Should You Start a Blog or Quit One? Depends Whom You Ask

Jan 202011
 

Blogging is either a demanding waste of time or the greatest marketing tool ever, according to two articles Faith Kramer sent me.

How can blogging be both? Let’s take a look:

1. Blogging is a Demanding Waste of Time

At Crain’s Chicago Business, a story called Bloggers quitting what they call a demanding task with few rewards profiles those who shut their sites. One launched careers of others on his site, but not his own. Another chronicled a sabbatical but when it was over, had nothing more to say. One became a parent and said his blog became less interesting because writing about his wife and family was off limits. The last person quit because he found it too much of a time sink. Says the article:

“Some have simply switched to another blog-like medium, say, Twitter or Facebook. Others have faced unpleasant facts about blogging. It’s cheap to do but usually doesn’t pay. Having a platform may be fun at first, but building a following takes much more work than simply typing and posting.

And millions of them go virtually unnoticed, despite the occasional breakout sensation like the humorous Stuff White People Like and the Julia Child-inspired The Julie/Julia Project.”

The story said that, for the first time, the number of bloggers in the US declined last year, the first reported drop in blogging. (It also reported there are 31 million blogs just in the US. That’s 1 for every 10 people!)

2. Blogging is the Greatest Marketing Tool Ever

Now let’s hop over to to a Blog called Marketing Conversation, with this post called 8 Reasons Why Now is the Best Time to Start Blogging, by Abraham Harrison. His first reason to blog is: There’s less competition for any particular topic. The previous story, by comparison, quoted a blogger who said there was so much more competition now than when she started her blog 5 years ago that she wondered how she could succeed if she had to start one now.

Harrison also argues that most blogs are on life support, so you can come in and own your space by blogging 4 times a week for 12 to 18 months. And instead of interviewing people, Harrison draws on his own success of increasing his blog ranking by hiring writers.

So who’s right? You are. If you haven’t started a blog yet, you’re the only one who can decide whether jumping in will be worth the time and effort. It depends on your goals. If you’re hoping for celebrity status and an influx of cash, you’ll be disappointed. If you have something to say, want to connect with other food lovers, or need a way to increase your online visibility, a blog could meet your needs.

And if you already have a blog, I don’t think it’s wrong or negative to keep evaluating if your blog continues to be worth the time and effort. For more on that topic, see the thoughtful comments on a previous post, Is Food Blogging Too Much Work?

  37 Responses to “Should You Start a Blog or Quit One? Depends Whom You Ask”

  1. I think it depends on WHY you are blogging. If you are blogging simply as a way to make money then yes, it’s probably a waste of time to start one now unless you fill some previously untapped market.
    But, if you are blogging for yourself, your family and friends, or just to share your thoughts with the world, then why not? I often get frustrated and then It ask myself “why am I doing this?” When the answer changes from “For myself” I will probably stop.

    • “For myself” is a perfectly valid answer, but it is different from writing in a journal in that you are reaching an audience. I hope that is part of the equation.

      It is part of the answer for me. Since it’s part of my business, I would add: to stay visible to target purchasers of my book, to add value to the book, to demonstrate expertise for speaking engagements, and to be part of a community that tries to figure out the issues of the day around food writing and blogging.

  2. The Why question is the most important. If you don’t have a clear idea of why you are starting a blog, what you want it to achieve and evaluating your strategy to get there as you go along you won’t actually have any benchmark for success. If the answer to Why? is ‘Why not’ then you are doomed to disappointment eventually I would think. It doesn’t have to be a grand objective but even blogging for ‘myself’ as Kristina mentions needs an audience – otherwise you might has well write it in a word document and keep it on your computer! Thought provoking post as always – cheers.

    • Thanks. I’m not sure everyone is looking for success, Sally, or approaches blogging in such a systematic way, especially if they do it as a hobby. Maybe if they decide to take the leap to attach the blog to their career, that will change.

