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BBC decides it won’t shut down its popular recipe site after all

"The savings for closing the site were small compared to the sizable audience impact."
Jamie Rigg, @jmerigg
January 5, 2018
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BBC Food

Back in the spring of 2016, the BBC announced it would be axing various periphery websites and apps in an effort to save £15 million in upkeep costs. One of the items on the chopping block was recipe site BBC Food, the news of which sparked a public backlash and petition to save it, reminiscent of the campaign that kept Radio 6 Music on air the previous decade. In reaction to this, the BBC was quick to clarify the catalogue of over 11,000 recipes would remain accessible through the Good Food site, the online complement to the print magazine of the same name, run by commercial arm BBC Worldwide.

Whether the recipes would be easily searchable and filterable by ingredient, chef and programme, as well as what was to happen to other handy features like video tutorials, was unclear. But these questions no longer need answering, as the broadcaster has now confirmed BBC Food is going nowhere, and will remain online and updated just as you've always known it.

"We have made the £15m savings we needed to find from our online services, including changes such as stopping the iWonder service, closing the travel site and stopping developing a travel app, and closing the Newsbeat app, and we're focusing on high quality, distinctive services as we said we would. Following the audience reaction to the BBC Food proposal in 2016, we said we'd preserve the recipes. The savings for closing the site were small compared to the sizable audience impact, and as the public has continued to have an appetite for our recipes, we have kept the site," the BBC said in a statement.

As The Times notes, not all planned closures have been completed on schedule. Regional news index pages were supposed to be replaced by liveblog-style sites linking to stories from local news outlets alongside BBC reports. Currently, both run in tandem. Similarly, while the Newsbeat app is no more, the site is still live and regularly updated. These are all due to go dark within the next few months, however, with the BBC blaming "technical complexities" for the delays.

When the BBC announced it was to cull some sites and services in 2016, the motive wasn't just to cut running costs. It was also part of an effort to make the broadcaster's output more "distinctive," making better use of the licence fee in the spirit of the BBC's Royal Charter. That meant winding down investment in areas where the BBC duplicates information that's available elsewhere. In the worst cases, a local rag might not survive if people can get the same news from the BBC's regional teams.

On a less serious note, recipes can be found all over the internet, hence BBC Food being earmarked for archiving. As the broadcaster discovered, however, the site has an adoring audience -- and a vocal one at that. So next time you look at the mishmash of ingredients in your fridge with a blank expression, BBC Food will be where it always was, telling you what you can throw together with what you have. And when you decide you're not in the mood for that, there's always Deliveroo.

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