Is Food Blogging Too Much Work?

Dec 142010
 

Last night I gave a 2-hour talk at 18 Reasons, a hip San Francisco space in the Mission District for D-I-Y types, on how to start a food blog. Some people did not seem to like the answers I gave to the question, “How do I get people to read my blog?”

They included:

  • Be an excellent storyteller
  • Be an excellent photographer
  • Create your own recipes that work; don’t  just copy other peoples’ recipes word for word
  • Find a group of like-minded bloggers and comment on their blogs, but say something more thoughtful than “Looks delicious
  • Post at least once a week and announce your posts on Twitter
  • Engage in blogging marathons to build interest and community.

I felt like a spoilsport. It all seems like so much work, someone responded. Why do you need to be a good photographer? Can’t you just change one or two things in a recipe and share it with people, for fun? What if I only want to blog for fun? Who cares if people want to reprint my recipes elsewhere?

Coming home to Oakland on BART, I pondered the question “How do I get people to read my blog?” and decided it’s a similar question to “How do I write a best-selling book?” There is no one good answer.

The blogs I showed them, by hard-working, talented locals Heidi Swanson, Elise Bauer, and Amy Sherman, appeared overwhelming. If I just want to do this for fun, I don’t need such a good blog, someone commented.  I don’t need to be that successful. I don’t need 100 comments.

That’s correct. You do not need to be that successful.

Should I have showed them mediocre blogs by hobbyists who post once a month for a few months, then disappear? There are lots of those.

Help me out here. Should hobbyists get a pass on quality because they want to have fun?

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  230 Responses to “Is Food Blogging Too Much Work?”

  1. I think there the rub is in the quality needed to ‘start a food blog’ as your topic was reported to be and to make a career of it, as Heidi, Elise, and Amy have. Someone could start a food blog with almost no work and maintain it irregularly with very little more. Those of us who are blogging to change people’s attitude about food and/or generate income do need to work at it.

    • I think all three of them may have started their blogs as a hobby, and then they evolved into a business. I guess anyone can start a blog and continue it with almost no effort, but if they do, will it be worth reading?

      • I guess my answer would be that the marketplace will sort it out. People who really want to just blog for friends and fun have a right to do what they want to do, but they need to understand that things like plagiarism could come back to haunt them. Also, some people think they really don’t care about the comments, but I think they are kidding themselves – why else blog? But they have to figure that stuff out for themselves.

        My problem is the opposite – I want my site to be great, but can I really justify a $500 camera for a site that might never go anywhere? I work a full time job doing something I don’t care about much – when will I find the time to test recipes, do the research, do the writing to make my blog what I want it to be? There are so many food blogs out there that it seems the market is saturated…

        • You can say lots of things to talk yourself out of it, but there is always room for another good blog. Something that makes people laugh, makes them think, shows gorgeous photos, etc. Obviously you have a passion for it. You just have to keep going!

          Why else blog. Hmmm. Self-expression? I told them that if they just wanted that, they should keep a journal. Since blogs are public, it would be good to have a certain standard.

  2. Nope.
    Well, they can give themselves a pass but then they have no right to complain that no one reads them.

    • Hah. So you don’t think maybe I was setting the bar too high?

      • Not at all. They need to know the reality of it all. If all they want is a hobby that gets them away from the TV then I say they should go for it, with reasonable expectations. It’s one thing to simply enjoy cooking and talking/writing about food. It’s another to start a blog.
        That being said, a hobby blog can turn into something more. Like, say, a new career. Depends on where you take it and your commitment.

  3. interesting. If they’re not familiar w/ food blogging yet… not part of the community, perhaps those fabulous blogs were too much to bear? My guess is that most people start a food blog with the intention of it being a hobby. The business thing may or may not kick in at some point based on how passionate they become about what they’re doing, and how involved they let themselves become in the community and all has to offer.

    • I guess they were too good. I think you’re right. Very few people think it’s going to be a business — and they’d be crazy if they did, given what we know about how hard it is to make a living as a food blogger.

  4. With any hobby, people will get as much satisfaction out of it as they put into it. If they don’t practice, their hand-knit sweaters might have holes or be lopsided. That’s how some blogs appear, too – sloppy. But if hitting the “publish” button on a post written for fun gives them joy, so be it. Maybe they find the process therapeutic. Cheryl is right, though – if the content isn’t good, people won’t visit more than once.

    • Maybe they don’t care about that, Michelle. I guess they’re entitled. But then they shouldn’t ask about getting readers.

  5. I started a food blog, and then start over a new one for fun and to make friends with fellow foodies. And I only post nice looking pictures (by my amateur standard anyway) because even I, myself don’t like to look at ugly pictures… I was one of those bloggers who posted pictures with stories, then got lazy and only posted pictures. Now I’m trying to be more consistent.

  6. I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot. About whether my blog is a hobby or not (aka very time consuming non-paying pleasing job or very time consuming non paying pleasure) and whether that effects how I should blog. I don’t know. I like it, so I’m trying and learning it do it right, by my standards, but I actually get frustrated about the fact that many many blogs out there don’t seem to follow any of these rules but get many more comments (which I’m assuming means traffic). I have some more theories about how to get people to read your blog, if you’re not necessarily classy/good writer/good photographer: 1) Post millions of process pictures of semi-bad quality 2) Leave 5 bazillion comments on peoples blogs that say nothing and don’t even sound like English 3) be model caliber attractive and 4) be fit and talk/photograph about that fitness or ascetic oatmeal obsessed/nutrition bar eating habits. All of these seem to gain readership.
    I think you did right with your presentation. That is excellent advice, even though I am overwhelmed with how difficult it is to be a good blogger.

    • Oh my Mariko. You are even more cynical than I am.

      It is hard to do anything well. I guess that is the bitter pill. Those people who make it look easy are masters at just that, but they work like hell.

      • Too mean? Eek. It didn’t sound so bad in my head.
        I know they work hard. And they have good sense about what to work on. I think that’s what’s overwhelming about it.

    • Mariko, That made me laugh out loud. Only because I agree with you 100%. Thank you for posting.

    • The club of the cynical! Dianne, your talk seems to have been about how to start a food blog and how to get people to read a blog yet the discussion here has gone onto something else: how to have a successful food blog. There’s a whole lot going on here. I agree with Mariko that to be read and have 100 comments on every post is easy for those who spend all of their time blog hopping and leaving comments on other blogs. I want to add an even more cynical thought: I don’t find that a successful (read: popular) blog is necessarily a good blog and vice versa. There are a lot of very talented people out there, writers, food photographers, who don’t have a huge following but should. And I have seen some truly mediocre blogs getting tremendous traffic. I think part of it is 1) due to when you began your blog. Everyone and their mother has a food blog these days and the competition for traffic is huge. 2) the audience you are aiming for and 3) your goal. I recently heard from an American blogger living in the US who had attended 2 of the big food blogging conferences who felt that most of the bloggers just want to earn huge pots of money off of their blog and do whatever it takes: simple, homey recipes, one photo, and lots of self-promotion. She had the view that few of them cared about writing, styling or photography as an “art”. If the blog is the end goal, then visiting other blogs, hosting blogging events, etc works the charm. And it is time consuming, I don’t know how some of them do it! Ok, I’m going to read more comments…

      • There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money from a blog. It’s extremely time consuming to do a blog well, so some people would like to be paid for their investment. About the only way to do so is to have loads of readers, which means getting money from ads and links. That’s why people chase readers. There is no huge pot of money, however, for 99 percent of people who try it.

        Very few people get 100 comments with regularity. Maybe 1 percent of all bloggers.

        Blogging conferences also have sessions on how to write and photograph well. Maybe your friend didn’t attend those? I must say our panel on storytelling at BlogHer was fairly sparse.

        Re some good blogs that don’t have enough readers, another thing to learn is how to market your blog and the value of SEO. If writers can’t be bothered, they just have to hope people will find them through buzz.

        • I love the comments. The comments within comments. The comments about comments. Dianne, I hope you’re planning on another book, soon, because you come up with so many thought provoking blogging issues.
          Ben’s comment spoke loudly to me. Jamie’s too. I wish it could all be about the true soul of blogging (Does that sound so silly?). Certainly the nature of it is different than print. All of these ideas are good, I’ve decided. I’m going to sit down and really think about how to make my blog unique and insert a better voice and illustrative (w/photos, not embroidery) concept.

          Are you still going to have an on-line class sometime soon? For us students in the middle of the ocean?

          • Aren’t they great? I am indebted to everyone who took the time.

            Wouldn’t it be better if I could teach a class in Oahu? If you can help me figure it out, I’d love to come.

        • Oh don’t get me wrong, Dianne, I also want to make money off of my blog (my husband would be thrilled as well!). I just sometimes wonder how many bloggers find the hours in the day to do all that they do! And I love comments on my blog and I am very very lucky that few of my comments merely make a remark about the food. Most respond to the story I have written, which is extremely satisfying and makes me realize that they come and read my words and are touched by them. And I think my friend (I haven’t been able to attend any of the US conferences so I just gave her impression) just felt that too many bloggers’ main goal has been to make money rather than the quality or even uniqueness of their blog which has become secondary. Is it true? Well, maybe it is subjective.

          Blogging has become so much more complicated with so much now at stake, or so it seems. Your posts, Dianne, may sometimes bring out my cynical side, but it means that they make me think, analyze and question. In order to keep my own blog “pure” (if I can use that term) or “honest”, I constantly try and put all of these things in perspective, to continually re-evaluate my goals and my purpose. I love coming here. I feel a wave of conflicting emotions and responses which is good because it makes me sit back and really think about it all. Your blog has become the perfect extension of your book.

          • Thank you! I appreciate your saying so, Jamie. It is comments like yours that make this blog valuable for my readers, so I appreciate that you take the time.

            It seems that there is simultaneously so much at stake and nothing at stake about blogging. Depends on my mood.

  7. What I find interesting is that they asked for your input and then said you were asking too much. You defined what you think makes a successful food blog and they said ‘that’s too hard.’

    The only other thing you could do is point out that these blogs are something to aim for, not a how-to template you must follow religiously. You could show them some moderately successful food blogs, but I’m willing to bet even these will post at least once a week and have excellent photos.

    I would say reading a lot of blogs is crucial too, so you can figure out what kind of direction you want to take while still recognising that your blog won’t be amazing to begin with. Go back to early posts in really successful blogs and see how they began.

    So no, I don’t think you asked too much. ^_^

    • Well, I was teaching a class on how to start a food blog, so I should have had things to say. Not everybody thought it was too hard.

      Yes, I could have said they are something to aim for. I thought that was obvious. Hmm. I’ll have to think about which blogs are “moderately successful” but still excellent.

      Good point about reading a lot of blogs. The audience seemed to know most of the ones I pointed out.

  8. It’s a shame that there are folks out there who aim towards mediocrity because it dilutes the hard work and credibility the rest of the food blogging community try so hard to achieve; then maintain. And maybe I’m missing something here, but what’s so fun about aiming to be a dud?

    I don’t get 100 comments per post. But I can promise you that if I averaged 3 comments per post last month, and 5 comments per post this month, I’m going to be over-the-moon thrilled that whatever hard work I did paid off. For me, that’s a lot of where the “fun” is.. and when I have fun, I keep going… and try to get better…

    [K]

    P.S. Why are these people leaving their lofts to attend a 2-hour discussion if they’re “just a hobbyist?”

    • I like to swim but don’t do it all the time and have no chance of going to the Olympics. Does that mean I should stop doing it? Why is food blogging any different? As much as the aspiring food-lebuties think mediocrity is ruining their “credibility” I think food bloggers clawing for the elusive book deal is harshing on my mediocre mellow.

      • Ha. That’s funny, Lina.

        It doesn’t mean you should stop, but it means you should be realistic about your achievements. I love to swim for sheer pleasure, and for fitness. I don’t care about the Olympics. So I’m not going to train every day for several hours. Maybe there’s a corollary for food blogs.

      • Food-lebuties? That’s a new term to me, but I know the type.

    • Kim, most people start food blogs as a hobby. It’s not that they’re aiming to be a dud, just that they don’t aspire to be Pioneer Woman. I think that’s okay, actually.

      Definitely the comments are where the fun is. That’s my favorite part of this blog.

      • Sorry, ladies! I did not mean to offend those who are “just tryin’ to swim.” I should have been more clear, but my angst is with those who are carelessly blogging without doing some research on their topic… and in turn are providing incorrect or misleading information.

