Undeniably, Are Media (Australia) are the custodians of some of the most important and relevant magazine content ever produced in Australia spanning almost every aspect of life in Australian society. Many of their magazine titles are iconic – effectively woven into the fabric of the national psyche, arguably none more so than The Australian Women’s Weekly (often just referred to as ‘The Weekly’) – an Australian institution for over eighty years. As described by the publisher:
“As the trusted voice of Australian women for over eight decades, The Australian Women’s Weekly sets the agenda on what matters most to women. With a focus on quality long-form journalism, The Weekly delivers a unique combination of information and entertainment spanning real-life stories, food, fashion, beauty, health, celebrity, craft and of course royals”.
Of the many regular features that have contributed over the decades to The Weekly’s fame, fortune and status has been its food and culinary section and specifically its recipes. It is often considered that a nation’s food and tastes reflect its general outlook and place in the world, a mirror of sorts on its social well being. Over the years The Weekly’s in house test kitchens have designed and commissioned literally thousands of recipes; some of which have become culinary institutions in Australian households. In days gone by, a hardcopy Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook shared the pride of place in hundreds of thousands of Australian kitchens and chefs and cooks – such as Margaret Fulton became famous household names long before the term ‘Celebrity Chef’ had been coined or television franchises like Masterchef had been born. In fact, The Weekly’s cookbook reach has extended well beyond Australian shores. From the publisher:
“The Australian Women's Weekly Cookbooks are some of the world's most successful cookbooks. You will find them in almost every English-speaking country; they are even translated into French, Spanish, Greek, Dutch, Hebrew and Polish. Our cookbooks are so successful because the food is inspirational and easy; every recipe is photographed and has been triple-tested, guaranteeing our enviable reputation for reliability”.
As Australia’s multicultural society has matured, so too has the Australian palate and The Weekly has had to remain at the forefront of culinary relevancy.
Recognition of the value of the recipe archive, and creating a commercial model around it in a new digital world was at the core of Are Media seeking a leader in media solutions to deliver a mechanism by which some 50,000 archival recipes, namely from The Weekly, but also from other Are Media titles including Woman’s Day could be digitised to provide relevant, highly searchable granular results to a ‘hungry’ audience.
In early 2015, Are Media commissioned its ‘Food to Love’ consumer website www.womensweeklyfood.com.au, a consolidation of many aspects of Are Media’s rich culinary content across its titles.
At the forefront of the site was the intent to deliver archival recipes integrated with new recipes from current and future content. From the publisher:
“This website is the home of all the best tips, advice and recipes from The Australian Women’s Weekly. Tested by us, trusted by you, the best in Australian cooking. The Australian Women’s Weekly has been home to delicious recipes for over 60 years, and now all of your favourites can be found on Food to Love. These are the most popular recipes – deliciously spongy chocolate cakes, go-to slow-cooker recipes, hearty soups, and much-loved scone and soup recipes. But there’s much more on Food to Love; we’ve brought together not just The Australian Women’s Weekly recipes, but also all the best recipes from Woman’s Day, recipes+ and more.
You can get expert advice from our chefs, direct from the Test Kitchen, search through collections of our best recipes, and get delicious ideas every day from the Inspire Me section.
Powered by Are Media’s rich portfolio of trusted food brands, including The Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day, this website will take the pain out of feeding the family with the very best recipes, cooking tips and expert advice from Australia’s leading test kitchen.
Featuring rich video content, through to the very best recipes, this website will add value to every household’s recipe repertoire, providing a one-stop-shop where consumers can be inspired by our talented chefs, recipe collections, cooking tips, and expert advice.
Are Media understood that a valuable consumer proposition would require that the recipe archive be digitised so that it could be a genuine dynamic working tool enabling consumers the ability to search for a recipe based on numerous criteria.
Having received the archive from Are Media in a combination of formats namely InDesign (in numerous software versions) and PDF (reflecting the way the content was produced or stored), X-CAGO undertook a process of converting each to XML from which an intricate schema and protocol was produced. Many of the InDesign files were of entire cookbooks (within these, there were anything from 65-250 recipes) from which X-CAGO had to recognise and then segment each recipe and then its constituent elements. X-CAGO, working very closely with the Are Media team designed a tagging schema to recognise the key attributes of each individual recipe, with each distinguishable as separate categories including:
It was understood that the key ingredients to success in the digitising project would be the ability to create a standardisation of the tagging process in order that each recipe’s attributes were consistent when presented as a search result on the website. Once complete, the XML was returned to Are Media for direct uploading to their Content Management System (CMS) for ingestion onto the Food to Love website.
The project was not without its challenges. Some were understood at the outset, not the least of which was the requirement for a very quick turnaround for which X-CAGO very ably delivered. Other challenges tended to present themselves along the way. One of these was the fact that dependent on the age and origins of the recipe, some measurements were in Imperial measurements and others Metric. Those that were Imperial therefore had to be quickly and seamlessly converted to Metric, a process that X-CAGO automated ensuring speed, efficiency and the ability to stay within budget.
A further challenge posed more complex and strategic solutions. As became evident fairly quickly, many recipes in the archive were duplicated in some form. In digitising some 50,000 recipes published over so many years, it became clear that more than one near-identical recipe had likely been published over the duration for effectively the same ingredients – from the iconic Australian Lamington to a Beef Lasagne to a Croque-en-bouche to name but a few. Whereas some duplicates were exact, many others had subtle or pronounced differences. These ranged from having a different title for the exact same recipe, to the same title but differences in ingredients, preparation times or cooking instructions. The realisation of the presence of so many duplicates that then had to be delivered to the consumer was quickly deemed to be a poor customer experience.
X-CAGO were called upon to establish with Are Media a means by which duplicates could, therefore, be automatically identified by any combination of duplicate characteristics from which agreed to criteria could then be applied to withhold from ingestion into the website a duplicate deemed too similar to one already in the archive. Conversely, the process had to identify and then keep those recipes whose characteristics meant that they were sufficiently different to be retained and published. Accordingly, X-CAGO’s highly skilled development team created an automated process to cast aside or keep a duplicate by interrogating the XML schema according to criteria agreed to by Are Media.
a. Ingredient Group count;
b. Cooking time (Minimum and Maximum);
c. Serving size (Minimum and Maximum);
d. Yield Quantity (Minimum and Maximum).
If a, b, c, and d are the same; the recipe is deemed to be the same.
a. Keep the recipe with the most recent publishing date. If publishing dates are not possible, then;
b. Keep the recipe with the most characters (but ignore punctuation).
This process of engagement and collaboration with the client demonstrates X-CAGO’s agile methodology to find a simple solution to a complex problem.
The Are Media Recipe project is a testament to Are Media’s determination to ensure its content remains at the forefront of relevancy in a new digital era for which competition is fierce and the need for commercialisation paramount. X-CAGO is proud to have been selected as Are Media’s partner of choice to deliver these outcomes – on time and budget.