      • I agree, and I certainly leapt in without being systematic to start with. But by success I mean that everyone has some expectation of success – even if their benchmark is if their granny reads it and likes it. As you rightly say that expectation can change.

  3. I am relatively new to blogging (3 months) so I can’t claim to be an authority on this. But I am approaching blogging as an outlet and hobby. I love writing, photography, and cooking, and it feels wonderful to have an outlet for those interests. I love sharing my ideas with friends, family and strangers, and I love how my blog has connected me with new people.

    Yes, it does take a lot of time, but so does any hobby whether it’s coin collecting (does anyone do that anymore?), playing XBox, reading, or exercising.

    Yes, it does require commitment, but many of the most rewarding things in life do.

    I wouldn’t drop my blog just because it’s hard work. It’s one of the most gratifying projects I’ve ever started. I’M HAVING FUN!

    • Hah. Your last comment made me laugh, Rivki. I guess if it stops being fun, that’s when to quit.

  4. Kristina I have a quick bit of commentary when you said blogging is a waste of time if you are trying to make money unless you find some untapped market. Food blogging is such a small portion of the overall blogging world. If you read literature with respect to general blogging, I think most of the niches have been covered.
    What separates one person from the other is their voice. I have been online with a website for over 15 years now, I think the content, and then the marketing of your blog is what brings you a greater audience. I don’t think the saying build and they will come has any real point nowdays. You may be able to uncover a special niche, that may work for a while, but you need to have a long term strategy for your blog to endure.
    There have been times during the past 15 years where the blog has been left not updated from time to time, but for me, it has been a wonderful creative outlet I have always enjoyed.

    • I have 2 blogs, one of which is 12 years old. I don’t do either for the money. I do it for myself and because others seem to enjoy or benefit from my experience.
      My point is, if you start blogging JUST to make money then it will likely be a waste of time. Not every blog has to be “marketed” or make money to be considered a sucess to the person who is doing the blogging. I have a feeling we may be saying the same thing. ;-)

    • And you’re doing so well with it, Stephanie! You have found an untapped market and you’re making money from it. One of the few to do so. Congrats! The best part is that you still find it fulfilling and enjoyable.

  5. Of course, life is seldom all or nothing (at least MY life is seldom all or nothing). I recently cut back on my food blog because it didn’t seem to be working as a marketing tool. But I’m doing occasional posts because it is still a creative outlet–and who knows, I could break out some day after all! I have started a new blog about my mother’s dementia, “Pulling Taffy” (http://mytaffypull.wordpress.com/), which ironically seems to be taking off very well. So I muddle along and, as you say, keep evaluating. Thanks as usual, Dianne, for getting us going!

    • You are welcome, Tinky. How fun to start a new blog on a completely different subject. I hope you can pull off two of them.

  6. Diane, another insightful and timely (for me) post! I have been on the verge of re-designing and re-naming my blog and suddenly I had a moment: Maybe I should quit this. I like the creative outlet part of it, I really like it. But I want to redirect its focus and maybe post less often, or even take a break. My blog doesn’t have much of a following and rather than shore it up and put MORE time in, I’m really thinking hard about re-evaluating why I am doing it. Initially it was with the idea of building a platform, using it to practice writing more often and eventually even publishing another book, but I am not so sure that a book is so important to me now. Wondering what you think about taking a break, or slowing it down? I had a minor breakthrough thinking about lots of different ways to use my expertise that go beyond publishing and writing, and I’d love to just log off for a while as I contemplate how I can be of use to people outside of giving them solid recipes. It’s exciting to contemplate such a shift, but I also find it hard to totally let go of my little blogging project. Whatever I decide, I will continue to follow your blog, it is always so insightful. Thanks, Dianne.

    • Thanks Sally. I loved your post about Mexico. You’re a gorgeous photographer. So I guess the camp didn’t get you all fired up to keep going, with lots of new ideas?

      Re-evaluating is worthwhile, always. Sounds like you are at a career crossroads and you need to think it through. If that means slowing down the blog to take more time, so be it.