        There IS a difference between that, and what a lot of us (myself included) are – bloggers to don’t aspire to be PW, but who want to do well and continue to grow. That said, Dianne, I still think you provided appropriate references on “great big blogs” for the rest of us to aspire towards, if not at.

        Dianne – maybe you should have prefaced your discussion with “don’t try to do EVERYTHING the super bloggers are doing, but pick an aspect or two… and use that as a starting point in which to grow from.” Perhaps that would have assisted the newer bloggers from feeling so overwhelmed by seeing examples of the biggies.

        [K]

  9. Dianne, this is a wonderful topic and question. You said many similar things at the talk you gave at Kendall College in Chicago, which I’ve taken away with me in my own food blogging. I started my blog with the mindset that it would not be a hobby; it would be a platform for which to generate credibility and thus business as a food writer, cooking instructor and (one day) a cookbook author. I don’t focus a lot of time on the blog making profits because it’s time consuming to generate ad revenue by soliciting advertisers, which is totally out of my scope of work. I feel like every day I’m racing against the clock to get great content out which entails developing my own recipes, photographing and writing/publishing. It’s worth it in the end if it helps me to establish myself as an expert in my field or niche of the food world, which I think everyone can find- sort of an investment in one’s career. It’s all a matter of focus and really having a good idea of what you’re going after when starting a blog. I know I would never have time to do it as just a hobby!
    Thanks for another great post and all your wonderful advice.

    • Your comment makes me wonder whether food blogging is a hobby or work. In your case you think of it as your job, and you work very hard on your blog to be a kind of portfolio for your work. Makes sense to me. I hope you think it is fun.

  10. I agree about showing the exceptional blogs instead of mediocre ones, since honestly, mediocre ones are pretty easy to find, e.g. mine would definitely qualify since I generally don’t post once a week. :) I guess what I find interesting is if one’s a hobby blogger doing it just for fun, why one would care about driving lots of traffic to your blog? Granted, I understand it’s way more interesting to write to an audience versus talking to a void, but if it’s a hobby, doesn’t it make more sense to do what keeps your hobby fun for you? Of course, this does mean that if what you put out is not good quality, you won’t get as many readers. But like anything else, quality generally correlates with hard work and it’s up to the individual to decide how much work to put into their hobby. Many people have hobbies that are lots of work (knitting/crochet, photography), so I don’t see why blogs would be any different.

    • That is a good question. Why would they care about traffic? I guess it’s because a blog is public, and you want people to read it. Otherwise you could just keep a journal.

      Apparently there is a way in WordPress to keep a blog private. One of the people said he did that for a while until he figured out what he wanted to say.

    • Fair point – if you have a public blog, it most likely means that you do want some people to read it. I thought about the question you asked in the post some more and it occurred to me that maybe there are some parallels with teaching math/science/computing (another passion of mine). There, I find that to be effective, I have to encourage beginners, so they feel the “they can do it too” vibe. Otherwise, students get frustrated quickly and lose interest.

      So maybe in a similar way, the folks who attended your workshop, given the title of the workshop and how it was advertised, fell more in the beginner, “tell me I can do this” camp. Which means the points you brought up may have been too much and more appropriate for people with existing food blogs who want to transition to making their blogs more than a hobby.

      Then again, they did ask the question about how to get more readers and you really just told them the truth. It’s always a fine line between encouragement vs sugar-coating/glossing over reality. If you had adopted the “it’s so easy, anyone can do this” attitude, who knows? Maybe a year down the road, some of them will complain about why you didn’t warn them it’s so much work. :)

      • Actually more than half of them had already started blogs! But yes, it’s a fine line, to encourage people and be realistic with them about what they are getting into.

  11. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Lowerson and The Little Foodie, Dianne Jacob. Dianne Jacob said: If you're blogging about food as a hobby, should you have different standards than other bloggers? New post @ http://bit.ly/i2HGcu […]

  12. diane, i often ponder this same exact question. i love blogging. i love reading exceptional blogs (white on rice, foodwoolf, canelle et vanilla, gluten free girl, etc.) and I love, love, love meeting wonderful people in the “blog world” such as yourself. yet, should that be enough? yes on some levels, but no on others. if your good at it and if you are passionate about it, then blogging takes TONS of time. so why do it half-assed? I think I have a pretty decent blog. I think my stories, my content, my food and my photography are darn good. I don’t always get comments and I only know people are reading my blog, when I meet them and they say something encouraging. I think this all about passion, art, creativity, and not so much about EGO! Thanks for being so honest! You are a beautiful writer, and a beautiful person!

    • Susan, you are making me blush. Thank you. I’m just trying to sort this stuff out.

      Why do it half-assed? Because it’s for fun. Because there’s not enough time. Because…you know. The problem is that you can see it in the blog post.

  13. I think when you are just starting out it might look really hard when you are looking at some of the bloggers who have quit their jobs and are now doing it full time. If I were you I would choose to showcase some of the bloggers that have left up their original posts from day one. Show people what practice, time, and hard work accomplishes. I believe Smitten Kitchen, and Tartelette have their posts from day one. Look at some of those 2006 posts from Tartelette. We all have to start somewhere, but that is no reason not to strive for the best you can do with the time and skills available to you.

    • Oh, I really like Nicole’s suggestion! I actually hadn’t looked at Tartlette’s early posts and it’s so impressive how much the blog has evolved since then.

      • I agree! I find the evolution of my favorite blogs really inspiring, especially the photography. Smitten Kitchen, Homesick Texan, Dooce, and Steamy Kitchen are some of my favorite go-to’s for stick-to-it-inspiration when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

      • Me too. I often look at some of the early posts. Great idea.

  14. I blog for fun. But I also blog because of the sense of pride and accomplishment I feel when I conquer a new recipe. It’s even more awesome when I can teach someone else how to do that, too. For me this is deeper than fun. Still, it is hard to keep sight of that part of blogging sometimes since it can’t be wrapped up neatly in Google analytics. So. My biggest struggle in blogging is defining my own standards for success. Should I measure my blog’s success by the number of readers I have? The number of sponsors? The quality of what I’m producing? It’s easy to get fixated on traffic and comments as the only markers of quality, and for me this is a losing battle. The quality of my recipes, photos, and writing is the only thing about the success of my blog that I can control. If I’m lucky, hard work in these areas will increase my readership.

    I don’t think you were a spoilsport to emphasize these points to the beginning bloggers. But I can see why they might balk. Lots of successful food publications are built on the illusion of “everyday food,” quick meals, easy cooking. Unless one has a background in journalism, photography, or culinary arts, it can be hard to appreciate how much time and effort goes into creating those seemingly simple meals. I bet a lot of those beginning bloggers will burn out. But hopefully a few will catch on to how much payoff comes along with the hard work of building a successful blog.

    • Wonderful, Kathryn. Utimately, you are the only one who can decide if your blog is successful. Sounds like you have a good feeling about it and a sense of pride. That is worth a lot. And you work your tushie off.

      Yeah, they might balk. It’s the same thing when I teach book proposal classes. I have come to accept that most people in the class will probably never write a book proposal or a book, because they find out how hard it is to do so.

  15. Another reason it’s tough to offer mega-successful blogs as examples is that even if you had the skill and could do that amount of work from the outset, that’s not enough. It’s already being done. To the extent that it’s possible to approximate their level of success, I think you need to offer something that people want, but don’t have enough of.

    For beginning bloggers, that’s too much to think about. I say just try it. Read lots of blogs, big and small. Experiment with different styles. Start participating in the social community (which can itself be overwhelming). Have fun, and then slowly start to figure out what you want out of it, and whether it’s worth the effort. I’m definitely still in that stage, and I still find blogging interesting and satisfying.

    • Yes, figuring out what to blog about is a big issue. It’s easy to say that it’s already being done. But maybe you could do it differently. It’s called the “hook” in writing. The little twist that makes it worthwhile to read your work.

      You have good advice. Maybe you should have taught the class!

      • Yes, I think it’s more than figuring out what subject to blog about (although I agree that that’s important); it’s about adding your own personality to multiple aspects of the experience, including but not limited to, photography, design, writing, and format. Wouldn’t it be nice (for example) for food bloggers to talk about a hook or narrative voice for photography? Instead, the focus is on adhering to the style guide of large, curated sites.

        There are certain elements to food blogs that are identified as having been successful for certain people, and they’re not questioned. That’s what I mean by already being done. As someone who reads a lot of blogs, I personally wish people would err more often on the side of being unusual. Like the people who do hand illustrations, or embroidery, for example. That really stands out to me.

        • Oh my gosh, now that people have gotten into better photography, you want them to be illustrators and embroiderers too!? Not going to happen, Ben.

          Although…it would be nice to see other kinds of illustration besides photos. But that’s tough if you want to memorialize your dinner before you eat it.

          • Right, because clearly the sequence is cook, then embroider, THEN eat. ;)

            I’m simply saying that there are many ways to do things (take a photo, tell a story, tell a story with a photo, etc.), and yet there is still a very narrow conception of what food blog is. Lisa Orgler (http://lunchboxproject.blogspot.com/) is only one example of someone who does something different. Listen, I think 101cookbooks is a fantastic website. But I have no interest in reading 50+ more that aspire to be exactly like it.

        • Count me in as another person who feels there is too much monotony among successful blogs. The picture aesthetic is uniform, the personalities are carefully curated. It’s great if I search on google for an ingredient and land on a particular recipe, but it doesn’t make me want to read them or cook from them with regularity.

          • Yes, agreed. A tour of successful blogs sometimes makes me long for the quirky ones that are a little less polished.

  16. I suppose it’s about what you want to get out of the blog that determines what you put into it. If you just want a place to pontificate and put up a few pictures of your food (like about a hundred million other blogs) then by all means do so. But don’t expect to get a lot of visitors.

    But if you want to get noticed, you have to engage the community (work) and also stand above the crowd (more work). There’s no easy path to becoming well known in the blogosphere.

  17. Your post and all the comments are ++ interesting. It’s a little strange that some people attend a talk on how to get their blog read and then are surprised that there is work involved for achieving that goal. Doesn’t EVERYTHING worth something involve WORK? For example, Aran, behind Cannelle and Cannelle certainly does not take “just” her camera and press the button to offer all of us her art, I’m sure she spends a huge amount of time thinking about her pictures, her food, preparing it, styling it, and then she works on PSP, and she writes etc etc, all this while living her life as a woman and a mom.
    Regularly, I (even though I’m a smallish French blogger) get comments like “oh, how do you do it all?”, as if there was a secret behind it, as if superwomen did exist! The truth is NO, there is no secret, there is no supernatural power, there is passion, a certain ability to write and illustrate, and TIME given to that, and time is work, isn’t it?
    Dianne, I would suppress one item on your list : one does not have to post once a week to get read. Because if one obliges herself to post that regularly, it might get stressful and stress doesn’t make posts better, and sure does make the blogger’s (often already hectic life) a little bit harder. One should blog when one has something to share AND time to do it correctly. You would not invite someone over to dinner if you have nothing to offer, nothing to share, whether in your fridge or on your mind, would you?. But I would also add an item : BE YOURSELF. All the blogs I follow, the books I read (including yours ;)) appeal to me because they have their personality, their UNIQUE voice. And THAT’s what makes me come back and back, and back, even when there is just a post once in a while.
    Have a great day, and thanks Dianne for all you share with us!

    • I just want to state, for the record and for those who aren’t well acquainted with the French blogosphere, that Flo is anything but a “smallish food blogger”. :) Her blog, her voice and her work are an inspiration.

      • Thank you, Clotilde. And didn’t you start blogging as a hobby, doing it EVERY DAY, even though you had a full-time job? Those were the days, eh?

    • You made me laugh, Flo. Yes, it is always distressing for my students/clients/audience when they find out how much work it is to be good at something. The thing is, if you really want to do it, you jump in and you think it’s fun — most of the time.

      Interesting about how often to post. My thinking is that I want to stay in front of people and have them not forget about me, but it is often stressful to come up with something to say. And then there are other times like this (very few) where there’s an event, and I need everyone’s help to figure it out.

      Also a good point about having a unique voice. Thanks for the reminder.

      • Dianne, I’m glad I made you laugh ;)
        Coming back on this post to read the comments (and blush at Clotilde’s so touching words!) and your answers, I also realize how much answering the comments left on our blogs is a way to continue the conversation even when we don’t post a new item.

