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6 Questions For the Creator Of BuzzFeed's New Smart Appliance

By Published on .

Credit: Tatsy via BuzzFeed

From the company that brought you the fidget spinner that doubles as a lip gloss container and a hot glue gun for cheese, there now comes a smart hotplate that will do everything from tell you when to flip your pancakes or add your veggies to your stir fry.

The Tasty One Top is the latest invention out of BuzzFeed's Product Labs. The Bluetooth-enabled induction cooktop, which will retail for $149, can prepare Tasty recipes and perform a range of culinary tasks like boil water, slow cook and sous vide.

In conjunction with the launch of Tasty One Top, BuzzFeed is also debuting a stand-alone Tasty app that will connect directly to the smart appliance. The app, available for the iPhone, includes about 1,700 video recipes, which can be searched based on ingredients available, time of day, difficulty and dietary needs, among others.

BuzzFeed launched its Product Labs unit in October 2016, creating merchandise driven by the social publisher. Led by Ben Kaufman, the division is on a quest to bring the content sensibility of the digital media company into commerce. To this end, Kaufman and his team are creating products through the lens of "will this make you want to create things of your own."

Good enough to tweet
Good enough to tweet Credit: Buzzfeed

Its Tasty customizable cookbook has sold 200,000 copies since it was made available in November 2016. And it might not be long before BuzzFeed is creating products for advertisers.

Kaufman discussed the thinking behind the Tasty One Top and how BuzzFeed will develop more products like it going forward.

The interview has been lightly edited for flow and clarity.

How are you thinking about the intersection of content and commerce?
We are designed to be a responsive product organization that's able to ride moments in time. We've created products around the President. When he called BuzzFeed a "failing pile of garbage" we went out and created BuzzFeed-branded garbage cans. We were selling garbage cans three hours after the press conference and shipped them within a week. We also created "The President and the Big Boy Truck" book 24-hours after Trump's post [after Trump posed for a photo inside a truck parked on the White House lawn]. All in we spent over a year on the cooktop, but its an investment we were willing to make.

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.
We are just drawing parallels to the publishing business and media companies – there are evergreen content plays and then content plays where we say, "let's ride this moment and get out." We are thinking the same way about products.

What do you deem a success for your products?
We call ourselves a lab for a reason, we are always learning and testing new ideas. We have no expectation of selling as many One Tops as cookbooks. We are going into these products thinking about doing a service to readers and will learn something along the way. With the cookbook we initially expected to sell 5,000. We go into these products because we think they are great products and we think they capture human identity and shareability.

How are you looking to incorporate advertisers into future product efforts?
You are going to see some of that later this year. We are looking to collaborate with our brand strategy organization to bring our supply chain and product thinking to brands in the future. We create our own cotent for ourselves before we tell brands how to do it themselves. This will be the same with products. We are going through the learnings of social product development for ourselves before we do it for brands.

What types of products are you looking at next?
Overall we are very interested in products that compel people to create content. The great thing about food and One Top is as people are cooking they will likely take picture or video and someone will see the appliance in the feed. When you receive a gift should want to pull out a camera and video and Instagram your use of it. To me that's the new product review. If a customer is willing to take out their phone and put ownership of product into their feed that's the ultimate endorsement of a product.

What have you learned so far that might help working with brands to create products in the future?
The big insight everyone is waking up to in last six months is that you are never going to be able to out Amazon, Amazon. If they want the seek and buy shopping they are going to go to Amazon – it's easy for them. When other brands want to play in commerce space they need to bring something unique to the table, a sensibility, a conversation, customizable, where a customer can bring their identity into an item where they are creating a self-expression. It has to be something that feels differentiated that gives people a reason not to want to go to path of least resistance, which is Amazon.

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