Should you go to the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle August 27-29? James Osland, editor of Saveur, will give the keynote; Victoria Von Beul, executive editor of Bon Appetit magazine will lead a pitch session; memoirist Kathleen Flinn will teach a “Writing With the Senses” class; and I’ll be speaking on a panel about recipes, moderated by Amy Sherman.
These are not good enough reasons! On a food blogger listserv, the buzz was all about what might be in the goody bags based on what recipients scored last year. Here’s what they said:
- “I figure between the goody bag we’ll be receiving (last year’s was insane) and the food we’ll be served, the $350 is actually pretty worth it.”
- “I know – I was drooling over that knife people got. I’m not sure if I can
really rely on the goody bag though for ROI who knows what they are
putting in there.”
- “The goodie bag alone was at least $350 last year..”
When I mentioned these comments to IFBC founder Sheri Wetherell, she was pleased. “That’s nice to hear that IFBC is getting buzz on the listservs :),” she wrote me in an email. “Indeed, our goody bag was something to behold. We partnered with our good friends at Sur la Table who organized the whole thing with their various vendors. It ended up being 23 pounds and worth over $600…Here are some of the items:
- 10-inch Shun chef”s knife
- Kyocera ceramic knife and mandoline set
- Bodum glassware
- Scanpan omelette pan
- Built lunch bag
- Oxo products (with personalized labels attached to their products thanking the bloggers)
- Sur La Table’s Art of Baking cookbook.”
“We call the goody bags ‘blog fodder’ because everything in them is so quality,” Sheri continued. “As… someone who’s been to numerous conferences of all types, I said to myself, ‘the bags need to useful and beneficial to both parties (blogger and vendor).’ In fact, it was like Christmas day when they got them! ”
“This year SLT has agreed again to compile items from their vendors. From the vendors’ perspective, giving products to food bloggers is much cheaper than paid advertising and they know they are targeting their audience. While we can’t obviously guarantee that bloggers will blog about the contents of their bags, many of them did so and we are still seeing a lot of product appear in their photography, even with no mention of product name. So that in itself is a win for the vendor.”
I wasn’t sure what to think. At first I went into default: I put on my journalism hat, which says you shouldn’t take anything worth over $25 because it will influence what you write. Then I realized I had accepted a Chef’s Catalog goody bag from a party at BlogHer Food last year. Busted! Was that okay because I didn’t write anything about it? Maybe I’m rationalizing. I like a treat as much as the next person.
I thought back to the goodies I got as a participant at last month’s International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference in Portland: a plastic water bottle, a small synthetic mop brush, a $.30 bag of lentils…was there any comparison? The message was hard to miss: Bloggers are hot. Everybody else, not so much.
It’s clear why Sur La Table thinks bloggers are worth more loot. I had lunch with a food blogger while at IACP. A book publisher already tapped her to write two books, and a literary agent had just approached her. This blogger is not a household name, yet she has more than 1 million annual readers. That’s close to the circulation of Food & Wine and Saveur magazines combined.
She’s just one person. Of course companies want their products on her blog.
Since most bloggers write for free, do they think of this goody bag as a reward for their hard work? Actually, that has nothing to do with it. It’s cheap press. Sheri says so too.
And what’s wrong with that? I can come up with a few arguments, just because I like to:
- If you put one of these knives in your blog’s photo, will you mention you got it for free?
- Do you mind having your blog known as an inexpensive place for promotion?
- Would your readers mind knowing that too?
As usual, I look forward to the discussion. And I hope I won’t get a heated phone call from Sheri.