        • I find that comments taper off pretty quickly. Every once in a while, someone discovers an older post and has something to add.

          I like that you also Answer people, Flo. I hope it makes a difference.

          • I agree with you, and for my own blog, yes I do think it makes a real difference that I answer the comments. I think there are two reasons for that : 1) it makes the relation between blogger and reader (a little) personal and is a way of saying “I’ve read you, you exist, I’m grateful for the exchange we’re having through that blog” and 2) certain topics (such as sourdough bread baking, on which I’ve blogged a lot) do bring questions or reactions that need to be answered. Eh, isn’t sharing, i.e. blogging, a lot about listening and hearing (and, finally, caring for) each other, anyway)!
            (proof is I love the exchange we’re having ;) ! Thanks again, Dianne)

          • Not everyone wants to answer, but I’m sure your readers are grateful that you do.

          • It does make a big difference that Flo answers the comments – each and every one of them. I love how lengthy the conversations can get on her blog – love to both read and take part in them.

            To me, too, the best part of blogging is in the conversation it kicks off, or try to kick off – and I do get frustrated when I don’t get a voice on the other end of the line.

            I only half agree with Flo about how frequent you should blog. Of course, one shouldn’t post just anything for the sake of posting. But I do believe the readers like to see some regularity in the posting. Unless they’ve grown so attached to a blog that they’ll read it faithfully, however (un)frequently the posts get published. Like with Makanai !

            Thanks for your article, Dianne ! That’s quite a conversation going on here !…

          • I am not sure about how regularly people should blog, or this idea that you shouldn’t do so unless inspired. Will have to delve into this further.

    • The sense of entitlement for little to no work is so pervasive in North American culture these days. It is phenomenally frustrating. That goes beyond blogging.

      • You mean people think they should be successful without working hard? It’s a good fantasy. Too bad it’s not true.

  18. If one doesn’t care if anyone reads it, then I have to ask the question, why blog at all?

    The way I see it, blogging is inherently a community activity. It’s one long ongoing conversation between you and readers and other bloggers across not just websites but also social media. I don’t blog just to put words/recipes on a page. I blog to help and inspire people who feel limited by gluten free cooking, to create fun interactions with others, and (maybe most importantly) to learn. I could not do any of these things on my blog without also actively participating in the online food blogging community nor without people reading it. If none of those community-based facets of blogging interested me, then I’d just write in a private journal and be done with it.

    So no, you weren’t asking too much and you definitely weren’t being a spoilsport. Even a mere hobbyist like me puts a lot of work into my blog. While my definition of success may not be monetary, it still takes hard work. It just happens to be some of the most rewording hard work I’ve done :)

    • Oh that is a really good point, Jenn. It sort of comes with the territory, to be part of the community. But then again a lot of food bloggers haven’t figured this out.

      I do feel for these people. It is overwhelming and very hard work, for a hobby. Especially when compared to, say, knitting a scarf in front of the TV. Pearl one, pearl two… That’s it.

  19. What a hard questions to answer. I DO hope you told the audience that the question of “How do I get people to read my blog?” is the equivalent to “How do I write a best selling novel?” like you stated in this post. They need to hear that.

    I do think the audience is right. They DON’T need to take gorgeous photos or post daily/weekly. They COULD write the blog for fun, without thinking about quality. But just don’t expect people to visit or revisit that blog. But if they want to do it for fun, I say sure, go for it! If they are only hobbyists, then sure, let them do what they want to do. There are millions of hobbyist writers, musicians, artists out there. But no one sees their work. Why should food blogger hobbyists be any different?

    But the real questions isn’t HOW do you you get people to read the blog, it’s WHY do you want to blog? That’s the questions they need to ask. If they want to blog just for fun, then tell them they need to go and just start doing it. It’s not hard. Make a dish, take a picture, write what you did, hit publish and DONE! But they came to your workshop for a reason. If they really want to just do a mediocre hobby blog, they shouldn’t be at the workshop. Blogging isn’t THAT hard to figure out on your own.

    If they want something more, if they want a blog that will get readers, if they want to get tapped into the food blogging community (which is a pretty wonderful community), if they want to start writing more or want to share their passion for food or they want to change people’s attitude toward food, or any of a myriad of other totally valid reasons that elevated their reasons to blog above the average hobbyists blog, they need to do more than that.

    They need to have a compelling story or voice. They need to have unique recipes or at least a concept behind why they are making the recipe the exact same way as written (Alinea at Home for instance). They need to learn to write descriptively without the use of “delicious” and they need to understand that there’s a whole lot more to food blogging than just making a dish, taking a pic and writing about how yummy it was.

    They need decent photographs (tell them to stop using the built in camera flash!). They need to network and read other blogs and comment on them and get on twitter and facebook and maybe learn a little HTML and maybe a little CSS and understand the aggregate sites like FoodBuzz and TasteSpotting and Foodgawker and also understand the limitations of those sites.

    And ultimately they need to figure out what they want to do with their blog. Do they want to help people learn how to make everyday meals? Do they want to teach people how to bake, or how to make food from the farmer’s market or to discover how satisfying and tasty vegan raw food can be? Do they want to recommend amazing new restaurants? Or teach them to make meals on a budget?

    Or do they want to just keep a journal about what they have eaten or what recipes they have tried?

    Do they JUST want a huge readership, just for the sake of having a huge readership? Because that’s not going to happen.

    Few blogs out there can match the powerhouse megabloggers like David Lebovitz, Simply Recipes or Orangette. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other “successful” blogs out there that have a following or readership (depending on how you define success). Not everyone can have a huge readership, and in truth, not everyone deserves it. You build a blog one reader at a time. It took me a long time to figure that out. Now I cherish each and every reader I have – and I have busted ass and fought tooth and nail to get the attention of each reader. But everyone has to start somewhere.

    The best advice you can give someone who wants to start blogging is to get them to ask themselves why they want to start food blogging in the first place and then to tell them to just start doing it. Read the blogs out there, because that will give them an idea of what is out there and what works and doesn’t work. And get them to ask themselves, as they go to the other food blog, “what is interesting about this site? What makes me want to read further and what bores me and makes me click away?”

    Learn from others. Learn from your mistakes. And keep writing. Iv’e been blogging less than a year, and I’ve grown and learned so much since then. It’s a continual process.

    You should do a follow up workshop, in three to six months time, and see how many of the people who went to this workshop come back and are still blogging. Perhaps your words won’t fall on deaf ears then.

    • Irvin, this is so passionate and thoughtful. Thank you. So many good suggestions here. It’s amazing how far you have come in just one year.

  20. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mardi, YvonneMaffei (MHK). YvonneMaffei (MHK) said: Reading: "Is Food Blogging Too Much Work?"( http://twitthis.com/s2eg4w ) […]

  21. Dianne, thank you for this fascinating post and the equally fascinating discussion it has provoked. I agree that your choice of blogs might have been overwhelming for a newbie but you are right to show them what can be. If they work hard.

    Food blogging is bloody hard work. I often get emails from people along the lines of “I am starting out and wondered if you could give me some pointers?” (not like I am a successful blogger at all but still…) and your hints are always the same ones I give: write well, take great photos, participate in the community, post often.

    I spent the first summer of my blog in Australia where I never quite got adjusted to the time difference so I was often up in the middle of the night. I spent that time finding new blogs, reading them, bookmarking and commenting. Slowly, slowly, people started to follow my blog and comment. So participation in the community is essential.

    I really like the “subscribe to comments” feature many blogs have where you can receive replies to the post via email. Now that can be overwhelming if it’s a hugely popular blogger and they get 100 comments but if it’s a regular old person like me, and you are interested in following the conversation, it’s great (by the way, this feature does not work on your blog – when I check the little box, it does not send me followup comments….) because you can really get some conversation going. I don’t have time to go back to individual posts to see if a blogger has responded (except if I really am interested – like this one) so I wish more people would have that feature enabled. I am genuinely interested in knowing what a blogger has to say about my comment but make it easy for me.

    it’s also a great way of showing readers you actually care about their comments. When I respond and the commenter responds back sometimes two or three times, it shows future readers that I am genuinely interested in what my readers have to say and respond. If new bloggers are not responding to at least some comments on your blog (either in the comments or via email), I would suggest they start.

    I agree that sites like Foodbuzz really helped me build my community and those bloggers I reached out to in my early days are still friends and we still read each other.

    Above all, you need passion and dedication. And loving what you do helps. i blog on top of a full time job and part time grad school and often have people wonder how I do it all. I do it because I love it. The writing, the learning to be a better photographer, the community, the friendships I have made.

    Dianne, I love that you interact with your readers and followers. YOU are a big name yet you are so generous with your time and comments and advice. We can all only aspire to be you one of these days.

    • I am amazed that you have time for blogging also, with the schedule you outlined. But clearly, you love it, you are dedicated to it, and you get a response from people who can see it in your blog. That’s worth a lot.

      I had no idea my “subscribe to comments” button was not working. Will have to look into that. Thanks, Mardi.

      You are too much with that last paragraph. It’s a commitment to answer everyone, but so far I can keep up.

  22. I think everyone has to start somewhere. You are not going to start a blog one month and get a million followers the next. I think it takes time to build up content, presence and above all a strong voice. For me, blogging means being willing to learn. As Diane says, you should be a good photographer, good writer, good recipe developer and this takes time and skill. If you have a real passion for food, then food blogging can be an amazing creative outlet. If you enjoy something and are passionate about it then it shouldn’t be too much like hard work – even if it is unpaid. I agree with Flo, better to post less often but make it a good quality post!

    • Blogging has a huge learning curve. No doubt about it, even though it’s easy to start.

      So if posting once a week is too much, what is the right amount?

      • I think once a week is a good thing to aim for, but I suppose it is really important to make it a good post. I suppose it depends what other demands are made on our time! I have a good few blogs on my blogroll and I admit, that if it says “updated three weeks ago”, I am likely to lose interest and not follow it so keenly. That being said, sometimes I have lots of ideas in one day, but if I posted all of them perhaps some of my readers would miss them so it is better to space posts out. It is good to have some saved in a drafts folder as back-up for the busier weeks. It is definitely quality that counts! Look at the number of replies to this one post!

        • What’s funny is that I wrote this one rather quickly. I guess it touched a nerve.

          I am no good at having back-up posts in a folder. I can’t seem to make the time to do them. I applaud people who are more organized, like you!

  23. Dianne,

    I agree with the ideas you put forth which turn out to be textbook marketing and engagement strategies in business and the specific methods for bloggers (food and other) seem to be pasted everywhere these days. Chef Dennis has quite a conversation going. Hard work is required to create anything good and surprise about that must have been pretty funny?

    But, was it really necessary to use the following line?

    “mediocre blogs by hobbyists ”

    You aren’t accounting for your own rules. Hard work and time. The judgement set up with that statement has elitism written all over it. If you meant less developed and less read blogs written by creative people who don’t spend as much time or don’t use some of the strategies then how you said it might be the only issue. If you meant something else, well its up to you if you want to have that conversation here.

    I changed my blog format in April and have grown it since. I know where I am on the curve and know what I need to work on. I’m here just like everyone else and will give a fair chance when one is possible in return.

    Jason

    • Okay, I could have just said “less developed and less read blogs,” but that doesn’t have negative connotation. I was looking for something inferior to make my point.

  24. I started my food blog as a hobby. I had no clue what I was doing and didn’t know anyone would ever read my blog, besides my family. Over time, I learned and transitioned my food blog into a “business,” but I still blog for me and post about my passions. I am always improving my writing, photography, SEO skills, etc. It is a process and takes work. When you first start out, you can’t expect perfection, just like with anything in life. I was happy with my blog when it had 4 readers and I am happy with my blog now that it has a large following. I think it is important to stay true to yourself and enjoy the journey. Everyone has different goals with their blogs and those goals change along the way. I am just enjoying the ride…and the cookies along the way:)

    • That is a really good attitude, Maria. We can all drive ourselves crazy comparing ourselves to bloggers more successful, but it is never helpful. Better to just enjoy the ride, as you say, and work hard.

  25. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason Phelps and Daniel Koontz, Wendi Mosteiko. Wendi Mosteiko said: Is Food Blogging Too Much Work? An interesting question by @diannej http://bit.ly/hCR3km […]

  26. I think the thing about blogging is that in the past few years it has become more about making money and being successful than having a hobby and a space to share your thoughts/opinions. Blogs used to be more about having a personal space and wanting to share not about becoming famous and writing a book. Since the development of bloggers becoming celebrities a lot more pressure has been put on people who want to blog just for fun. There’s an assumption that everyone who wants to blog wants to do it as a career.

