Blogging Just For Love? No Way

Sep 012010
 

James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of Saveur magazine

Something James Oseland, editor of Saveur, said when he delivered the keynote at the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) struck me as strange. He said, “A food blog should not be a popularity contest. Blog because you love it, because you have to.” Then everyone applauded.

I bet food bloggers applauded because they are so sick of feeling like they’re in high school again: checking their Google rankings, embedding SEO links, worrying that no one will comment on a post, wondering when they’ll be popular enough to be invited on a press tour or get a book deal. Wouldn’t it be a relief if food blogging was not a popularity contest?

But of course it is. The bloggers who draw the most readers get the biggest book deals and the most opportunities and the most money from ads on their sites. That’s how it works. We need to get over it.

And I don’t see that these things are mutually exclusive anyway:  I blog because I love doing so, and I blog because I must. I love having a forum to get my ideas and opinions out. I love hearing from all of you and having an intelligent discussion. On the other hand, I blog because  I must:  it was how I figured out what to write about in the new edition of Will Write For Food; because I want to be on top of new ways to write and communicate; and because it’s a great way to reach potential purchasers of my books, classes, and coaching services.

Did any bloggers ask Oseland, “Do you work because you love to or because you have to?” No. Because it would be a dumb question.

Kirsty Melville, president of the book division of Andrews-McMeel Publishing and a speaker at IFBC, asked my readers a question in a similar vein on my last post about giving recipes away : “… What do you want most: Money, fame or happiness?”

“The argument that one should never give away recipes for free suggests that money is most important, which is fine,” she reasoned. “During the SEO session many IFBC attendees were adamant that they weren’t interested in traffic or making money. They just wanted to create great content and be part of the community, indicating that happiness was on top. Participating in a book like Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook or the one from Food52 (or giving your recipes to a magazine) may bring you fame but not money (or fame in the short term, leading to more money in the long term). In the end, just like in the game, we each have to figure out which is most important and then make decisions that will help us achieve it.”

Well yes, I suppose it’s best to figure out what matters most. I know fame and money are fleeting, and happiness is all that matters in the long run.

I don’t know about you, but I want all three. Why should we work just for love, anyway? What’s wrong with the money and fame to go with the hard work? Tell me.

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  101 Responses to “Blogging Just For Love? No Way”

  1. Nothing. Going for all three is a fantastic goal that all of us bloggers should feel is a goal capable of achieving!

  2. I’ve observed that people (myself included) usually start blogging for love, or because they “have to” (out of some innate need to create/share — not unlike a visual artist).

    But those who continue to blog are motivated by the hope of something else in addition.

    For me, I’m not really looking for fame (an introvert!). But other opportunities? Yes. Doing it for love (alone) will only get you so far.

  3. Nothing is wrong with all three Dianne. Nothing at all. I saw IFBC attendees tweet that “blog for love” statement and I just felt like “huh?” I do love blogging but it’s far too time consuming and low-paying an endeavor to do it just for love. I will be honest here and say that on top of all the time spent developing the recipes, taking and editing the photos and writing my posts, I spend lots of time worrying about whether enough people are visiting my blog…whether my recipes are well written…whether my posts are interesting enough… whether enough people have left comments…whether my photos are good enough. Not to mention the time spent submitting my recipes to other sites like food52 and photos to Foodgawker, Tastespotting, etc. Then there’s the time spent promoting my blog on foodbuzz, facebook, twitter. Am I alone? I don’t thing so. Do all other bloggers love doing all of this? I don’t know the answer, but I’ve reached a point where I know I am definitely not enjoying all of this. It’s a lot of work. Work I’m paid very very little to do. And I feel very much like food blogging is a popularity contest and I’m a bit worn out by the whole thing. Clearly I need a bit of a break- staying away from twitter for a few days will probably do it quite frankly. Sorry for the rant…your posts are really hitting home for me lately!

    • Winnie, you’re not alone! I’ve been feeling that way as well for the past few months, and this sentiment has made me reprioritize and refocus on what is it I’m trying to achieve with this blog. I view it as a constructive exercise and yes, I do think staying away from Twitter does help ;)

  4. My thoughts exactly. Of course, blogging is a popularity contest!! No matter how much we sugar-coat it by saying that we blog because we love to, blogging is mostly about getting the hits, the links and the comments. And sadly, this is the reason why I am reevaluating whether I should continue to blog or not. Am I really cut out for this? I believe I have so much to offer but it takes a lot of darn hard work to get noticed. Is it really worth it? That’s something I have to figure out.
    Jun

  5. Many food bloggers occupy a limbo land between amateur and professional. It’s because I love writing about food that I want to make a living doing it. I’ve been lucky, in part because I started blogging so early (2003) It’s become my life and also my livelihood. I cringe at SEO talk because I understand if I really wanted to drive big traffic, I would post recipes for Chili and Cheesecake rather than Fennel Shrimp with Pernod. But if that’s what it took to make a living, I’d stay an amateur and find another way to pay the rent.

