Glam Media launches, a culinary site with a social network baked in

Screenshot of Foodie (click to enlarge)

Glam Media, the online media company that produces content and serves ads for a primarily female audience, on Thursday is launching a new website, its first foray into the culinary space. Social networking features will be built into the new Foodie website, making it the first site from Glam that deeply incorporates the technology acquired when it bought Ning in late 2011.

A launch with great expectations

In an interview this week, Glam CEO Samir Arora said he expects Foodie to very soon become one of his company’s top most highly trafficked sites. “One year ago, we discovered that our top ad category in revenue during the first quarter of 2011 was food. We didn’t even have a dedicated food category at that time,” Arora said. “That really drove us to sequence Foodie as an important launch.” Glam expects to attract 10 million monthly uniques soon after it debuts — a very impressive draw by most standards.

At launch, Foodie will feature content from prominent chefs, restauranteurs, established food critics and bloggers, and ads from companies including Betty Crocker and Dannon Activia. The real key news about the site, though, is that readers of Foodie will be able to fill out complete social profiles to let them interact with each other and Foodie’s content creators and brands. Glam describes like this: “A full social network for consumers to directly discover, connect and follow top foodies.”

Still an appetite for social media

But will people really want to create yet another social media profile? Glam certainly thinks so. According to CEO Arora, that’s because sites like Facebook are just too general to help us connect with our individual interests like food. The people with whom you’re friends on Facebook may not be the same people with whom you’re interested in sharing recipes. “When I connected my Facebook graph to my Yelp account, I found that I have nothing in common with my friends in terms of our restaurant tastes,” he said.

It’s a fair point — as popular as general social networking sites have become, people still go to specialized content producing sites on the web. Facebook’s Timeline and Open Graph is trying to turn Facebook into a central place where people can customize their ideal web experience content and all, but perhaps people will still want to keep separate online niches where they deal with people who align with them along very specific interests. wants to be the place people go to read and connect with like-minded people about all things culinary.

Food may be just the beginning

Arora said this push toward social was always the direction in which Glam planned to go, and that the Ning acquisition which closed in December accelerated the process. “Otherwise, if we had to build it ourselves, we’d probably take five years.” If Foodie is the success it’s expected by the company to be, other verticals in Glam’s portfolio could go the social route as well.

It’s an ambitious move to make, but Glam already has such a massive audience — 220 million unique visitors a month, 90 million of them in the United States — that if anyone besides Facebook is going to turn itself into a totally social content web destination, it’s them.