    • Yes, intent has a lot to do with it. Sometimes I think it is such hard work that only those who are truly ambitious can make it, even if they’re modest about it. Other times I think passion is what ignites people.

      Let me tell you, those people who wanted to blog as a hobby were also interested in whether they could make money from ads or get a book deal.

  27. I completely agree with the points that you emphasized. To develop a following, all of those components are necessary. As a relatively new food blogger (just passed the one year mark), for me blogging is more about BECOMING accomplished in the areas you mentioned. Not having formal training in journalism, photography or culinary arts, many would argue that I have no place in the food blogging world. As a professional, I totally agree. I do not expect the readership or income that the wildly successful blogs you mentioned have. I am grateful, and amazed every time someone comments or when I receive any outside recognition. But those little successes and encouragement spur me on to learn more and become better. Will I ever be a professional blogger- probably not; at this time I have different priorities in my life. But as a hobbyist, I still strive to be as professional as I know how: which is different today than it was one year ago, and hopefully than it will be 10 years from now. My fulfillment comes more in looking at the progress I have made than the number of readers I can attract. I remember the joy I felt at learning how to adjust white balance, or edit some basic CSS code. Having said that, readers and comments are a definite incentive to raise the bar higher than you are currently working. That is why the social aspect of blogging is good for both professional and hobbyist food bloggers. As we interact with each other, we can all learn and progress. The goals you mentioned are ones I strive for each time I write, but I am glad that I didn’t wait until I felt like I was perfect in them before I started blogging. My learning has come from doing.

    Thanks always for the thought provoking posts!

    • My pleasure, Kelly.

      Learning often comes through doing. In the old days you could write a book or an article because you wanted to learn about a subject. That’s harder now. But we sure have learned a lot about writing, design, community, marketing, and community by becoming bloggers.

  28. I don’t think you set the standard too high. Not everyone has the same goals, standards and, most importantly, skills but it was your job to show them where blogging could take them if “they chose” to follow that path. And we, who are serious bloggers, have to accept that everyone who creates a blog can or wants to do it by our standards.
    I taught a blogging class a couple of times and as I prepared the lesson plan, I realized what a monumental task I had undertaken in my journey to become a blogger. It requires dedication, discipline and it definitely requires being computer savvy. Although all students were enthusiastic, once the class ended, few continued blogging. C’est la vie!

    • I’m not surprised, Joan. I find the same thing when I do classes about writing books or freelancing. The amount of work required scares people off.

  29. I got better. I learned from doing. My photos will never make it into tastespotting and decided that since visual was never my thing to work on the writing. I have no intention of ever making this a business.

    One thing I ask myself when I sit down to blog (which is 1-2 times a week) is what am I putting out there that is worth a few minutes of someone’s time? I think that is paramount – you are doing this with an audience in mind. What started out as a way to incorporate my NYC-Italian cooking and celebrations with my very Midwestern family became a way to connect to other times and other worlds. The rewards have been heartfelt and have had lovely opportunities come my way but the truly grand reward is the friendships made with other bloggers. There is a very supportive, savvy community out there.

    Be truthful – follow blogs you truly enjoy, cook from blogs that offer what you consider to be delectables. Don’t follow willy-nilly.

    Oh – and post a decadent dessert! More than the healthy-new-way-to-make-oatmeal-palatable, people roam blogosphere looking for flour, butter and sugar.

    • Yes, that is a noble goal. I don’t reach it most of the time. I looked at my numbers once for what percentage of people actually open the Will Write for Food email. Ouch!

  30. I’ve been thinking about the concept of hobbist vs. “serious” food blogger quite a bit these days. Several extremely popular generalist food blogs are receiving much attention, book deals, media appearances, etc. These blogs are generating lots of traffic; they tend to be visually interesting w/nice photos. But the written content is downright boring to me–watered-down ethnic food, “quickie” weeknight meals, specialty diets, or (worse) no discernable theme or organizing principal. Topic selection, photography, recipes’ lack of complexity–everything seems calculated to generate buzz, catch a trend, or otherwise pump up the marketing. I’ll hear about so-and-so landing a book deal, visit the blog, and think “eh, so what”. I don’t own a single blog-to-book publication (though I do own David Lebovitz’s books, but he wrote books, and cheffed, long before he blogged).

    Instead, I seek out the interested enthusiast–someone with a passion, who writes with an honest voice, who *actually* possess some knowledge about a topic. I’d rather read a photo-less, somewhat scholarly infrequent poster’s work than a daily, fluffly, pretty post by a writer with limited topical knowledge. [ And thanks, Dianne, for providing this thought-provoking platform.]

    • You may not be their target reader, Celeste. Maybe their target is the harried mom who reads Family Circle and clips recipes. (That’s not you, is it? :-))

      The beauty of blogging is that we can all chose whom we like to read. I think the people who made it are amazing, and if they’re brilliant marketers, more power to ‘em.

      • Family Circle still exists? Who knew…incredible to me that Gourmet ceases publication and Family Circle survives. Yes, blogs’ diversity is the best part of the not-so-new media platform. Someone, somewhere is geekin’ it up with a home sous vide setup, or a copper pot still, or wild game shot in his own backyard. I want to read those blogs, regardless of the design appeal, if the information is interesting. The beauty of the blog: it makes niche culinary info available to wider audiences.

    • Celeste: Yes, yes, yes! In fact, since I can’t keep up with all the blogs I’m interested in, infrequent posting is not that much of a negative. I’d rather have some really *interesting* posts that resonate. One of my favourite blogs, now closed, is/was http://yulinkacooks.blogspot.com/. It was a basic blogspot model, unspectacular photography, but the “story” — a Russian-American woman tracing her roots through cooking — spoke to me.

  31. I do think that there are different standards, but that there are minimum standards that apply to both vocational and avocational food blogging. I do blog professionally about food, and it is a different process than blogging as a hobby. I have goals (set by clients) and I need to achieve those ends by sharing my knoweldge and discoveries. I also need to observe the style guides of my client, which is actually extremely important. One example is the phrase Super Bowl, which is trademarked, so I cannot use it in a commercial setting/blog without ramifications. A hobbyist is probably not aware of that level of word choice and is unencumbered by it. Before food writing, I was an English teacher, and many of my beliefs about blogging stem from that experience. For example, a minimum standard for all bloggers should be attribution and avoiding plagiarism. As an English teacher, though, I saw many parents during conferences who felt that they had the knowledge and authority to do my job–they had studied English in school and it didn’t look all that hard, etc. What they didn’t realize is that there is specific professional preparation and pedagogy that they didn’t have; similarly, while food blogging looks easy enough, it actually isn’t, and love of food is not enough to qualify someone to do it or to give them a “pedagogy” to underpin their public action of writing. I suppose we can make a distinction between professional food blogging (as a public act with all the ramifications of ‘speaking’ publically) and food journaling as an avocation.

    • I just had to come by and thank you for using the word “pedagogy”. I am also an English teacher (although I studied it as a foreign language) and the University of Belgrade put a lot of stress on pedagogy as a subject. I have talked to many teachers here who do not recognize the word.

    • I would like clarification on the difference is, Jill. When readers go to a site, how do they know which is which? Is it simply because the site takes ads, or links books to Amazon? Because the person used to be a marketing whiz or journalist and knows how to attract people?

      Or is it about the writing?

  32. very interesting topic! my blog is small and if I update it once a month I consider it a good deal. I never expected anyone to read it unless you were family. The fact that I do have a few other bloggers read it and give helpful suggestions still amazes me and I am grateful for their input, both recipewise and blogwise. I started my tiny blog as a way to chronicle my sister and her diagnosis with celiac and how we started to cook food differently. I have your book Dianne and am trying to work on what you suggest content wise, as it makes sense for clarity. I agree with you that if you are doing this with the goal of making money, becoming widely read, or appearing on the Food network then you need to work hard for that. But I also agree with a previous poster who said they don’t want it to be their job, and they are not expecting to get paid for it. Not that I don’t need to work hard on my hobby, because another posted pointed out that you don’t want holy or poorly knitted sweaters. But there is a difference between the hobbiest who has the goal of making it big and the one who is content doing things for themselves-I have a coworker who knits the most amazing clothing (people stop me and ask where I bought it) and she happily gives it away as gifts. Why? Because she started knitting to de-stress and now she just enjoys her hobby, but she isn’t going to start a knitting business, as she loves teaching. Most of the recipes on my blog are ones that I have changed for my sister’s diet and credited the source to whomever I adapted the recipe from, which I enjoy doing, as it helps my sister out so much. Does that place me in the mediocre hobbiest slot? Or is there a different catagory for we who are, for all intents and purposes, just writing a public journel? Just curious, as I am fine being labeled mediorce hobbiest, because that is what my blog is ;) Maybe I can work my up to interesting hobbiest in the future.

    • That is a good question. I suppose there are ambitious bloggers and those writing a public journal who are not. But you have purchased my book because you want to improve, I suspect. So maybe the borers are are not easy to categorize.

      I suggest you stop lifting other people’s recipes. There are lots of gluten-free recipes to link to, if you don’t want to create your own.

      • It is true, I do want to improve! So thanks for your help. Your suggestion to stop lifting recipes intrigued me, as I always link to the original(or the amazon link for the cookbook if I can’t find recipe online) and then post my changes. In addition to her celiac diagnosis, my sister can’t have eggs, dairy or yeast either so those changes are substantial- in those cases would you suggest I continue linking to the orginal recipe and not detail my changes? I read your previous post about how adapting a recipe does not make it mine and loved the discussion, but for my purposes I am still unclear about adaptation. For example, in any given regular cake recipe, I have to figure out how to substitute eggs, flour and any dairy and there is no one substitution for every recipe. So at what point does it stop being an adaptation and become something else? What are your thoughts on that process?

        • I think I explained it in that post. You have to make a lot of changes to have someone feel that you haven’t ripped off their recipe. Sounds like if you take a gluten recipe and make it gluten-free, you pretty much have to do that anyway.

  33. I think you need to determine your goals at the outset. Are you food blogging to simply share recipes and stories with family and friends (and maybe a few strangers)? Or are you looking to create a community? Years ago I started my blog for the first, but in the last 6 months it has slowly evolved into the second. I agree with all of the suggestions you have put out there, but, like, Jason, the “mediocre hobbyists” line kind of sticks out for me. I think a lot of people begin not knowing any of the basics of food blogging. They do it because they love sharing ideas about good food. At some point, they get featured somewhere, or get noticed by their local blogging community and things start to change. Suddenly, they’re basing their success more on submissions to Foodgawker or Tastespotting or the results of a blogging competition, rather than the quality of the work and the joy it brings.

    If you’re looking to make money off a blog or really turn it into a big traffic machine, you’ll have to compete and work hard at it. I don’t, however, think anyone should discouraged by food blogging just for fun and learning to write, photograph and market themselves along the way. I think those three things are skills anyone can take away in life.

    • Yes, you start in one place and then you grow out of it and move to the next. That is part of the fun of food blogging, Kimmy. As for what constitutes success, each blogger has to determine it. There’s always someone doing better than you are, so the goal is to be content but at the same time want to grow a little.

      You might add technical skills to the list. I am not too good in that area.

  34. I think I agree with all the points you put out there. Even if you cannot put up excellent photographs on your blog, I think you need to try to be as good a story teller as you can.
    I started my blog as a hobby, but it is a hobby I have become passionate about. I will do the best I can with my blog because it is a reflection of me in some sense. Yes, it is a lot of hard work, but I enjoy it and have the satisfaction of doing the best I can. As to when blogging becomes a stress and stops being a pleasure is really in one’s own hands, and its about finding the balance between the ttwo.

    Everyone has to decide what excatly blogging means to them and then go in that direction, whether it is a hobby, or something serious.

  35. I started in the Internet industry in 1994 and built my first website in 1995 and yes, it was a food blog. Not a blog as we know it today with the software that is available but it was my web log (blog) for recipes. I did it for one reason only and that was to have a repository for recipes that I could more easily share with family and friends. When I started to hear from strangers I was actually pretty shocked but that didn’t change how I operated. I put recipes online. No story and no photo. Seriously!