    • Well said Amy. And Fennel Shrimp with Pernod sounds fabulous.

      • Ditto Winnie back to Amy. Thought about digging in and going to the next level beyond amateur just for fun. It’d be a different story if I’d started earlier, as Amy mentions. There are many factors to consider and the biggest one for me is keeping it enjoyable, fun and not going broke. And yes, I’d love to have more hits, etc., at the same time. Perhaps all of us need to ask ourselves whether we love it, which ultimately drives our direction (and tenure).

    • Yeah, there’s no point in putting up recipes you’re not interested in just to drive traffic. But in your case, you’ve had tremendous opportunity coming from your blog, and it’s been a great portfolio for you to showcase your skills.

  6. I like your honesty Dianne, and I agree with you. I think the “for love” argument is a nice way of glossing over the competitive side of blogging (for comments, site hits, book deals, etc), which runs counter to the sense of community that many bloggers feel and try to foster with their blogs. However, if one wants to succeed at the game, one needs to know the rules, and the rules in this case, require a strong focus and knowing what you want to get out of your blog. If getting a book deal/fame and fortune is the goal, then one’s love of a particular subject is not going to be enough – hard work and business sense is needed too.

    • I suppose there are those few people who can get a book deal based on obscurity, but there aren’t many of them. Particularly these days, when publishers and even magazine editors are looking for platform, platform, platform.

  7. I couldn’t agree more. During the SEO discussion, I saw someone tweet, “Have we forgotten about the stories?” No. Of course not, but we are naive to think it’s that simple. However, if some bloggers want to neglect the business aspect, I think I can handle it. More paid work for everyone else! And, I do believe paying my bills may lead to peace and happiness.

  8. Great post Dianne — of course we all want to be rich, happy, and famous, and if someon came to me tomorrow and said “Great food blog — I’d like to pay you a six figure salary to keep writing” I, for one, would not say no. I don’t think anyone said they weren’t interested in traffic or making money, but I think it’s abundantly clear that with a few notable exceptions, nobody is going to get rich food blogging. What people are interested in is maintaining quality and integrity, and some SEO “tricks” compromise that. I think what James Oseland was laying out was a blueprint for success — a success to be proud of. And I think that one of the reasons Penny de los Santos was such an enormously successful speaker was that she reflected that blueprint for success — she’s not rich, or famous, but she’s making a living with her passion, and her passion made her career possible.

    Bunch of crazy idealists, we are.

    • Yeah. And it’s pretty idealistic to think that someone’s going to offer you six figures to keep writing. In fact, maybe even hallucinogenic.

      Agreed that passion drives a career. But I don’t think money follows, necessarily. You need marketing skills for that.

      • Dianne i think you hit the nail on the head. Blogging for the sake of blogging (everyone’s doing it, it’s a podium for me to tell the world what i am doing, popularity contest, potential book deal, etc. – you pick your answer here) is meaningless. Blogging towards the goal of only getting a book deal is also not the answer. A book opens doors that potentially make you some moolah to pay bills – sitting back and hoping that you can live off a book for the rest of your life is delusional. What publishers are looking for is someone who can go out and there and sell himself/herself – it is always about marketing. Granted we are all passionate but that’s not enough, sadly, in today’s world. Maybe that’s why i am still not sold on maintaining a blog – maybe i should.

        • I don’t think anyone is saying you can live off a book sale for the rest of your life. We know it’s not possible. As a successful book author, you’ve come as close to that as most can get, Raghavan.

          But you’re right, it’s all about marketing. Maybe that’s why we like blogging. It’s a tasteful way to market, where we don’t feel like we’re just out flogging ourselves. I guess I shouldn’t say “we” because you’re not sold on it. Just a matter of time, brotha.

      • Hallucinogenic, probably, but one thing IFBC made me think about is where I want to take my blog. I have a day job that pays me extremely well, but it takes a lot of my time too. My blog is my love project, and while I’d love to do it full time, I know that, realistically, it’s going to be nearly impossible for me to make enough money off of writing that I can quit my day job. And while I have that day job, I don’t have the time or resources it would take to take my blog to the “big time.” So while I would LOVE to become rich off food writing, I know it’s not going to happen, which means that realistically, I do it for love. And I’m learning to be OK with that. Doing it for love doesn’t mean that where compensation is appropriate, I shouldn’t expect to be compensated. It doesn’t mean I don’t want traffic, or reader engagement, but ultimately, passion sustains it.

        • What a realistic, reasoned approach, Kate! You are exactly right to keep your day job and to still go after making your blog successful.

  9. I agree, Dianne! It would be utter candy land to have all three: money, happiness and “fame.” It’s a given that love and passion need to come into the equation when blogging and writing. If there’s no love, then one might as well hang it up, because you’ll hate doing it in the long run and you probably won’t be increasingly very good at it. But, hell, it’s nice to find a way to make a living doing what you love and I mean a -viable- living, especially in today’s tough economy. Fame would mean gaining a good amount of ubiquitous attention and respect for what you do over time. It doesn’t necessarily mean one has to become the next Oprah…although that’s not a bad thing.

