America’s Test Kitchen, parent company of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, has long had a strict paid strategy for its three brands. It’s resisted any type of print-plus-digital or cross-brand bundling, assuming that home cooks will consider the incredibly detailed, no-nonsense recipes, taste tests and equipment reviews (plus publisher Christopher Kimball and his ubiquitous bow-tie) worth paying for. The company gives away very little content for free online.
That strategy has worked out pretty well: Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines, together, have over 1.3 million print subscribers. And the three websites together — americastestkitchen.com, cooksillustrated.com and cookscountry.com — have over 500,000 paying subscribers. (Disclosure: I’m a paying subscriber to cooksillustrated.com.)
On Tuesday, though, America’s Test Kitchen is taking a step toward bundling that will make readers who want, and in many cases are paying for, access to all three brands very happy. Starting today, ATK is offering bundled access to all three of its websites, plus a selection of 1,000 recipes from its cookbooks, for $69.95 per year. That’s a good deal because previously a subscription to just one website was $34.95 a year, and if you wanted access to the “Cookbook Collection” recipes you had to pay an additional $15 a year.
“There are people who are currently members of all three sites,” Jack Bishop, ATK editorial director, told me. “They could buy those individually, which would cost much more than $69.95 a year, but [until now] they could not have a single membership with a single renewal date with better pricing.” Those who do currently have subscriptions to two or more sites will get the offer today to “upgrade” their membership, and the difference between $69.95 and the higher price they were paying before will be credited to their account.
In addition, the three sites are now accessible under a single login, and search is unified across the three sites. Previously, members had to log into each site separately, and if you didn’t remember whether that Snickerdoodles recipe was from Cook’s Country or Cook’s Illustrated, you’d have to search the sites individually to find it.
The new search engine is “fabulous,” “miles of improvement” beyond the old search engine, Bishop said. Before, typing “stir fry,” “stir-fry” or “stirfry” into a search box might pull up different results. Now, the search engine will know that those all mean the same thing.
Here’s what’s not getting bundled: Print subscriptions plus digital access, or website plus tablet access. If you want to read Cook’s Illustrated in print, on the website and on your iPad, you will pay three separate prices.