    Two years ago I started transitioning that huge body of work to a WordPress blog. That effort combined with establishing an identity on Twitter saw me enter the ‘food blogging’ community and all that it entails…and that all is a lot as we know.

    Photos? Writing? What? I just love to cook and entertain…now I’m being judged on the quality of my photography and if I use the word delicious? How many readers and how many comments? What kind of traffic and what kind of prizes? What’s your CPM and who do you use for ad revenue. There is no doubt it can certainly become overwhelming very quickly.

    So it certainly seems appropriate to qualify your audience beforehand. Do they want to learn how to blog as a amateur (hobbyist) or as a revenue generating business (pro)? There are a multitude of people who do not care about those details mentioned above but really just want to share what they love with others. Call them hobbyists if you must but I don’t like putting that label on someone simply because in their sharing they don’t put revenue before food.

    My daughter might go to see you speak and I know she has stood in line for hours for Ree’s book but she has no intention of entering the business of food blogging. She blogs every once in awhile about the food she has made and takes a quick photo with a ‘certainly not DSLR’ camera and she’s happy with that as are her readers. She’s quick witted and funny and that girl can cook so we’re happy with what we read, whenever that is. Should she be judged adversely as a result or even called mediocre? Should she stop if she has no intention of changing? Well, I think not and for what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s for any one of us to judge what others do in this space. Period.

    • Barbara, Barbara. If you don’t want to read my or others’ opinions of how to improve your writing or blog, no one’s forcing you to do so. Nor do you have to make any of the improvements I or others suggest. You seem to be doing fine without them.

      You are right that I misjudged the audience. They were interested in a little info and I took them too seriously. But these subjects of how hard to work come up for all of us. From time to time, blogging feels overwhelming.

      There was no point in focusing on revenue or business. Blogging is not a source for that, unless you already have enormous readership, or you blog to attract lucrative work. Neither applied to the crowd last night.

      Your daughter should come hear me speak if she is interested in improving her writing. I’m not interested in judging her. Many people do pay me, however, to judge their work.

  36. As a novice who took her first photo of food this past February, I can attest that your principles are guiding me and my blog is beginning to “pop”. I was inspired by my participation on food52.com and am now supported by you and other fine bloggers. My “hobby” has become a passion that drives me towards success. Hard work, indeed.

  37. Replying to the question “Is Foodblogging Too Much Work.” This depends on what individual expectations are, I feel. Personally, I jumped into foodblogging as a way to archive many recipes I am passionate about to inspire other homecooks to eat fresh foods with fewer preservatives while at the same time saving money from purchasing take-out meals. Good nutrition and quality food is important to me. Being accountable for personal food consumption is a responsibility for everyone. Teach healthy eating to our kids as well as cooking skills and they will be more independent in their food choices, I feel.
    Foodblogging enables me to improve my hobby of picture taking. I have learned a few techniques from other foodbloggers/photographers on how to improve the look of foods I prepare when I post a recipe on my blog. Networking with other foodbloggers on-line is extremely helpful in picking up tips and sharing skills and passions.
    Preparing meals at home is a multi-sensory process which I enjoy. Therefore, foodblogging is the next step in reaching out to other foodies in order to learn from them also. I am inspired by those who have taken a foodblog to the next step of writing a cookbook which encourages the personal storytelling. This is one way to create a business if you desire to do so, but hard work and perseverance is needed.

    The Souper

    • It sounds like you have a plan, are doing what you enjoy, and are increasing your skill level. That sounds good to me.

      Very few bloggers have a cookbook. It’s not a good way to create a business. You get a small check which has to last you a long time.

  38. This post is delicious! (Couldn’t help myself) I think it’s great to show beginners the better blogs. The standards will be much different for blogs that are just for fun than for sites looking to build platforms or launch careers, but it’s always good to have something to aspire to.

    • Hah. Maybe I should have shown them blogs that are just for fun also. But I happen to believe that the big bloggers are still having a blast, so they qualify.

  39. Yes, I would gauge the audience and show them appropriate blogs. Absolutely. To be a star blogger, like the ones you mentioned, that IS a full-time job. It really is. You also need a blog designer, and you need to dump some money into it.

    I *LOVE* the bare-bones approach. I have a free blog, with almost no design work (outside of my header, which I threw together myself really fast) and I love my blog. I don’t need advertisers and all that. (And I just HAPPEN to be a good photographer, but if I wasn’t, I’d STILL like my own site.)

    (That said, I will be amping up my postings and my design, because I’m going to use it for a portfolio starting next year.) But not everyone does that, or wants that. Why show them a Ferrari when they can only afford (or have time for) a Honda? Show them the best of the Hondas.

    My two cents.

  40. BTW, I know “advertisers” and “design work” weren’t on your list. But they SHOULD be, if someone wants to be a true “star blogger”.

    I have hundreds/thousands of hits to my blog every week. Not very many people COMMENT, but still. For as often as I update (rarely ever) and as bare bones as my blog design is, and I never join communities and such (Twitter notwithstanding), mine is doing fine. (And “fine” is all I want. I don’t have time to make it a full-time job.)

    • One is sure inderal la online to find.

      Sometimes it just FEELS like a full-time job, Jackie.

      None of the people in the crowd last night wanted to become star bloggers, but I agree that it is a needed step for those who do.

      Yes you do join communities, young lady! You go to conferences, you are on
      Twitter, you have commented here. These are all communities.

  41. Depends on your audience and objective. If writing a blog is for writing practice and personal outlet, so be it and then I guess who cares about the perfection. On the other hand, if there are professional interests the details do count. (in my opinion)
    P.S. apologies if I’m repeating what others have said in the above 54 comments! (congrats on that Dianne!) I’d like to know how many minutes it would take to carefully read all the comments — though I’d love to, I need to get back to my blog, ehem, and other work because blogs do take time and work!

    • It’s taken most of the work day to respond to all these comments! I don’t always have this response, of course, so I enjoy it when it happens. Otherwise I had time for a client phone call, a new client phone call, a lunch date with a friend, and a check of Twitter and email. Not terribly productive, but exhilarating.

  42. I started my blog as a hobby, but as it gains traction, I find myself working harder and harder to keep it up, promote it and come up with quality content. It’s now way more than a hobby, and yet I make less than $50 a month. I think it comes down to what you want out of it. I don’t know that mine will take me to a career, although I certainly wouldn’t mind if it did. But at minimum, I want to engage my readers, present them with good recipes and maybe send them away with something to think about.
    And there is absolutely NO question that if you want a decent amount of readers, you need to learn how to take a good picture. I am far from a good photographer, but I can pull off some decent photos that draw people in.
    I think you were presenting them with the reality. If they are doing it just to read themselves in print, have at it but you won’t find a readership. If you want to put something out in the world that strangers might care to read, then you need to work at it (and it’s a lot of work!).

    • That’s what I told them. I said if they just wanted to express themselves, they could write in a journal.

      Seems like you have set your expectations correctly. $50 a month is more than I make, so congrats on that. Blogging isn’t a hobby for me. It’s part of my work.

  43. Yikes, you seemed to have hit a nerve Dianne, lots and lots of comments.
    I apologize for not reading them all before I leave mine, but the answer is it depends what you want from your blog.

    If you are writing it for yourself or a few friends whatever and whenever is my motto. Maybe after awhile you’ll decide you want to go on to the next step.

    If you are writing it to attract and engage strangers (and maybe develop your abilities in cooking, recipe development, writing, web design and/or photography, etc.), you need to think of others and give them a blog that’s readable, reasonably entertaining, engaging and useful and unique in some way. No one holds hobbyist bloggers to the same standard as a publication such as Food & Wine or a “professional blog” such as The Pioneer Woman (which started out as a hobby blog btw), but if you post a recipe and it looks like a rip off of someone’s work or the recipe itself doesn’t work when your reader tries it those things will adversely affect you. Same with unappealing pix, hard to decipher layouts, etc.

    No one expects perfection in a newbie blogger, but they do expect content. Provide that and grow with your blog.

    To move from hobbyist to professional is a whole different discussion, one I hope you’ll have a future post on Dianne.

    • Oh my. I guess that depends on what you define as professional, Faith. A full-time job? Not too many people can do that.

      Nice job of outlining how to set expectations and what the bare minimum should be.

  44. Love this line from Flo above: “One should blog when one has something to share AND time to do it correctly.” Couldn’t agree more.

    I also have to ask: Just because one can never be The Beatles or the Rolling Stones, should one never start a band? In music classes, I doubt the teachers are telling the kids, “Here’s how you become The Beatles.” No, they’re teaching the kids to play music, to sing, to master an instrument, to develop an art and a craft. That’s a completely separate issue from learning how to be popular.

    I wish people would spend more time practicing their art and worry less about popularity. I think your job, as a teacher (if I may be so bold), is to give them the tools and the confidence to help them become the best artists they can be.

    • That might work for the two of you, but if I waited for inspiration + time I think I’d blog once a month. I guess with a journalism background, I’m used to coming up with something by deadline, twice a week. That doesn’t mean it’s always good.

      Some people don’t want to become the best they can be. That’s why it’s a hobby. Lots of people write awful novels in their spare time, but they love doing it, and maybe they don’t care so much whether they will ever be published. Maybe they never want to show it to someone who can help them improve it. That’s okay with me.

      And some people enjoy the popularity of a blog. Maybe that’s a main reason why they do it.

      You may be so bold. It turns out about half the class had already started a blog — they just wanted to know how to move forward or get to the next level.

  45. After over 15 years of marketing communications experience and as a novice blogger, I might have an interesting perspective to share. Personally, I can’t “publish” anything unless I’ve proofread it repeatedly and feel that I’ve put my best foot forward but what is my best foot right now? I am still a full time mom to two children, one with special needs. I run a very complicated household but decided to pursue my passion about food. I know my photography is not always fabulous but I’m learning and it’s getting better. Every post is another opportunity to find out what floats my boat and what floats readers’ boats. I know that by joining Twitter and blogging I am learning so much about social media that I have to know to be a relevant communications professional. I am also learning so much about cooking, blogging, and the world of food as a business and a passion. I consciously know that I am making some classic marketing mistakes but that’s ok for now. And I have felt overwhelmed by the volume of posts I see others doing because I realize how much effort goes into each one. But it’s a learning process and part of the learning is figuring out what my goal is for my blog and depending on that goal, what do I have to do to get there. Personally, for me, mediocre is never ok but each person’s mediocre is different. I don’t have a staff or a professional designer, so I can do what I can do with what I’ve got. I can do better by investing more time or money but that isn’t what I got right now.

    Dianne, thanks for facilitating an interesting discussion about a still new communications medium but one that is so fast-growing. It’s fun to be part of it.

    • Sure, Beth. Thanks for writing. Sounds like you are doing as good a job as possible while learning how to make it better. That’s all anyone can ask for. We are all in the same boat.

  46. Food blogging is a lot of work for me because I’m very passionate about good food. Lately though I haven’t been blogging much because I’ve been really busy and I didn’t want to write a post just because I need to post. I want each post be something I’m really interested in or curious about. I love comments because it either validates what I have posted or makes me want to improve on a certain recipe. I love visiting blogs of like-minded food bloggers so community is very important. Unless you are a very good writer that catches the attention of the reader from your first few sentences, a great picture of the finished product is a must. In the absence of aroma, we eat with our eyes first.
    Great topic, Dianne!

    • Well Veron, you have to decide what your schedule is and stick to it. If you can only handle a post once a month, then so be it. I don’t think that’s too much. You can plan them out and work on them a little at a time. But once you start saying you’re too busy, it can get further and further away, and soon you’re not posting at all.

  47. The really good blogs rely on really good content. If one is a hobby-blogger and can’t deliver quality content, then they are just not going to get the traffic – and neither they should.
    And, lets face it, there is simply no comparison between someone like Heidi Swanson and a hobby blogger!

    • I don’t know. I think some successful bloggers started out as hobbyists. They just kept at it and worked very hard. Everybody has to start somewhere.