    • Not a bad thing at all, but not going to happen. I don’t want to be unrealistic about it. But I don’t see why I have to be broke and obscure just because I love what I do.

  10. I agree with you, Diane. I have just recently started blogging consistently, though I admit I started a couple of other blogs before and lacked the resolve to continue. I think my current blogging effort is different precisely because I’ve decided what I want to gain from it. That is, why I’m doing it. I want to exist in a world where food is something beautiful, and a cultural experience, and a mode of communication, and a genuine expression of love and hospitality. So by reading other bloggers’ experience of living in a world where food is similarly this “something more,” and by participating in that community with my own writing I find the real privilege is the chance for human interaction. I almost feel horrible to admit that I use the AMOUNT of human interaction (often over the quality) as a gauge of how well I’m doing blogging-wise.

    That being said, I have not yet embarked on a professional career of any sort, and maintain the hope of food writing on the horizon. It certainly does seem like a popularity contest. My blog was recently featured on a website’s homepage and the amount of visitors increased drastically. But a week or so later, numbers started declining. I felt anxious, and worried that I could never write a post that would resonate like the last one had. I find it’s a difficult balance between writing about what you love and what moves you, and then writing for the sake of an audience or for perks to follow. And even though you can know what you want from blogging on an emotional level, it’s hard to get there when you have to be concerned with making a living elsewhere. It’s a cycle!! Thank you for putting into words what I think a lot of people are thinking.

    • You are most welcome. It is very stressful trying to get lots of readers, etc. But as for trying to figure out what people want, it can be done. I’ve heard certain big bloggers, for example, watch for what foods and dishes are trending online, and then write a blog post based on that information. Are they compromising themselves? In the scheme of things, not really.

  11. Great topic Dianne. This is something that has been occupying my mind lately. I do love the comparison to high school, because frankly high school was a nightmare and the “I’m cooler than you” vibe I get sometimes in the blogger world is unnerving. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met a lot of really sweet bloggers who are genuinely friendly. But there is a competitive to edge to blogging. Like it or not.

    I think the relationship to your blog is like a romantic relationship. In the beginning, you’re in love and want to create and share because you can’t help yourself (“the honeymoon phase”). Then you start noticing the readers and getting comments and that turns you on in a whole new way. But then one day, you notice someone else’s blog and all the comments on there. You can’t but wonder about this other blog as you check your own stats.

    Before you know it, maybe on a day without a comment or a drastic traffic dip, you get frustrated and walk out on your blog. Why can’t it be more like so-and-so’s blog? But the next day, you calm down and realize it was really all your fault. So you work a little harder to see if you can find the magic again.

    At some point, you’re committed. And just like in a committed relationship, love is only going to get you so far. The honeymoon doesn’t last. Some days you still feel the romance, but other days you’re irritated because he didn’t wipe up the crumbs after he made toast.

    Anyway, sorry for the long ramble. Like Winnie, Danielle and Jun, I’ve also been wondering if it is all worth it. My blog and I are currently in couples’ counseling.

  12. Nobody starts out a pro. All of us were newbies once.

    Our blogs may have started out as a labor of love. Some still are, and some bloggers are not interested in anything other than sharing their recipes and personal stories. They are “amateur” – not necessarily in the quality of content but in the fact that they’re not in it for the money. They blog how they want, when they want. They blog for happiness. Since we all started out in this category, we remember what it feels like to just blog for the love/fun of it.

    But along the way, some of them made the decision that their blogs could be more than labors of love. Blogs can be sources of income – making that labor pay off for something. At this point, I’d say these blogs become “semi-pro”. These bloggers work harder to get better – at writing, at SEO, at photography, at networking, what have you. They spend hours reading, writing, editing, commenting, and honing their skills. They pay to go to conferences, buy books, and listen to authorities in the field. They begin to “build their brand” to get attention from media and publishers – they blog for fame.

    A chosen few – by luck, talent, but mostly hard work – make it to the “pro” ranks. That’s where the big bucks are. They dominate. They set the bar. They reap the rewards – they blog for money. They also face deadlines, struggle with competing pressures, and sometimes deal with some not-so-nice people in the business. I bet they sometimes feel like the work is too much and they wish they could just go back to blogging for happiness.

    I would hazard to guess that Oseland got such a good reaction from the crowd for his “blog because you love it” statement because the audience members *don’t* do it for love any more yet secretly wish they did.

    • Oh I don’t know, Nate. It’s a lot of work. If you’re not doing it for love, why are you doing it? Even the very biggest bloggers I’ve spoken with still love to do it. Maybe they get addicted to the response — or maybe the money! But they’re still going. Sometimes I don’t know how they do it.

      I’m still posting for the love of it. But not exclusively. It’s an “and.”