      • Dianne, thanks for the compliment, I wish you had been there. The camp did fire me up, but I had an aha moment upon reflection. I think one has many stages of life, and at this point, with College Boy gone, I need to re-evaluate, or more precisely, re-integrate some of my life goals and see if blogging and even writing (for a while, anyway) fits in. Thanks for the support. :)

  7. Once you’ve answered the “why” you’re in business (or not). I have constantly re-evaluated my “why” and am again thinking of the focus and if I am sticking to my topic or veering off to Neverneverland too many times. My expectations are not monetary (good thing) and the rewards have been the interaction. There! I answered one of my questions to myself – I value the interaction.

  8. Rosemary and I started our food blog simply as a marketing tool — a way to let our clients know we are vibrant, hip, and tuned-into the social media thing. For that alone, it has been worth it. Yes, it is more time conusuming than anticipated and we have a very a small following. However, I’ve found that I really like blogging. I think about my next post as much as I think about my current work projects. (Like now, I’m supposed to be working!)

    • What a wonderful discovery, Rita. I hope it is working for you as a marketing tool. It seems like a smart idea, although it must be difficult to give away recipes when you are accustomed to being paid for them. I guess that’s a different post.

  9. My blog is five years old. I vary between seeing it as a business/platform/profession and a hobby (disclosure — I have NO ads or other way to make money off my blog but also don’t depend on it to make a living). There are times that I am more full of plans, times I’m just keeping it on life support, but I always keep it going. Why? I love being able to have a voice, share my ideas (and food) and generally participating in the discussion of life (well, food, anyway). It also gives me “journalist” type authority to participate in areas that would otherwise be off limits. Plus it has served as a catalyst for learning to be a food writer (and even generated writing assignments).

    The biggest reason I keep doing it is that it always makes me feel like the kid I once was with a typewriter and some carbon paper, typing up a neighborhood newspaper, except now I use blogger and my neighborhood is virtual.

    • Hah, love it, Faith. I never had a neighborhood newspaper but I had writing assignments from my dad, due on Sundays, so I can relate. You’ve listed several great reasons to have a blog. I feel the same way about most.

  10. Great points, and true. I think it is about the approach each individual takes towards blogging. I’m relatively new to the process, but I’ve found it very rewarding thus far. I believe its a great marketing tool and a wonderful way to network with others who are interested in the same thing you are.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  11. For me, blogging was initially a way to “keep a hand in,” writing regularly when there weren’t any book projects or assignments coming my way, spreading the gospel about Spanish cooking. But, I’m getting frustrated at how little interaction there is. Either no one is listening or my posts don’t excite any response. Without an audience, I wouldn’t write. Thanks for your insights–and also for the Comments from your readers.

  12. While it does seem like the market is saturated and bloggers 5 years ago are successful, I imagine it would be hard to have a reason to keep blogging without the community that exists today. 5 years ago it was hard work to get noticed for different reasons, probably (well, and some of the same reasons, too).
    I’ve heard many people speculate that blogging will be over in 10 years. It’s a strange thought.

  13. As always, such an interesting topic. I haven’t been blogging that long (3 years), but I’ve already noticed that blogging has turned into so much more of a professional pursuit than it was when I started. Everyone has professionally-designed logos, trademarked slogans, etc. on their blogs now–the branding has begun even before they start to post. And of course everyone is looking for a book contract.

    I totally agree that many of the wildly successful bloggers of today wouldn’t be able to break into the market if they had to start a blog right now, too. I can also think of one very popular food blogger who gained her platform based on consistent posting, day after day, even though her writing isn’t anything special and many of her recipes are fairly standard. Others, who post less often but may have better content, have much smaller audiences. So it’s difficult to see what translates to professional “success” in blogs today.