  48. What a fascinating post combined with insightful comments. I’m thinking about all this right now as I’m thinking of taking my blog off the WP domain, give it a new look and why I should.
    I began my blog a year-ish ago simply to document my newfound interest in cooking and to chronicle my time working for the Olympics. However, along the way, I joined the world of Twitter and came across amazing people who were uber-passionate about food and it showed through the time and effort they put into their blogs, be it recipe writing, wonderful stories, giveaways and incredible photography. That’s when I realized if I wanted to engage people, I needed to offer a little more of myself in each post, which I think (hope) I do. The next step is learning how to take a proper photo. I think I’ve gone from bad to mediocre with the capability of falling into a decent shot from time to time. I shake my head at some early posts of mine when I see a photo of an incredibly tasty dish i’m so proud of looking unappetizing and grey to say the least., but it’s part of my evolution and it’s humbling but it gives me something to shoot for (pun intended).
    There is no right or wrong answer to your question, I suppose it all depends on what you’re looking for from your blog at a particular moment but the key is to be true to yourself while being realistic (which is tough). I never would have thought i’d have cared this much about my blog a year ago, but the journey of thinking, blogging and tweeting has taken me along this path and you’re either left to be true to yourself or not.

    • That’s funny, saying you’ve gone from bad to mediocre photography, Ethan. Nowhere to go next except to good! You are learning and trying to do a better job. I think that’s all that matters.

  49. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ethan Adeland, Mardi. Mardi said: If you haven't read @diannej 's latest post "Is Food Blogging Too Much Work?" you should. Fascinating post and comments http://bit.ly/f65hLD […]

  50. Can you write about how you tried a recipe that’s online, and just link to it? That way you won’t have to worry about adapting it, and people can get the real recipe if they want.

    You don’t have to have a blog with original recipes, but this way you don’t have to worry about appropriating other peoples’ work.

  51. I used to blog food. For fun. And it was hard work and it was fun and I enjoyed it anyway because I loved the creative aspect and the community. Somewhere along the way it changed to where most people I’d grown up blogging with either dropped out or switched gears and started to blog commercially. I started to be less comfortable with the community’s direction and gradually, over time, I decided to stop. I am glad I did it for a while anyway. I loved it. I hope to start another blog soon. It will be about things dear to my heart. It will not be a food blog. I hope, if I can find the time to make it as good as my vision for it is, that I will find the experience to be satisfying once again. It won’t be in an arena that lends itself well to commercialization and I hope I’ll be able to enjoy a bit of (less prolific) blogging again.

    • Ben, I hope you’ll go back to food blogging and do it the way you want. Who cares what your friends are doing? Do it for your own satisfaction.

      • Ben??? You must have had a long night, Dianne, it’s me, Sam, formerly of Becks & Posh. And I must beg to to differ with your reply slightly. I actually do care what my friends are doing. We started from nothing, together. If the focus of a community you are part of changes significantly, then it does affect the whole community. Even if you are pretty strong-minded, and certain about what you want to do, peer pressure is a powerful thing.
        I did start and end my food blogging career entirely for my own satisfaction and that is why I stopped. I got a bit lost in the middle by trying to make my blog a useful resource for its readers. I will always fall prey to that line of thinking. All the friends I do care about rarely blog any more if at all. I am so grateful for the people this hobby gave me. And I will enjoy thinking about starting a very different new blog one day. Whether I do it or not will be any body’s guess.

        Thank you for raising this subject.

        • Okay, I see your point. Peer pressure is definitely powerful. But ultimately you have to do what’s right for you, regardless of what your friends do. In your case you stopped, and now most of your friends have stopped too, so it all worked out.

  52. Once again, thanks for a thought provoking post Dianne. All of your points are valid but I can understand why some of the audience balked, especially if they’ve never had a blog before..

    I’ve been giving this (the thought of “is it too hard?”) a lot of consideration myself lately. I have 2 blogs and a full time job and have been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately at keeping both blogs updated. Of course, when I started my food blog, it was just for “me.” Then it got a little more popular and now, I feel the pressure to maintain it as you outlined; post regularly, take great photos, use social media, and work hard on the writing and the recipes. But that takes something which is in short supply for those of us who work 40 hours a week at a job outside of blogging; time.

    I don’t know if you did your class a disservice by showing those great blogs or not. They are certainly something to aspire to be, but perhaps we need a reality check. Do any of those bloggers hold down a full time job outside their blog or is their blog their job? For someone wanting to start a new blog, perhaps it would have been helpful to show what people can do even if they are not working on their blog 8 hours a day.

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it, especially when I put up a post I think is great and it gets very little response or my photo gets rejected by Foodgawker and yet I think it’s perfect. But then, I’ll get feedback or a comment that makes it all worth it. Right now I’m trying not to force myself to post just for the sake of posting, but rather, only do it if I feel motivated. If I lose the interest of some of my readers, so be it.

    • Wow, Kristina. Two blogs and a full-time job. That is a lot!

      I say, get used to the disappointments and the kudos, and try to stay in the middle and keep going. I used to date a VP of sales, who told me about that strategy. It’s about believing in your mission and deriving satisfaction from it, while trying to stretch yourself too.

  53. When I started my blog early this year, I did so because I love to write and I love to cook and wanted to parlay those two loves into writing for “real” publication. I was amazed to learn how many food blogs there are, of varying quality to be sure.

    My writing is good (although I think I must labor too long on my posts) and my early photography was mediocre to poor. I’m spending more time reading and studying than posting these days, because I want to improve my blog. I very much want more readers, more comments. (Friends and family love it, and I love that they do, but I want strangers to think my stuff is good.) And I will continue to blog. I’m using the Christmas holiday to revamp. Your book, Dianne, is a big help.

    I know I thought that this would be easier — and I believe that I will continue my blog because I enjoy it. But I want more and I’m willing to work at it to improve it. I just had no idea how competitive this world would be.

    • You sound pretty ambitious, Rosemary. I hope you keep posting while you’re studying. Glad my book is helping you out.

  54. I’m so happy to have found this post because this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. When I started my food blog a little over two years ago, I intended to make blogging a hobby, a way to share my love for food and cooking with friends and family. Over time, I learned how to tweak my writing style, to improve my photographs, and to engage more with other bloggers because I felt overwhelmed by the “competition,” so to speak. Eventually, I learned to let go of the “competition.”

    I constantly evolve my blog for personal gratification. Sure, I’d love to drive in more traffic and see more readers leave comments so I can get feedback, but those things aren’t fueling my motivation to better my product. I make changes to my blog because *I* want to see it succeed. Blogging isn’t the only thing I do. I work full-time. I volunteer within my community. I’m a runner. But I don’t let those other activities serve as excuses for not putting out the best content *I* can put out. If I constantly worry about what the other guy (or gal) is doing, I’m never going to enjoy it.

  55. I have visited here again and again – the diversity of thought regarding food blogging – the why’s, the where’s and the reality of the work is one of the more informative conversations I have ever read/had/spoke. I suggest your print these thoughts and take them to your next class! I’m certainly sending this link around.

    Is it too much work? It is sometimes – but as the saying goes, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

    • Yeah, and you might never make money at it either! But hey, we’re having fun.

      Thanks Claudia, for passing this post around.

      • Oh! The money thing. Yes, it’s a master. I write plays for youth for money (and love) and it is a thousand-fold harder than I thought it would be. As with all of you in the professional food writing biz, it’s always “fun” to to hear how easy your profession is- which goes with the assumption – how hard is it to write for kids? (How hard is it to write about food?).

        I like Faith’s thoughts on “the audience.” Bingo – whether writing for kids or food-lovers – you need to identify and satisfy your audience. And then bring something to the feast.

  56. As one of the (very satisfied) participants from that night, I heard 2 conversations going on — one by those who were taken aback, as is every novice writer for a moment upon learning that yes, writing IS work; and one by those who wanted to get discovered, yesterday! Neither group expressed much interest in craft, but that could simply be a result of the title/focus (after all, I didn’t go because I wanted to learn how to write; I went because one, I wanted to meet you, and two, I wanted to learn more about this blogging thing that all the kids are talking about! ☺).

    Your question reminds me of a delightful comment in a NYT Op-Ed by novelist Michael Cunningham that all food writers should steal and use as liberally as butter: “I teach writing, and one of the first questions I ask my students every semester is, who are you writing for? The answer, 9 times out of 10, is that they write for themselves. I tell them that I understand — that I go home every night, make an elaborate cake and eat it all by myself.” Now, chances are, you and I might, but you get the gist…☺

    • Hey Faith, great to hear from you. You’ve written a pretty fair assessment of what went on.

      It took me a while to get that quote, I’m sorry to say. Does it mean that he goes to a tremendous amount of effort every night, just for himself, and that is a bad thing? Sorry to be so dense.

      One of the first things I said that night is that if people just want to write for themselves, they should write in a journal. Once they go public, they’re writing for others, and they have to think about what that means.

  57. I want to create a blog like those I love to follow. Good writing and incredible pictures are key.

  58. You have made me depressed yet again, Dianne! Kidding aside, food blogging is indeed a lot of work. Should hobbyists get a pass on quality because they want to have fun? Sure, why not. If they write as a hobby then they shouldn’t be worried about blog traffic or the number of comments they get. If they write with a long-term goal in mind — for a cause, to be an expert, to establish a platform, to establish credibility — then they should be concerned about putting creative and outstanding content out there consistently. Either way, everyone should write because they enjoy doing it.

    • What a sensible comment, Jun. The problem is when people want it both ways: they want to do it as a hobby, but they want traffic and comments.

      • Of all the comments on this post, Jun’s (and your answer) is the one I agreed with the most. I agree with Jun: I think hobbyists should get a pass on quality! However, I think the biggest problem for most (like for me in this period) arises when you are in the limbo between the beginning of your blogging adventure (I just started as a hobby) and the mature phase (I found my voice, I do it with a serious purpose, etc). In between there is a period of time where you still think you do is as a hobby but at the same time you have started to care about your blog and your readers, to practice and research a lot on how to take better photos, to make your writing more meaningful. This limbo period is very hard and until you decide whether you want to do a hobbyist forever or not I feel there are high chances you can have moments of discouragement when you feel “it’s too much work to just call it hobby”. I think for me the hardest question is “how do I decide (or what makes me decide) that it’s not just a hobby?”

        • Good question. I don’t know that there’s any clear answer, other than you saying that it’s a professional blog. One of the definitions of a hobby is “an activity pursued in spare time for pleasure or relaxation.”

    • Jun, I agree with Diane’s response to your comment. It is very sensible! And I enjoy your blog – those steamed pork buns look like something I need to make right away!

  59. I showed my cynical side with the comment I left above, but here is what comes to my mind when reading your post: when people ask me about blogging and traffic the first thing I tell them is to figure out their goal. Hobby vs “professional” blogging (making money and building a business around the blog), yes, but there is also a third category where the ultimate goal lies somewhere outside of the blog with the blog as both a showcase of one’s work or talent and as a space where one can have fun, do what one wants and express oneself more personally. This goal will really dictates how much energy and time you devote to your blog as well as the direction of your networking time and focus. The second thing I then suggest is to figure out your strengths and weaknesses: are you a better recipe developer, writer or photographer? In my opinion, rare is the person who is great at all three. Or even two. This should dictate or guide the focus of the blog.

    Both of these things, goal and focus, put the question of traffic in perspective. Those who only devote themselves to their blog, (blogging events, giveaways and visiting other blogs) should have much higher traffic than those whose blog is a steppingstone to something that lies beyond that blog, which is a paradox and a trap since high traffic to the blog often makes or breaks a submission or a proposal. I also feel that those whose first skill is writing also tend to find themselves in a more difficult position since most blog hoppers tend to be drawn to fabulous food photography or come looking for a recipe, whether creative or simple and homey. One person asked me about my traffic stats. I replied that numbers depended on one’s goal: personally, it only took one person reading and falling in love with my blog to offer me a gig on Huffington Post Food. Or to have my blog featured on one famous cookbook author’s website. Or to be noticed by…. Well, you get the point. On the other hand, my blog traffic does jump when I spend a day or two visiting other blogs.

    Blogging has become so competitive as well as much more complicated these days than it was a few years ago and how to get people to read a blog is now a multi-edged sword. But you are right and it is always what I say as well, one must really love what one does, be passionate about it and always be natural. Writing for me is exhilarating, my blog is a playground that fills me with joy, even helping other bloggers and participating in the blogging community is great fun and extremely satisfying, and as my husband tells me every day, keep blogging, keep writing as long as you are having fun but the day it is no longer fun, the day it begins to feel like a boring office job, then stop.

    • This comment really resonated with me.

      I find blogging to be fun. My current blog is three years old, though I had one for 6 months before that. I love it when people visit my blog and comment, but it’s also a curse. Because then I feel like I’m disappointing people if I don’t post.