  13. This is such an interesting topic. I started a blog so long ago — 2006- and have never had many (any?) readers. I really didn’t care, as it was more or less a space for writing exercises and what I was cooking. But then I did get a book deal, and write a book (not really related to the blog.) Now I have this question: do I keep blogging in the hopes that my book will bring readers to the blog? Do I quit, and give away my few readers and friends who found value what I was doing? Do I devote lots of time to it because, far more than the printed word, blogs and the internet are the future? No easy answers. In the meantime, I continue to post — because I like it. I started an author website too. And my book, An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher, comes out in February 2011 from Counterpoint.

    • Congratulations on your book, Anne. That’s marvelous. For me it all goes together: my book brings readers to my blog, and my blog brings readers to my book. You didn’t say whether you still enjoy blogging. That would be the bottom line for me. It’s too much work to make it a slog.

  14. I don’t disagree with you take on this, but as someone who made a purposeful decision to use the medium as a pure creative outlet instead of a commercial one, mine is different yet again. I found that a blog has a life cycle and I think I went the whole way through it. In the end I stopped because by the time I realised that the only reason for me to continue to blog was actually for the love of it, I came to the conclusion I had stopped loving it.

    I strongly believe the ‘aha moment’ for me came when I discovered that in blogging only for love, I could actually stop blogging and be completely OK with it. And now I am. It took over 5 years to get to that point.

    So in muddled conclusion I would have to dispute Jame Oseland’s remark and put my own take on it:

    Blog because you love it, because you DON’T have to!

    • I love it, Sam.

      You were one of the first, and there wasn’t a lot of commercial potential to blogs at the very beginning. I think it’s different now, with more pressure than ever to stand out. Ex. publishers are telling authors they must have a blog, and they do have to. It takes strength to resist.

  15. The more you want, the better chance you have of getting SOME of it. I come from an entertainment world and comedy theatre background where I’ve seen the same thing happen and the same language and questions pondered. The actors start out wanting to perform, write, create out of sheer love of the craft and need to express and will pay just to have that chance. Then, a producer or a casting director stops by or the money sign is mentioned and it’s a different show. It’s not better or worse, just…has a different edge. Because they know, if you make it to the big show you’ll get to do what you love AND pay the rent. I, frankly, like that there are bloggers who seem completely fine and happier left to their “love of the work” AND there are bloggers happier when they’re “working for the love”. And, then there are people like us…who want it all – to get paid for the work that I love to do.

    • Good analogy, Cathy. I hope it does get to the point where I can pay the rent (or in my case mortgage) with my blog. But I’m not holding my breathe.

  16. I’m happy someone says that it’s not wrong to wish for money and fame (and happiness, of course). I was part of a recent discussion on Twitter that discussed the IACP Emerging Professional membership (you have to either be a student or a culinary professional with less than two years experience in the field to be eligible). I explained that I was in the process of getting my membership approved because a year ago, I decided that I would devote all my efforts in becoming a food writer (the IACP is fact checking and I had to provide documents & details). I added that you can only be an “Emerging Member” for the first two-year period (if you’re admitted), then, if you want to remain a member, you get a pro membership. Some Twitterers were disappointed to have to pay for the steep pro membership they’re food blogging as a hobby. It was discussed that the IACP should have a special membership just for food bloggers.

    This made me realize that conferences like the IFBC are attended by professionals as well as hobbyists. I’ve been to a dozen professional tradeshows in the past, all in the product design field. At those events, no questions asked, everybody’s there to do business. This makes the events much less friendly, let me tell you (no Twitter frenzy there), but at least, as a speaker, a sponsor or an exhibitor, you know you solely address a crowd that can help you move forward, make connections or conclude deals.

    The food industry is something else altogether. I know that those who can afford to write for a living are few, and write about food even fewer. Some people say now that they won’t go pro about it but will change their minds when an opportunity comes around. The camaraderie brought about by a food conference makes it ambiguous to figure out if you can admit you’re in it to advance yourself in the field, or if you decide to line up with the majority loudly proclaiming that of course, it’s not a competition. I mean, I’ve seen some people eye-roll at those who had the balls to go and shake hands with James Oseland, hoping he would remember their names.

    I wonder if the conference organizers discussed this topic with the sponsors. I was blown away by the quality and quantity of food, wines and spirits that were served to us. Maybe it’s just my naive débutante way of seeing things but the food, the swag and the great speakers way exceeded what I expected to get as return on my investment.

    For me, the IFBC was a very unique opportunity to get my two feet into the food writing world, to be inspired and gather the courage to continue. I had the chance to meet authors I love, individuals I admire and meet new people that may become friends in the long run. Because I’m serious at food writing, all of this counts. Each step towards my goal is my priority, for passion, happiness and – yes – for money.

    • Interesting about IACP. It is a professional organization and assumes that its members are not hobbyists. But now that it needs members, it may have to change. And as we know, food writing can pay so poorly sometimes it seems as though we are only hobbyists. It’s kind of a Catch 22.

      Yeah, of course it’s a competition. But there’s lots of room. And you should shake hands with James Oseland. I was second in line to do so after Shauna Ahern, who handed him one of only two copies of her new book. She certainly understands marketing, and more power to her for it.