    On another note–this is directed at your linked post about creating recipes or using others’ (the post you sent us back to, above)–again I can think of at least two incredibly successful food bloggers that I regularly read, both of whom are now famous writers with book contracts who both post recipes exclusively by other people. In both cases, I am assuming, readers come because of (a) the writing; and (b) the fact that they trust that blogger to choose and post about recipes that are delicious and that work. Seems to have worked for those two. ;) I also read a lot of blogs that post original recipes that look good on the blog, but don’t actually work when made. Still debating which of the two approaches is preferable.

    • Good question about what defines success, Ricki. I will have to ponder that.

      Re the famous bloggers who use other people’s recipes, I hope they get their permission. Then it’s okay. I am not sure people come for the recipes anyway.

      • Oh, yes, they alway attribute; they’re not trying to pass off someone else’s work as their own, just sharing with their audience which recipes they’ve found that work well for them. I think their readers trust that they are able to choose foolproof recipes, and that seems to be enough. I actually do think people come for the recipes–I know that when I’m looking for a recipe, I always check with blogs first.

        • I suppose they come to a blog because they are looking or a particular recipe. The question is whether they stay for more.

  14. I’ve been thinking hard about this question since I first read it days ago —- I started my blog as a way to practice my writing, discipline myself, build a portfolio of work to display to prospective editors and build “the platform.” My formula, my strategy, was simple: Write a story about family, friends, work, everyday life, include a nice (not work-of-art) photograph (and not necessarily food) and finish with a recipe that was connected, but maybe rather loosely. I was having a ball until I started comparing myself to others and feeling compelled (competitive?) to “improve” my blog. Now I fear I’m losing my focus and spending more time trying to impress others, gather more followers ouside my few but faithful and less and less time exploring ways to sell my writing. I’ll figure out the right balance, but it is a dilemma.

    • You’ve hit on something serious that I haven’t discussed yet. We’re all guilty of comparison, and most of the time it ends up being envy. It looks like you’re on the other side now and climbing back up, Rosemary.

  15. Here’s some insight on blogging from someone who writes for a living, not a hobby. Sometimes I wish that I could cook for often for pleasure, and not take notes!

    I only started my blog in earnest a few months ago, and spent money on an experienced designer who did a great job in making the site easy to use. Personally, I definitely use my site as a all-purpose marketing tool. When I have a prospective client ask for my CV, I can easily direct them to my site, and there it is–looking professional. No, I am not making buckets of money, but whatever money I do make from my amazon Associates is welcome, even if it is $25 a month. I spend the money towards a cookbook I might not have bought otherwise.

    Making money is not the point: Having a lively, good-looking site that reflects my style is the point. My personal peeve is going to sites that copy other bloggers’ work, even to the point of taking credit. (I just was researching Steak Diane–no relation to Ms. Jacob- and saw the exact same recipe on three consecutive sites, including one “by Chef XX,” when the dates proved that his post was years after the original.) There is a difference between a post to fill up space and a good post with a recipe that other people will want to cook and make people come back to your site. If you are doing the site for fun, then this isn’t important, but if you are concerned about having those number high so you can get a Google AdSense account, then you have to think before you post.

    If you are a non-photographer like me, consider buying stock photos. I use http://www.dreamstime.com or morguefile.com. If you buy credits in advance, you can get thumbnail photos for about $1 each. I also worked out a deal with my cookbook photographer to use his work online with the exchange of a link to his site. In my case, until I gain more experience with my camera, I am happy to buy photos rather than spend the time practicing. The time saved is important to me. For me, the bottom line is how to juggle by time and produce good content, so if I can download a great photo in a minute for $1, I am happy.

    • You have an excellent website, Rick. I hope you’ve enjoyed adding a blog to it.

      I’ve written a lot about copying other people’s recipes. Some bloggers just don’t get it, others don’t care, and some say no one owns a recipe and that’s how they justify it. Sometimes I worry about preaching to the converted – only people who agree with me will read my blog.

      Thanks for the tip about the inexpensive photo website. I don’t use my own photos most of the time either. But then neither of us are doing step-by-step recipes.

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