap of faith. The food blogging community has giving me so much over the years—friendship, knowledge, inspiration. I feel humbled everyday by the raw talent I see in our community, and so inspired by everyone working to improve their skills. Food blogs just keep getting better and better, don’t they?
Anne Ritchings says
Congratulations. It’s a great gift to know when it is time to let go so that something new can come into being.
I hope Elise sees your note, Anne. On one hand I’m sure it was probably very hard to let go, and on another, doing a blog mostly by yourself is overwhelming, especially one that popular.
Thank you Ann, you are spot on. I just got to the point where I didn’t want to do this by myself anymore.
Jennie Schacht says
Elise was one of the first bloggers I heard about and met at a blogging conference many years ago, where she was characteristically generous in sharing her know-how. How wonderful that she has such a terrific attitude about this change, which can’t help but be an emotional one. I wish her and Simply Recipes continued success. (and you, too, Dianne!)
Lovely message, Jennie. Thanks.
Thank you Jennie! Years ago I and other early food bloggers (like Kalyn Denny, Lydia Walshein, Jaden Hair) consciously tried to promote an environment of sharing, collaboration, and generosity with each other. It’s been so gratifying to see that spirit multiply as the food blogging community has grown. Now I’m learning from everyone else!
Patricia Rain says
So interesting to watch all the changes that have occurred since I launched my online company 15 years ago. Thank you Dianne, for an excellent interview! I can fully appreciate how we continue to need to reinvent ourselves as we go along. I’m always thrilled when I learn that people are supporting themselves with their hard work online. It is overwhelming to maintain a successful site/blog alone or with only one other person.
As per disclosing what a site or domain sells for, I can say that having sold vanilla.com, there is almost always a non-disclosure clause in the contract. I’ve had so many people ask me what it sold for.
So glad you’ve been so successful Dianne. We need all the support we can get!
Patricia, I didn’t even know that you sold your vanilla company. Congratulations! Are you still there as an employee or can you now enjoy retirement?
Thanks for the kind words. This was a case where I just sent Elise a few questions, and she poured her heart and soul into the answers.
What a terrific interview Dianne. Just like Elise herself, it’s open, genuine, warm and honest. And she is a smart cookie. I saw the news while we were in New Zealand and was thrilled for Elise!I first met her at a food bloggers workshop in Cancun Mexico in 2011 where she taught and shared her ever-growing expertise. I learned so much at that workshop. What a huge, and I am sure, tough decision but exciting for Elise (and Guy and her family). Congratulations and well deserved! Glad you are sticking around Elise to keep inspiring us.
Maybe she will see this and respond, Sally. My first opportunity was to talk to Elise in Mexico as well, as a co-teacher at a conference.
Hi Sally! It’s been so gratifying to see how everyone who attended those first “food blog camps” have continued to build their craft, including you! Thank you for the congrats!
Thanks for sharing this interview. I really enjoyed reading it! And sooo nice to hear about Elise’s success! Love Simply Recipes and Serious Eats, so happy to hear about their cooperation and looking forward to more great content. 🙂
The reason I kept reading Simply Recipes is because it was Elise Bauer. I liked her style, I liked her food. Now it’s been nearly 3 weeks of random people I have no interest in, with pretty much nothing that interests me in the way of recipes. If I wanted that, I’d cut recipes out of the newspaper. I won’t go back.
Hmm. Yes I just went there to look, and I see that many people are writing for Elise now. It’s a big change and some people will like it, some won’t. If it’s any consolation, I’m sure she has vetted the recipes and they are as trustworthy as her own.
So sad. I’ve followed Simply Recipes because of Elise’s style and personality as well as recipes. Lately, although having little time for browsing, I have noticed something has changed. Who are all these people and where is Elise? Now I know. The personal touch has gone.
And Im sad.
Change is difficult, I agree. But Elise is still there behinds the scenes, and she deserves to do something different after many years of hard work. And she has assembled an excellent team.
Judy B. says
Simply Recipes has lost Elise’s personal touch that endeared her to so many of us for so many years. It’s definitely difficult to get used to the other contributors, as competent as they may be. I totally understand that Simply Recipes had become overwhelming for Elise to manage by herself, but it would have been nice if ONE new voice was introduced every month while Elise was still contributing. Having several new contributors thrust upon us all at the same time was a bit overwhelming for Elise’s loyal fan base. The new recipes just don’t feel right in this blog. Many of them are just too focused on “Healthy” meals, that seem very unhealthy, loaded with carbs. We were used to one style of cooking and one voice teaching us how to simplify cooking while keeping the meals fresh and innovative. Personally, I dislike the weekly “meal plan”…today, for example, Megan Gordon is introduced as a recipe developer, but none of the five recipes are hers. We really don’t need meal plans that are too varied in cuisine, either. And today, someone asked a question and Megan didn’t respond. Emma did. Everything is just so convoluted without Elise’s famous structured approach.
I’m glad that Elise will enjoy a new career path, doing things behind the scenes. She deserves some time to herself to follow yet another dream. Maybe she’ll get a new generation of readers, and I wish her the best and happiest years of her life. About a month ago, my husband (a huge SR fan) said that the site had changed and he didn’t look forward to the emails anymore. I wondered if it was just me. He unsubscribed, and I’m afraid I’ll be doing the same thing today. I feel there could have been a better way to handle this transition. Our loyalty over the years deserved a kinder consideration. Good luck, Elise. We miss you very much.
It’s inevitable that when Elise sold her business, there would be change. And it’s inevitable that most of us don’t like change! So there you have it, Judy. It’s not the same site anymore. Elise’s job is different too. She has had to embrace change, which is hard.
How does one unsubscribe from simply recipes.com? I have searched for 20 min to no avail.
Judy B. says
At the bottom of the emails from Simply Recipes, there should be an “unsubscribe” link. Just click on that.
Jack D. says
After reviewing Elise Bauer’s method for caramelizing onions quickly, I felt it necessary to share my sure-fire way of doing it.
1) Cut up a large yellow onion into large dice.
2) To a stainless steel 3 quart pot, add chicken fat to about a 1 inch depth, or until it will just cover the diced onions.
3) Turn on the heat to low so that the chicken fat melts.
4) Add the onions and stir with a flat wooden spatula.
5) Turn up the heat to maximum high and do not cover.
6) Set timer for 15 minutes and let sizzle, stirring occasionally.
7) After 12 minutes, edges of the dice should be starting to turn brown.
8) Stir and watch closely and when center of dice starts turning brown, turn off heat.
9) Let cool 5 to 10 minutes. and use the spatula to scoop dices into a container. You may want to add chicken broth to just cover the onions so that they absorb it to plump up.
10) Reserve fat for the future.
Elizabeth F. says
Simply Recipes just ain’t the same without you at the helm, without it being “your thing”. You are missed!
I don’t care for the new look of the site either but I guess that goes along with the whole new feel of it also. Too bad.
You sure had a good run and I certainly don’t begrudge you for knowing when it’s time for a change or a move.
Best of luck to you, Elise, and God bless you.