      You keep putting one foot in front of the other, Marie. I hope you get there.

      • Marie and Dianne – as the chair of the Membership Division of IACP’s board this is a point we are going to be discussing at length at the upcoming Board meeting in October. As the business model changes in our crazy food world, we are all trying to find answers on how to maintain and grow the organization’s membership numbers. Marie i know you have been in touch with one of the other board members and i think you have some valid points for consideration – keep tuned.

  17. I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but did you all know that these same life-drama questions are being asked by the design bloggers as they jockey for pole position in their eternal run for the roses? I know – I was absolutely shocked! It is very interesting to just pick another genre of blogdom and visit a few for a couple of days. Snarkiness and jealousy (dare I even mention this aspect of the unspoken discussion points?) run rampant through all of the different areas of the blog world, I fear. Do they blog for love of the blog – some do I think. A lot more started out that way and then proceeded to join the race to get more and more of whatever was being awarded – books, guest blog-spots, mention in the BIG blogs, mentions in the design magazines and fashion rags. It goes on and on. And the questions and answers are eerily similar if not down right the same as these that we are mulling over here.
    Again Dianne, my hat is off to you for driving our attention to the internal questions and the soul-searching that each of us must do to at least feel comfortable with ourselves and why we blog and/or write.

    • Oh thank you Karen. I’m sure it’s the same for many other artists: graphic designers, photographers, novelists, etc. Artists are known as pathetic marketers, to tell you the truth. And as women, we seem to all want to deny that we’re trying for the brass ring.

  18. You are so right and so brave to say it out loud. Where’s the shame in wanting to make a buck off of our hard work? Yes, my blog is a labor of love…but a lot more than that too. Thanks for the post.

  19. Isn’t it the ultimate hapiness when one works doing something they love and they are able to make a living out of it? There’s no contradiciton.

  20. I read J Oseland’s comment (or exhortation) on my tweet stream and had to chuckle, because Saveur staged its first Food Blog Popularity Contest (oops, I mean Food Blog Awards) this year. We were thrilled to be nominated in two categories (bec that’s the ‘awards’ part), — and not at all surprised when we didn’t win in either (bec that’s the popularity part).

    Sure, I’d like all three (actually I could do without the fame part, except to the extent that it brings the money part). But I would like something else: respect. Fame and money don’t guarantee that.

    Great post as always!

  21. i was just having this same discussion with a food blogger friend. This discussion is on-going. We watch other bloggers claw and climb their way to the top, grabbing at the gold ring of fame and fortune. But is it really gold or just cheap imitation? I think that we need to love, absolutely love what we are doing, understand our strengths and weaknesses, understand (decide) for whom we are blogging and why. And more than anything we need to be honest, honest with ourselves and what we produce. In my humble opinion, there are some who have made it to the top in blog popularity or have snagged a book deal who are truly talented and others who are merely mediocre, so it is hard to know what any publisher wants and what will sell. So stay true to yourself, participate in projects and in the food blogging community and work hard towards your own goal. Patience! Patience!

    I have been lucky in that I have found what I love doing – writing – and have set myself what I hope are realistic goals unrelated to anyone else’s popularity (although the popularity of others must be a gauge of some sort) and I am trying to work towards my goal(s) and not allow that high school popularity contest, cut throat atmosphere drag me down. We have to believe in ourselves as well as love what we are doing. Fame, fortune, money (well, my husband would be thrilled if he could retire early and live on my earnings LOL!), yes, indeed, why not? But we have decide what we are willing to give, what we are willing to do to achieve that. I want mine to be honest and due to my own talent.

    I do love blogging and writing! It makes me happy!

    • A cut throat atmosphere in food blogging? Really? I haven’t heard about that, Jamie. It seems like most people have your attitude – we’re all just trying to get along.

  22. Great post Dianne. I write my blog for many reasons. I believe work should be fueled by desire. Those of us who are lucky enough to have jobs that we love are truly blessed. I love to write recipes, style food, photograph it & write about it. Blogging and everything that comes with it is a full time job.
    There is no reason why we should not get paid handsomely for doing our jobs well. I value the friends I have made through blogging & the professional relationships I am building. I believe that there will be great financial success for those of us who keep doing what we do best. We all strive for peace, love, happiness & the money to help sustain our lives. Nothing wrong with that at all.

    • You have echoed what many bloggers feel, Marla. It’s been very satisfying. The reason we’re not paid handsomely for what we do? I think it’s not valued, and that sometimes we are our own worst enemies in that department.

  23. Right on, Dianne! ! ‘Nuff said!

  24. I love what Marla said above. I think you have to blog because you love it, and I think if you work hard and have talent, good things will come. I have been fortunate that my site has opened so many new doors and opportunities for me. More than I could ever imagine. I also feel so lucky to have made so many nice friends in this community and see the good that people are doing.

    • So you’re in the school of “love what you do and money will follow.” I haven’t found that to be true. I’m having the time of my life, but money has not followed. It did when I had a job I detested.

