Food blogging for fame, fortune or just for fun

by Sarah on December 8, 2011

spotlight apple

Disclosure: this might not be of interest to non bloggers.

There are hundreds of websites dedicated to promoting and monetizing blogs. Many of these sites are applicable to food blogs as well. Several veteran bloggers including David Lebowitz, Adam Roberts from Amateur Gourmet and Nicky and Oliver from Delicious Days have written comprehensive overviews for food bloggers. Other websites with relevant information include the Food Blog Alliance, Food Blog Forum and Dianne Jacob’s Will Write for Food.

I would like to add a few of my own thoughts, comments and tips to this saturated topic

1. The chances are you are not going to make money off your blog. Covering expenses is a reasonable goal but do not quit your day job. Many bloggers have used their blogs as a stepping stone for other projects but this takes motivation and vision. From Plate to Page, a hands on writing and photography workshop geared for food bloggers is a classic example. From experience, interesting opportunities do present themselves but not all of them should be followed.

2. The powerful draw in food blogging is the community. There are bake offs, link shares, twitter conversations, skype cooking and lots of mutual blog reading and commenting. Like any hobby, from quilting to history, these online clubs are engaging and supportive but should not be limiting. As my fourth grade teacher liked to say “broaden your horizons!” Explore subjects outside your scope. Art, dance, science, technology, ancient Chinese calligraphy, there’s an entire world out there…and it will make your life and blog more interesting. Also do take the time to read articles written by professional food writers such as the New York Times, The Atlantic and Zester Daily.

3. When my grandfather first heard about my blog he asked me if it was an “ego thing”. He has a point. It is easy to become fixated on statistics, wonder why nobody commented on a post that took eternity to write and panic when someone unsubscribes. If you are paying your mortgage off the blog revenues than there is reason to stress out. If not, it’s time to take things into proportion.

4. I don’t necessarily follow blogs that are updated multiple times a week, contrary to what many blog experts advice. If the sole reason for visiting blogs is for socializing then of course those who don’t update regularly are going to be cast on the way side despite quality content. On the other hand, a well written piece never ages.

5. Don’t reveal it all. Be discreet about the personal information that is shared on the blog and respect the privacy of others. This is especially pertinent with children who might not appreciate being part of the Truman Show. Even if code names are used most people are not stupid and will figure it out. You’ll need to deal with the consequences (is it worth the spike in your traffic?). Sometimes it is cringe inducing and embarrassing. Lastly, educate yourself about online safety.

6. Spammers are annoying. I follow people who over use the social media to market their posts but only if they have redeeming qualities (like they bump mine up too). Jen of My Kitchen Addiction sums it up pretty well (although who hasn’t stumbled their own post once in awhile?).

7. Advertisers have caught on that blogger power is a cheap way to get publicity. There’s a heated debate on the ethics of the blogger/business relationship which has culminated in the creation of the disclosure law. I am very skeptical of sponsored posts, especially the over the top raving variety or those who pledge that getting things for free “doesn’t affect their opinion”. That said, I have enjoyed and benefited from commercial reviews when it includes recipes, tips and other useful information. I’ve also heard a few cases were bloggers convinced gullible restaurant owners to feed them for free in return for cheap advertising. This informal setup became an ugly mess when the bloggers gave the establishment a thumbs down.

I have gone to a few sponsored restaurants and events and have written about them. Truthfully, if I paid my own way, perhaps I wouldn’t have posted anything at all. If you choose to partner with a company, it is important to be selective. These decisions effect your reputation and that of your blog.

8. People judge the book by its cover. It’s a good idea to invest in a quality design and an easy to navigate layout. New bloggers should use a free service such as Blogger or WordPress instead of investing in a self hosted site. It’s a good way to test the waters before committing. Although your own url is most elegant it is not necessary to become a successful blogger.

9. Twitter, facebook or Google + Can be powerful tools to promote your blog or business, source information or just for chatting. When choosing who to follow on twitter read what they tweet. Famous media personalities can be very boring tweeters or rarely have the time for it, while an unknown can be brilliantly entertaining and helpful. Inspirational quotes, horoscopes and the local weather will most likely be ignored by me. Finally, the golden rule, tweet (or facebook) as if your boss (or your parents, mother in law…) is reading it.

Although Google + is a relatively new introduction, it is fast becoming my favorite social media tool. The draw point for me is the ability to organize people into groups (called circles) and control who is seeing my updates.

11. Use Google alerts to get updated on subjects of interest to you and share them with your social media followers.

12. Adam Roberts writes in one of his posts “be exuberant”, but what is more important is being real (it can’t be that everyone is a type A personality!).

13. While Americans think in yards, quarts and ounces, most parts of the world have gone metric. To ensure that your recipes are read by all, write both formats (although I don’t always take my own advice).

14. Make your recipes Google searchable. For those who are not tech savvy there might be a solution in the near future called Kitchen Bug.

15. Write an about page, preferably one that doesn’t sound like it was ghost written by a PR professional. First person always seemed to me vastly more fitting for a blog format.

16. Do I need to say this? Don’t copy recipes verbatim, unless you received permission from the author. It’s copyright infringement. Including a link to the source is not enough. Amanda Hess, co-founder of Food52 writes eloquently about the difference between adopting recipes and copy-pasting.

Ok, I’ve been rambling on a bit too much now; although new thoughts keep popping up (I didn’t even get to photography). Treat this post as a blog open house; to learn, share your ideas or ask a question.


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