      My blog STARTED as an online cookbook. A list of my successes and failures in the kitchen, and a record of how I finally got that perfect roast chicken (Ina Garten’s with a few adjustments) or the perfect pizza for my oven (pre-bake at 340F for 15 min, add toppings, bake at 400F for 10 min).

      As a mom with a full time job, I like to share a bit of myself. I like to give tips on how to save money on groceries, how to cook simply and frugally. And some of my posts in these areas are quite good.

      But I’m not a writer. Some blogs I read are FABULOUS and I love to read them. I’m an engineer, my last writing class was in high school in the late 80’s, and my goal with my writing is to make it “not painful” for people to read. I never intend for my blog to be a moneymaker. I’d rather build legos with my kid than blog every day. And if I don’t have anything useful to say on a given day or week, I try to keep quiet.

      That said, I do try to improve my blog now and then. I see certain things that others do, like lists of their best posts, categorizing their favorite recipes, etc. And I think I will work on those to make my blog more user-friendly. But I’m not giving up my day job.

      • I’d also like to add that there are a lot of people out there with blogs similar to mine – frugal cooking, simple cooking, saving money on food. If I find one that is awesome (and that sells e-books for example), I will go out of my way to highly recommend them. And no, I don’t get part of the proceeds. I figure if you are visiting my blog to save money on food, I’ll pass you on to the experts.

        • Yes, those are well-worn topics, it’s true.

          Do you put them on your blogroll? That’s one way of telling people who you like to read.

      • Very practical, Marcia. You seem like a pretty good writer to me. I wouldn’t put yourself down.

        I love this line of yours: If I don’t have anything useful to say on a given day or week, I try to keep quiet. It makes me me laugh.

    • Well-said. You touch on the myriad of reasons one blogs and puts “expectations” into perspective. A blog is indeed a playground. And even on the playground, one wanted to “do well.” I like the sentiment at the end.

  60. No one should get a pass for doing shoddy work just because they’re doing it for fun. Did you ask anyone why they were there if they’re only doing it for fun and don’t care about attracting readers? Blogs (any creative endeavor for that matter) are so much work, why not do it right and do it as well as you can? What I’ve found (after teaching at a community college for ten years) is that a lot of people take classes and attend lectures because they want validation more than any serious desire to learn. Sometimes you can reach and inspire them, but sometimes you can’t, especially those who accept mediocrity as their end product. There are so many factors that go into whether something is popular or not. The only thing you can control is the quality of your work. Why not aspire to be among the best rather than just slightly better than bad? “Good enough” usually isn’t.

    • Because becoming really good at something is a serious investment. Sometimes people come to a class to see what’s involved, and then decide it’s too much work, or maybe they don’t feel as strongly about it as they thought. I’ve been there too. Nothing wrong with that. I have learned that only a few people in my classes will succeed, and that about fits the national average.

    • Validation seems to be the motivating factor for many people in many areas of life (how many women on your street are taking painting and sculpture classes?). The vacuous responses posted by readers to blogs demonstrates this often – comments like “way to go girl” add nothing to the dialogue and appear to be posted just to be heard. Interestingly, comments on this blog are usually considered and relevant to the subject, I think this tells us something about the quality of the content of your writing, Dianne.

      Time is a limited commodity. I admire excellence and enthusiasm in life. If a blog’s content and, to a lesser extent, style is mediocre (what we Australians would call half-arsed), I do not waste my valuable time reading it.

  61. Dianne –
    I hope you do realize that just reading the comments above is an education in itself! I have spent more than an hour here visiting each of the commenters blogs. What a variety of perspectives! The best part of all is that I can take from this and improve my attempts in the game. I value all the things that you teach us here and in your book – and I look forward to taking your lessons and trying my best to put them into practice. It is FUN, it is hard work, it is an addiction! Do what you love, don’t sweat the little stuff, keep your sense of humor, and the bottom line …. try to be better tomorrow at what you do than you were yesterday. Today? Enjoy the moment and spread the cheer!

    • Thank you Karen. Yes, people are complaining to me that they are spending too much time reading these comments. Okay, come back later then. They are SO worth the time.

  62. Fun or serious, everyone should take enough pride in what they are posting to the public to put out a quality post. Sure there will be days where your posts are boring, trite, uninteresting, or just plain bad. That [usually] can’t be helped considering we all have our bad days.

    But I personally feel if you’re writing a blog a regular basis (2-3 times a week minimum) then you should have the courtesy to write well. There is no excuse for setting the bar low and expecting a free pass even if you are simply a hobbyist. My food/life blog is more hobby than serious but I refuse to write poorly because of it. I take my work seriously even if I don’t foresee it becoming a serious endeavor (read: earn money or become very popular in the blogosphere) any time soon.

    Just my two cents.

    • From your standpoint, even if it’s a hobby, you take pride in it, take it seriously, and post often. I like your two cents. I guess it depends on how many other hobbies you have and how serious you take those. Could interfere with sleeping.

      • Eh. Sleep is overrated. I’m reading your book and getting ideas on improving my writing as well as making my blog better. Also looking at taking you up on some of the book suggestions you wrote about and some writers.

        Who needs sleep when there’s learning to be done? Wait, one can’t learn properly when sleep deprived and consuming mass quantities of coffee is not ideal. Hmm. I suppose I’ll have to re-think this sleep thing.

  63. Interestingly enough, I may have a way to do that. I would love to have you on the island. You’ll be hearing from me soon.

  64. Dianne,
    You definitely weren’t being a spoilsport. I wasn’t there, but maybe your presentation was too advanced for the crowd. Sounds like many in the audience wanted to learn blogging as a hobby. But, nevertheless, I think you helped them understand the difference between blogging for fun and serious blogging. Maybe they didn’t know the difference before. Maybe the name of your next talk can be, “The Difference Between a Professional Blog and a Hobby Blog”. Wow, now that I said that, I should do a talk along the same lines for hobbyists and professional photographers. :)

    • I’ve been thinking about that. I’m not sure there is a lot of difference. Since there’s almost zero chance of making a living income with a blog, then what differentiates a professional blogger from a rabidly enthusiastic — and talented — amateur. Perhaps the answer is: not much.

  65. Dianne,

    Thanks for your comments and perspectives on this topic, as well as the comments from your readers.

    I have been a professional writer (journalism, marketing) for 30 years. I find blogging to be infinitely more challenging than any job I’ve ever had.

    But so much more fun and much more rewarding (although not financially–yet). One of my biggest challenges is that in my profession, I had to be detached from the subject–now, with blogging, I talk about my innermost feelings and experiences as they relate to food, and that’s exciting and liberating but not always comfortable. So, maybe I am writing a food memoir and each blog post is a chapter.

    At present, I only have a phone camera so my photography is not up to par, and although I have been baking since age 14, I never really cooked much until the last couple of years. Therefore, the idea of “creating” recipes terrifies me, to be honest!

    Eventually, I’d like to derive some income from blogging but I have a lot of steps to take before that happens. No. 1, get a camera. No. 2, start giving myself deadlines because I am used to them being imposed by someone else. And so on.

    So, at this point I would have to say I am a “hobby” blogger with goals. I find blogging to be an amazing way to connect with others who have similar interests, but it is off putting to come across a blog with no posts for months. Yet, you never know what is going on in someone’s live. And in my own case, I have started several blogs, then evolved as to my areas of interest.

    It’s the holidays–free passes for everyone!

    • Hah ha. I don’t know if I’ll take you up on that free pass. Probably not.

      I too, am a professional writer and find recipe development scary. I have done it but I’d prefer to leave it to others who are much better at it. It is a different set of skills.

      Re blog posts being a chapter of a memoir each: it’s going to be a very short book then!

      Also, sorry to say, no income will result from getting a camera and giving yourself deadlines. “And so on” may be the key. It’s a long way off. Trust me on this one, for I have been there.

  66. I’m not sure why blogging should be seen as different from any other creative endeavor. . . if I want to sing, do I need pipes like Barbra Streisand for my singing to be permitted? (and believe me, except for the knock knees, I bear no resemblance to Barbra Streisand). I read some blogs that were begun simply so the person could have a record of recipes they’ve been making. As you said, Dianne, it’s a long shot for even a superior writer, photographer and recipe developer to really make a living at blogging, so on one level, we are all hobbyists doing this. Of course I realize that I’m technically writing for other people on my blog, but the core of what I write is for me. When I begin to think too much about stats, what readers want, how to increase ranking, etc, I stop enjoying it. Then it really is a job.

    • Yeah, it can seem overwhelming, can’t it? I agree, we are all basically hobbyists having fun and trying to figure out what it means.

  67. Dianne,

    I was at the class and found it both helpful and intimidating. I left questioning how I will ever be as good as some of those bloggers that were at the class, much less Amy Sherman. Learning a new skill can be daunting and while I don’t expect to EVER hit a home run, land a triple axel, or be David Lebovitz, I’m not, as someone commented above, aiming for mediocrity. I’m not sure if I have a great, or even good food blog in me, but I know people love my turkey meatballs and they are thrilled at the English toffee I’m handing out as holiday treats this week. I want to blog to share that feeling with others and feel part of a like-minded community.

    Some of the commenters here seem to have such disdain for us newbies it makes me wonder if they never cracked an egg and had shell in the bowl.

    • Ha! Good for you Debby. There’s something about the Internet that makes some people more judgmental. They all had to start somewhere, and it was that passion that you’re talking about that got them going.

  68. First, thank you for this fantastic website and for your book “Will Write for Food” (an early Christmas present to myself). I’m a new blogger and I’m new to exposing my food-writing to the world (or rather, to the five or so people who read it) but I am not new to cooking, developing recipes or to writing. I agree that blogging can be very time-consuming but I know I love it because I don’t notice the time whipping by. What I’ve found most extraordinary is how many of my few cherished minutes I use editing and refining what I’ve written. All those little scribbles and Word Docs seemed pretty darned good to me until I started airing them out. I am an aspiring food-writer just starting out and so all the writing and editing is useful practice for me. But I also see how a hobbyist, no matter how infrequently they post or how unseriously they take it, can improve their own recipes, their writing and the relationship between the two. I wish I’d started posting years ago back when I had even less time than I do now. How much better off I, my cooking and my writing would be!

    • Oh no, Christine. Editing takes time. You are better off now, when you can let it sit and make it as tightly-written and clear as possible.

      • I hadn’t thought of that. Blogging now while I have more time to edit is definitely better than having posted items that were half-baked. And yet, figuring out when a post is ready for THE PUBLISH BUTTON has made me a better writer and a better recipe developer. Had I been “publishing” as an infrequent hobbyist years ago, it would have been just as hard to click that button and my writing and my recipes would have improved as a result.

  69. Thanks for the post. I’m learning just by reading comments alone. Lately, I’ve been struggling quite a bit with time vs. quality regarding blogging. I think I would rather blog less often with higher quality posts than more often with less quality. But I understand there are trade-offs. Still trying to figure it all out…

  70. […] Will Write for Food Author and speaker and blogger, Dianna Jacob, poses the question “Are Food Blogs too Much Work?” […]

  71. Dianne –
    I have been thinking about this for a few days now, and the one thought that just keeps surfacing is that perhaps we are being a bit snooty here. Not all published works are at the level of a master like Shakespeare, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make money or get read. Not all blog readers are masters of the language, phrase, or craft of writing. Not all blog readers are looking for great literature. There are those readers who are just looking for a blog that hits home with them, that shares something in common, or that teaches them something even if it is at the kindergarten level rather than the doctoral dissertation. Some of us here are beginning to sound a little “superior” and I’m not sure that this is what they intended. To be included in the ranks of food blogger one only has to blog about some aspect of food. Since there seems to be no clear definition of “professional food blogger” I think we would all do well to be more kind and inclusive rather than off-putting and superior. And if we all did live up to the seemingly impossible levels of achievement that some bloggers believe we should reach, none would be any more special than the next. Maybe we should all just be happy that we are doing what we are doing. Some of us hope to improve and we will surely work hard to do that — for whatever reason drives our ambition. Not everyone can be “great.” Until someone actually defines what a great blog is and the blogging community accepts that definition, those who aspire to greatness will have to just take aim at their dreams and shoot for the moon.

    • Very sensible, Karen. I have also been thinking of what defines a professional versus a hobbyist and the lines are not clear at all. Certainly we all had to start somewhere and there’s no reason to be ungracious.