  25. I think blogging is like any other industry. There are certain “stars” that rise to the top because of a mixture of talent and pure dumb luck. Then there are others that get there by tons of hard work, talent, and persistence. Then there is the rest of the pack, that for a variety of reasons, will only enjoy minimal success. When I decided to start blogging, riches and fame hadn’t even crossed my mind. At one point in my life, I loved the creative process of writing and was hoping to reignite that passion. As I’ve become more serious about it, I’ve discovered that it’s damn hard work and can easily consume many of your waking hours. I applaud those that have become successful at it through whatever means. I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t love to make money from my blog but that’s secondary. Learning to become a great writer that can produce compelling content is more important (for now).

    I’m going to the Food Blog Forum in Atlanta next week. I’ll be interested to see if there will be any similar discussions.

  26. Interesting topic, Dianne. I think blogging is just one of the many outlets that food writers utilize to get them from one place to another career-wise. How many of us have cheffed, artisan baked, catered, taught at cooking schools, devised corporate culinary teambuilding businesses, etc, etc, in the quest to find out what angle of the food business really works for us. I’ve come to the blog world after 20+ years in food and after writing 4 cookbooks. I enjoy it. It gives me a chance to write more prose than recipes. Do I know where I’m going with it? Not sure. It does take a lot of time (about 8 hours for a post including photography) and I do feel some pressure from publishers to continue the blogging if I want to continue to write books, but for now I’m ok with that. It just seems to go hand in glove with all the other business cards stashed on my laundry room shelf.

    • It is both an outlet and a marketing tool, Carla. A very large business card of sorts. I don’t think it would fit on your laundry shelf.

  27. It is a reality that plenty of people are food blogging for fame and money. If you already had fame and money, would you stop blogging?

    I want neither fame nor money from blogging and I find it telling that people don’t believe that kind of blogger exists. I’m here. I began a personal blog in 2004 after the death of a loved one. I turned to food blogging in 2007 after my cancer diagnosis. Neither for fame nor money. These were my versions of therapy and community. My food blog connected me with the outside world while I underwent chemo – a lifeline during such an isolating treatment.

    So while I understand that not everyone who blogs does it solely for love, my hope is that others will recognize that not everyone who blogs does it for money and/or fame.

    • Lovely, Jen. I take it you have other forms of income that pay you well enough.

      Re already enough fame and money, I don’t think people stop when they get there. At least the ones I’ve interviewed are still going. I was surprised, for example, when I asked Heidi Swanson if she’d still be blogging 10 years from now and she said, “I hope so!” with a big smile.

  28. Great post. I’m going to recommend that all of my (food and non-food) blogger friends read it. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of treating blogging like a popularity contest. I think we all need to step back and remember that (hopefully) the reason we blog in the first place is that we’re passionate about our subject matter and love writing.

  29. I was very inspired by listening in on the IFBC session (yay technology!), which is why I wrote my own post on this topic. On first reading yours today, Dianne, I felt as if it could be a rebuttal to my own, but on second thought, I think we are saying almost the same thing. When I wrote that one shouldn’t pander to SEO or the quest for money, I wasn’t suggesting that I don’t want to become popular (or even rich) through my blog, or that bloggers should ignore such things. Like everyone else here, I began for the pure love of it and still write because I love it; some days, writing is one of the only things I love (ooh, oops, sorry for that semi colon over there). ;) No, I was attemtping to say that love of writing should remain a primary motivation, not the only one.

    On the other hand, I must admit that I feel somehow sullied when I write a post purely in response to low stats or lack of comments the previous day, when the content feels contrived to deliberately include keywords to attract readers through searches, etc. Does this make me an amateur (or perhaps “semi-pro”) as Nate, above, suggests? I guess so. Although I’d love it to be so, writing is not currently my primary source of income. My time devoted to the blog is limited by how much work I have in my “real” life. So this keeps me distanced from the dilemma of how much to design what I write exclusively for readers, to some extent.

    If blogging were my full-time career, as it is for many of you, I might feel differently about it. When I started a baking business a few years ago, I attempted to translate my love of home baking to a career. The same shift from amateur to semi-pro to pro occurred. And while I still enjoyed baking at home for me and my family, the kind of baking I did for the business (which did turn out to be fairly successful) was decidedly different from the “love” kind. And sometimes it did bother me that I couldn’t bake the kinds of things I felt drawn to because they just weren’t what customers wanted. I think if my blog ever took off to the extent that it could furnish my income, I might begin to feel differently about the type of writng I do there–and I guess that is what worries me.

    • I wouldn’t be so hard on yourself, Ricki. You’re just trying to figure out this blogging thing, like the rest of us.

      I had to laugh when I saw your line that writing isn’t your primary source of income. I bet that means you make decent pay, eh? Good for you. Very few food writers work full-time just as writers. We’re all trying to figure out how to make a living. It comes with the territory.

  30. I started a blog this year after leaving a magazine position as a way for people to find me online, and now I wonder what I was getting myself into! My goal was — still is — pretty modest. I needed to have a place where people could see what I cover for future assignments and I wanted a place that would keep me writing. (OK, so it’s not all for love- but it’s not quite for money, either.) Since I’m very late getting into the game, I’m fine with a small but happy group of readers. But sometimes I forget. This conversation, and others like it, are good reminders not to spend more time on SEO or website traffic reports than on the bigger picture–as in, where are any of us going with all this?

    • That is a good question. I guess most of us are writing a blog because we enjoy it. As for where it’s going: does anyone really now? Have an actual plan with goals? As in: take is seriously as a business?

  31. I think Jame’s comment relates to what I heard at IACP from Maggie Savarino about social media. In her workshop Maggie wisely said that blogging has to come from a “place of generousity”. Be willing to share and put out your knowledge and expertise without expectation of specific returns. In other words, it’s PR and good will. Agreed, the use of PR is for positive returns.

    • That makes sense, since there’s little opportunity to make real money directly. I like the goodwill angle, although it makes me a little nervous. I can’t say that I’m entirely altruisic about blogging. And I don’t feel bad about that.

  32. It’s great to see this discussion continuing post-IFBC — really enjoying the various comments and viewpoints.

    I’m a paid writer by day and an unpaid food blogger by night, so I relate to all sides of this debate. And I respect everyone’s position — I blog because I love food and writing and want a creative outlet from my job as a speechwriter and event planner. Yet I fear that by doing so, I devalue the art and craft of writing. What we do as writers is hard work — not everyone can do it well — and it should be compensated.

    • It’s kind of strange, isn’t it? You’re a professional writer, yet you write as a hobby at night, but your blog is not a hobby in the same way someone else’s is because that blogger might be new to writing and doesn’t have your advantages. Hard to figure out what to call it.

  33. I love the idea that you can actually make money and be famous doing something you love – not everyone would be so lucky… which is why, sadly, I’ve got a day job! Thanks for the article… I really enjoyed it and am glad I stumbled upon it.

  34. Who wouldn’t want all three? But not all bloggers consider their efforts “work”.

  35. Hey, the best jobs in life are the ones we don’t think of as work. I’m all over that idea.

  36. Having worked for years in the “real world” for Fortune 50 companies and in the on-line world for the past 5 years I found many of the attendees comments to be frustrating and humorous.

    Food blogging is no more a high school popularity contest than any given work day at any given office. (Why did he got those basketball tix from the boss? Why does she get to leave early every Wednesday? Why don’t I get…? .When can I….?)

    People will tell you, in their most altruistic voice, that they don’t care about money or traffic. While some are sincere with this mantra…I can’t fathom why someone would spend the money it took to attend this type of a conference if their goal was to blog only to have a creative outlet.

    Working in various online industries, I see a very common thread…people who work online forget that in the end this is a business. I try to give my clients scenarios to get them to understand that online is no less a business than brick and mortar. Example: If you’re trying to build your brick and mortar (physical location) bakery what are you going to do to help build that business? You’re going to network in your community, you’re going to give away some of your product so that others can appreciate and know the work that you do, you’re going to put in long hours to build up business (that you’re not going to be paid for because it’s your own business) and you’re going to form partnerships with people to further your efforts. These things are no different for your online business (be it a blog or a website).

    I started my food blog on a whim (when my clients dried up). I love to cook, so I have a great time doing my blog. But I also use it as a tool for the work that I do. I am also beginning to experience some of the successes that are possible because of the blog. So I’m with you that you should be able to have all 3 when it comes to blogs.

    Thank you for the opportunity to talk about this.

    • Nice job, Pamela. I haven’t been in an office for 14 years, but I certainly remember what it was like. And yes, blogs are a tool, as you say. That’s a good word to describe it.

  37. Hi Dianne,

    I attended IFBC and I had the urge to stand up several times at the conference and shout “I’m a food blogger, and I want to make money with my writing!” However, I was afraid that I’d be drowned in all the fluffy-food-blog-for-free love going on and sent to a recovery center to re-align my mind.

    I want to be a professional food writer. Period. This ambition stems from a love of food and wine, which I have had since I was four years old. I’ve worked in the food field for many years, and love sharing my excitement about food with others. I’ve cooked and baked, and now I want to write. I started my blog to build my platform, and will do what it takes to build it into a career. *whew* Confession feels good!

    My blog is young, and I’m feeling my way with it. I will stay true to myself, and no, I’m not going to write about cheesecake and chili because it’s “trending” that week. But I have hope that I’ll gain an audience and make some money in some way from my work.

    Best,
    Krista (your seatmate on Sunday)

  38. Dianne,

    Great post! Excellent conversation, I organized a few of my thoughts in a post of my own:

    http://www.foodista.com/blog/2010/09/02/the-value-of-free/

    Thanks for all of your contributions to the food writing community!

    Cheers,

    Barnaby

  39. Interesting. I respectfully disagree with “The bloggers who draw the most readers get the biggest book deals and the most opportunities….”