  72. I finally started taking my blog seriously three months ago. It’s also a platform for a culinary based business. Should I take content and quality seriously, YES! Do I want people to find my website and hire me? Yes. Is it work? Yes. Was I hobbyist before last summer? Yes.
    Has your blog and book helped me? Absolutely!
    Thank you for taking your work seriously. It helps those of us who need some guidance. Something I learned in college, writing is work, and re-writing, and writing again. Write every day and you can get kind of good at it. I’m lucky to have an Editor that lives in the house, and edits my blog (sometimes).But the more I write, the more confidence I have.

  73. As you may know I generally post recipes that I’ve created and tested myself. Since I’ve always had to create recipes for my cookbooks, I was in the habit and didn’t see any reason to use a lot of other people’s recipes when I blogged. Still, I do occasionally spotlight recipes of other authors that I think are really tasty and successful. But I’m surprised that you suggest that posting your own recipes is a key to generating a lot of traffic for a blog. It seems to me that many successful bloggers who have lots of traffic feature other people’s recipes. In addition, it doesn’t seem to me that readers really notice or care who created the recipe as long as it works. So, I’m wondering why you mention this as an important aspect.

    • There’s nothing wrong with featuring other people’s recipes occasionally. But adapting a recipe troubles me when it’s the main thing that a blogger does, week after week.

      It’s true that readers probably don’t care. For me, it is an issue of professionalism.

  74. As someone who has become addicted to blogging for the creative outlet it has given me, I agree completely with the comment that describes the whole thing as a journey. I began because I was inspired by reading and admiring the work of others, with no aspirations other than to see if I could do it. Having seen the quality of what’s out there, and the number of people jumping in every day, I have no illusions that my effort would be anything other than a personal project, perhaps to be enjoyed by my close friends and family. Did that mean I didn’t take it seriously? No, not at all. Just the opposite…I found myself enjoying the craft of writing a good post enormously, and it was easy because I felt I was having an intimate (albeit one-sided) conversation with people who knew me well. Why would I impose anything other than a high quality blog on them? Or on myself, for that matter? After all, this thing was living in the world, and even if only one person other than me ever read it, I wanted what they read to be worth their time and mine. Now, well over a year later, I am still talking to my friends in my head, and it’s a pleasant surprise to hear from a stranger once in a while and realize that this has grown beyond where I started. Is it gratifying? Heck yeah! Do I check my stats and wonder sometimes about who these people are, and if I can reach more of them? Yep. And I do try to support other bloggers I enjoy by letting them know that this stranger enjoys what they do. But regardless of whether the audience grows, I’ll still be sitting here crafting each post with the idea of sharing something of myself with those that I care about. And what better hobby can one have than that?

  75. Your post raises a dilemma only because it’s tying together two different issues. If you’re blogging just for fun, then sure, post whatever you want, however you want.

    If you actually want people to read your blog, that’s something else. Your family/close friends — the people with whom you would be sharing your recipes in any case — will always be your readers, but you need to offer more in order to draw people who have no personal commitment to you.

  76. I think that it is a labor of love, blogging. I have a stats application on my site, and I still have not figured out what works. Taste is subjective. I have entered many recipe contests thinking, this one will win! Many times the one I submitted at a whim wins. It is hard to say what people like. I keep throwing things out there to see what works. I borrow recipes only if I think they are good. I always give credit, if not, it is like plagarism. Except for the recipes that are so old you dont know where they came from. Those are fair game, and one of the most visited pages for me. “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” I love that quote and it sums it up for me. Its like a baby, you learn to crawl first, then walk, then run. No one knows everything going in. Some pick up on it quicker than others. Give them a chance, not everyone starts out as great writers, they become one. Its nice to see them evolve. Some of us don’t have a $3,000.00 camera or a photography degree. We make do and are better for it.

  77. First of all, I’d come any day to one of your talks if I lived where you live. I agree with many of the commentors above (though I’m always late on these discussions!). As a new blogger, I completely agree–it’s a lot of work! If I had read your post before blogging, I still would have started blogging. Now that I’m reading it after a few months of blogging (and not blogging often enough, I know), you’ve summed it up! I had no idea that I would really have to know how to take a pic and now am passionate about food photography! Just one more thing on my hobby list. And still I don’t have a voice or audience in mind, so the blog is far from where I want it to be.

    As a mom of 2 little kids who barely go to preschool, it’s hard finding time for perfecting blogging and perfecting cooking classes. Sometimes, I just don’t know where this hobby or dare I say “career” is going. And I most likely feel like this because I’m in that limbo phase that one other person referred to!

    Thanks again, for your website and book always bring me back to my passion, regardless of the other responsibilities in my life.

    • Shefaly, you’re doing a great job for where you are in your budding career. You’re trying to improve. So am I.

      Please don’t worry about perfection. None of us is ever going to get there.

  78. So glad to have found your post! I started my blog as a hobby, but after putting in so much time, you begin to wonder. I’ve starting blogging less, so I can take some time to figure out where I want to go with it. I had a steep learning curve with the photos especially, and they aren’t even where I’d like them to be. So looking forward to reading more on the subject. Happy New Years!
    -Gina-

    • Oh yes, I feel like I’m still in the steep learning curve part, so I know what you mean. Good that you are slowing down a little and taking time to figure out what’s next.

  79. Wow, I’ve been reading all these comments and it just reafirms my perception that food blogging is so competitive. I started my food blog in August 2010 because on my previous blog(which I started in March 2010) I started featuring more and more recipes and food related topics. I did it because I love food and cooking. And I realized that I found my niche: food. Even though it is a hobby (I have a completely different career in the military), I wanted to share with my readers the joys I find in cooking. My blog is about three generations of Puerto Rican women and how the family recipes have evolved or how I bring something new to our notebook of recipes. But the truth is that I started the blog as much for fun as for sharing, therefore I want to make sure that other readers find it appealing. One of the biggest misconceptions that people have is that when you look at the blogs you love, you see all this amazing photography, and it can be intimidating and some think you need like a high speed super camera. Ot the writing seems to be like out of Gourmet magazine article. So it can seem daunting, and yes intimidating. I think once you start finding your route, you can decide how hard you want to work on your blog, what look you want, etc. But at some point the blogger has to decide what is more important traffic or the look of a blog, because let’s be honest, we all navigate towards the great looking blogs.

    • It certainly can be overwhelming. I always feel like I could be doing so much more, too. I don’t know if you go through that.

      The photography on your blog looks terrific, Angie. It’s not just about a blog that looks appealing, though. You need content that grabs people, and a theme people can relate to.

  80. Dianne, I just found your blog today and have spent far too much time here reading. Great stuff and this post is so true too! I’ve been blogging almost three years and started it as an extension of the workshops I was doing at the time. Now find myself at the point where I need to decide where I want my blog to really take me…whether that is more of the same or into other mediums. Whew! It’s never simple. Thanks for all the great info.!

  81. Dianne, I wanted to let you know that our Kitchen Reader group read your book this month and posted reviews. I found your advice instantly useful and encouraging. Thanks.

  82. I am interviewing for a job that includes as one of it’s many functions designing and maintaining a dynamic on line presence: facebook, blog, twitter, etc. Let’s say it is a K-12 school site with weekly events and a major garden project. It is a 20 hour a week job.
    Honestly now, how many hours does it take to maintain an engaged – especially for a school age audience- on line presence?

  83. Am I going ‘old school,’ Dianne, to question whatever happened to ‘do your very best’ and ‘what you put into something affects the outcome/opportunity in the end’? Granted on the latter there are more subjective elements that come into play (writing capability, subject interest to a reading audience, etc) but if you go into something wanting to assert a mediocre effort, you would expect a mediocre reception from a reading audience. There are too many food bloggers doing great, inspired work to presume you can succeed without concerted effort in my opinion. Sadly I think this is a function of our work culture today. I feel it is obvious when reading/looking at someone’s blog when effort is being made, and the person has a passion, drive and/or ‘heart’ for what they are doing and that is compelling to a reader. It is to me as a reader at least.

    On the photography, food is a very sensual medium and a reader does ‘eat with their eyes first’. A great photograph can even draw someone into a recipe the reader might not be inclined to review. Not everyone has an interest in photography or an aptitude for it but trying to best capture your food I think goes a long way to attract interest.

    Food blogging IS alot of work and time. When I started my blog I naively thought ‘if I write it, they will come’ and quickly realized in addition to blogging I needed to find ways for people to find me! As with any job or chosen past time, one needs to weigh their goals for their blog and the time they spend on it with whether it is worth it to them. It’s a very personal choice but I firmly believe you can rarely achieve a higher gain than the effort you are willing to put into it.

    • Well said, Toni. Maybe I think that because I’m old school. I guess if people don’t want to “do their very best,” they don’t have to.

  84. […] I love to do. Well, that, and discovering great reads like Diane Jacobs’ blog  (particularly this post and its comments) and her book Will Write for Food (what a wealth of knowledge that woman has under […]

  85. Hello, Diane,

    Thank you! I got your book and have started a blog! It is fun! I cook for my kids anyway, now I document it and share from my experience. I have a hard time with taking ownership over recipes. Everyone cooks chicken soup. Everyone makes mac and cheese…

    I am glad I don’t wait till I have perfect text or perfect pictures. Otherwise there will be no posts at all.

    Thank you, Dianne!

    • How wonderful that you started a blog, Anna. I hope my book was helpful. And it’s great that you didn’t wait until your photos and text were perfect. We all know what happens if we wait for that…nothing!

  86. Food blogging could be a tedious task, but you need to enjoy doing it. Most bloggers dream big and many get there. However, I must say that every like that one gets on a post is like a huge victory. One should blog for fun. If one is too concerned about the stats right from the beginning, it’ll be too much pain. I started blogging a couple of weeks back and decided to post 1-2 recipes every week. Have posted 5 recipes till now, not a very impressive number I know :D. But what I want my blog to be, is a repository of recipes from Asia that people will enjoy cooking. So another tool that works best for me is “ReBlog”. I reblog some good asian recipes that I come across and share them with the world. I have maintained my own recipe index in a separate page. Thanks to this wonderful website by Dianne that keeps inspiring authors to build a platform before they jump on the boat :)

    • Ashish, congratulations on your new blog. You are right that you should not focus on the numbers at this point. Just enjoy the process. Be careful about reposting other peoples’ recipes, however. See my posts on that subject. Best of luck.

  87. […] also: Is food Blogging too much work? 5 ways to write a post on […]

  88. […] merito a questo, leggi anche: Is food Blogging too much work? 5 ways to write a post on […]

  89. Dianne, I’m a loyal reader of your blog and your book (recommending it to other food-minded friends who are interested in reading, writing and blogging about food). Professionally, my job is to teach master students on innovative online business models and social media technologies. In my classes, I often show existing online businesses as examples. Of course, not all of my students will become business owners, however my mandate as a teacher is to inform them on trends, standards of excelence, and ‘best practices’ as ideas that are proven to work. I would never show mediocre examples. People learn from excellent work of others, and being a hobbyist does not imply a commitment to mediocrity. For these reasons, I would not suggest you use mediocre blogs in your class, unless you would like to let your listeners feel the difference and compare and contrast different blogs for themselves.

    I think, for hobbyists the process is more important than the final effect itself (it’s through the process that we experience our hobby as fun; we engage in doing something and it puts us in a the state of ‘flow’, and that’s when we forget about anything else and focus deeply on what is happening in the moment ). So, your hobbyists are likely to prefer doing things at their own pace and would not commit to one-post-weekly kind of a schedule, simply because this interferes with the way they experience blogging as fun.

  90. I’m pretty sure most of us (myself included) suffer from a mental block at one point or another. While most may be discouraged, others take their time and focus to publish a proper blog entry, no matter how long it takes. Personally, I have numerous drafts on my blog’s dashboard that are waiting to be published with most of them comprising of short sentences or one-liners in bullet form.

    Though we can never surely know what goes on in someone else’s lives, some hobbyists should be given a chance and/or extra time as their namesake already suggests that they only blog for the fun of it or during their free time. But if a certain blog or page stays stagnant for far too long, then it would probably be best to stop checking back.

    I certainly hope that I can keep going strong with mine. Focus, focus, focus.

    • Hobbyists have to start somewhere, I agree. Some have built a hobby blog into a big career, and others are content to have it be a fun part of their lives. There is no right answer. I think it’s whatever you want to do.

      However, as you say, if someone hardly ever posts or has terrible photos and bad writing, they shouldn’t be surprised to have low readership. That’s just how it goes and it would be unrealistic to think otherwise.

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