    See, I don’t know if I’m the exception or if everyone actually blogs for different motives, but I have every intention of landing a big book deal and my #1 priority is not “popularity” online. Sure, it’s nice to get a lot of comments and to feel validated by your community but at the end of the day people read blogs for all different reasons and while I may get 20,000 pageviews a month instead of another blogger’s 100,000 that doesn’t make me any less of a writer.

    I think some people ARE blogging because they want to feel popular – blogging is intrinsically social. But others out there are using the (mostly) free platform as a way to write for an audience and get experience and develop a voice.

    • Maris, of course you are not any less of a writer. You just have less platform than the blogger who draws 100,000 page views a month, and platform is what drives publishers to offer a blogger a book deal. You’ve listed two good reasons to blog, in addition to what drives us to get our messages out.

  40. Both: love and money. I ‘gave away’ my recipe ‘Chef Wally’s Baked Papaya’ to the ‘Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook’ willingly and I made it into the book — it will be published in the book along with 99 other food bloggers’ recipes. No regrets whatsoever. I don’t have a publishing track record yet, I’m trying to build one up, this is a step on that path. Free now so I can get paid later. Great post, Dianne!

    • Thanks Charles. I remember that recipe well. I was fascinated by the idea of a savory papaya dish.

      I hope “free now so I can get paid later” works for you. Just don’t make the “now” too long.

  41. Diane, I like you because you think and present like a businesswoman. As in, MONEY. Good girl, keep it up.

  42. Big story in WWD on Advertisers Go Social: Marketing’s New Rage: Brands Sponsoring Influential Bloggers
    Makes ones blood boil frankly…
    http://www.wwd.com/retail-news/brands-and-bloggers-match-made-in-heaven–3230386/

    • Oh yeah. Did you get an email from the Gap when you were a speaker at BlogHer? I did. “Come in for a free pair of jeans.” I declined, but a woman on my panel went in and got a new wardrobe, then wrote about it in a clever way.

  43. Dianne, reading the comment from parisbreakfast, it seems we have been handed our next topic for debate! It looks like some bloggers consider themselves a business and are just another new layer of the advertising/ public relations (pulling the wool over the consumer’s eye) profession. What do we make of this? I am wondering how much return the various companies are getting on their “investment” – and how long this will be the hot stuff on the buffet line. Should we try to figure out what the next big deal is and get there first? Or maybe invent it ourselves??

    • Oh they’re getting a lot of return for their investment, Karen. Apparently many bloggers are willing to write advertorial in exchange for free stuff. I’ve already written about this subject quite a few times.

      • Dianne – by return on investment I was wondering if the bloggers were bringing in any NEW business for the vendors. Just getting a hip, cool, warm and fuzzy blogger to post about your product doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is reading it or taking the desired actions (like buying the whatever it is.) I am curious as to how they are measuring that return. Online coupons with codes? Tell so-and-so I sent you? Send me (the blogger) an email so I can tell Vendor that you are MY customer? This is the thing of which the Vendor/Blogger relationship will be made if they continue down this road. How much more will the Vendor’s business increase as a result of the blogger blogging her (or his) heart out about a particular product? Just because it is a new venue doesn’t necessarily mean it is a better venue. But then, given the current state of the print and broadcast media, it may well be the only venue in a few more years.

  44. I’m with you Dianne. I want the whole ENCHILADA please!

  45. [...] and the recaps coming out of it, apart from being absolutely hilarious, yielded a couple of thought-provoking pieces about why food bloggers do what they do – for love or [...]

  46. I suppose that since I’m not strictly a food blogger, I can’t help but agree mostly with Oseland. I started blogging in 2003 because I was curious about blogging, bored with my work and needed an outlet for the stress I handle everyday. I do write about food, but my blog isn’t just about that. It’s just me and things that I like, do and experience.

    I have friends who really put a lot of time and effort to blogging by attending events, writing as much as they can. I do that too but I don’t feel the need to compete with anyone for a book deal or higher stats. If a post or my blog is popular, then great! If not, I don’t mind. Not to say that it doesn’t feel wonderful if your site gets a lot of hits and comments. It does! It’s just that sometimes, I feel people are consumed by their want to get more from blogging than just the satisfaction of writing, if that makes sense.

    There are wonderful insights on blogging here. Bloggers from my country have recently been criticized due to an “expose” released on how one PR company is using a blogger to force a restaurateur to enlist their services. I pride myself as a blogger, but I hate the negative connotation people attach to that term. I’m a person who writes and has a blog and has fun with it. I don’t condone those who earn from their blogging. What I don’t like is how some people abuse that.

    • I like your attitude, Kat. You’ve stated it well. I think that yes, because blogging can be a lot of work, people do want more. I’m okay with that.

  47. [...] one by Marie, this one by Linda, this one by Jen, this one by Kelly, this one by Stephanie, and these two by Dianne – and I’m certain there are others that I’ve [...]

  48. [...] and the recaps coming out of it, apart from being absolutely hilarious, yielded a couple of thought-provoking pieces about why food bloggers do what they do – for love or [...]

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