Free Class To Watch Anytime: How to be A Better Food Blogger

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Last week, I took part in a Google+ hangout: A free 1.5-hour panel on How to Be a Better Food Blogger with

And it was a blast! This was my second public Hangout on Google+. It was a huge success, with close to 200 participants and more than 400 comments and questions about the session.

If you haven’t seen this video, I hope you’ll watch or put it on in the background while you’re cooking. Typically you’d only have access to a session like this during a conference — for which you would have paid beaucoup bucks — so please take advantage of a freebie. The panelists discuss best practices for bloggers, writing craftsmanship, structuring posts, writing killer titles, and we take lots of questions from the crowd.

I’m still learning how to use Google+, and I don’t have many followers yet. Google hopes it will eclipse Facebook and Twitter as a way of sharing information. What’s different about it is the access to free video. You appear live on a Hangout that’s automatically recorded to appear on YouTube (unless you are charging for it, and if so, you can turn off that feature), and you can invite others to join you.

While it’s fun to do free hangouts and have yet another channel to share content, I’d like to see this medium evolve as a way to make money. I know. I’m so crass. But God knows, we already have lots of opportunities to share our content for free.

Some people are already trying to making money. A pioneering group, ChefHangout, charges for cooking classes. Chef Dennis joined in September 2011, originally one of 24 chefs. To be expected, it has been slow going and some teachers have dropped out.

Dennis’ first class was almost a year ago. His most successful one so far was on paella, with seven people paying $45 each. “It took me a little over an hour to do it. Not a lot of money, but I never left home, and my wife and enjoyed a wonderful dinner afterward,” he concludes. He has another one-on-one class that lets students choose what they want to learn to make. “Those classes can go up to $150 but still are a great value for what they’re getting.”

For me, this medium comes down to video and whether there’s a way to charge for it. Are you active on Google+? If not, why not? If so, do you use it to share content, or do you think there’s a way to make money? If so, what are the possibilities? Let’s brainstorm.

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  1. says

    Thanks so much for mentioning me in your article Dianne, I had a great time with you, David and Holly, in our Hangout on Air, Event. It was truly a mini food bloggers conference. I look forward to our next hangout!

    • diannejacob says

      It was fun, Dennis. Thanks for explaining how your cooking class is going, and for all your technical support.

  2. says

    Dianne, thank you for always managing to spark great discussions with your blog posts. As for Google+ hangout videos, right away (from the cooking class example you provided), I see an opportunity for you as a writing coach. Your food writing workshops could easily be done in this manner with small groups, should you find this venue suitable. For those who are unable to travel to one of your workshops, Google+ hangouts could be an affordable and/or convenient option. And, just think…you would be able to work in your comfy, fluffy slippers from home!

    • diannejacob says

      Aha, I have been wondering the same thing. David thinks it’s a great opportunity for me. I am often in my comfy, fluffy slippers at home. One thing I’ve wondered is whether I need to create more opportunities!

      Thanks for your endorsement, though, Stacy. I’m so pleased you thought of it.

    • diannejacob says

      Hah! Poor guy. I don’t think I could get mine to do the same. But I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it, Lea Ann.

  3. says

    I do have Google + account. I set it up about a year ago after the (free) three day session on blogging through WordPress, conducted by Justin Seeley. Justin convinced the thousands of viewers to start up with Google + .
    I have not had the success that I have with FB. My FB page is public and so is Google+.
    That said, I feel it would just be redundant. I’ve only gained the same friends from FB on Google. Who wants to see my blog posting twice?
    Then, to add to the redundancy, if one has joined various FB groups, you have now posted your blog to those groups, your main FB page, and now Google+ where the same people are your “circle of friends”.
    I follow my stats on my blog. So…I just post where I gain the most viewers to my blog which is FB.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes, I have struggled with the same thoughts. Did you read Irvin’s argument in the post I linked to at the end of mine? He says if you’re linking to the same people you’re already hooked up with elsewhere on social media, then you’re doing it wrong. Take a look.

  4. says

    YAY YAY YAY! I was traveling at the time of the live video and didn’t know it was recorded, can’t wait to watch! Honestly I’m still unsure about g+. I think it has a lot of potential but I don’t think I fully understand it yet. I’m definitely sticking with it for a while though, because it’s not a social media that’s a bother to use, some others are (there are endless places for bloggers to share their work and engage with others, I don’t think there’s time for all of them). We’ll see what the future holds!

    • diannejacob says

      Yes, me either. I’m a newbie. I think what’s important is to do something different with it than we already have going on with Facebook and Twitter. That is what makes Pinterest valuable, that food bloggers connect with it in a new way, with new readers.

  5. says

    I have to run to class and am taking this with me on my ipad to listen while I drive.
    ‘No comment left behind’ has always been my policy.
    What a great crew of mentors you are and so generous to share all this information with us. Thank you!

  6. says

    Thank you for sharing this video. What a treat it was and so much information. The link above, Irvin Lin’s excellent discussion: The Food Blogger’s Guide to Google+ is not working.

    • diannejacob says

      Dahlia, thanks so much for letting me know about the broken link. I just fixed it. Sorry about that! I hope you will read it.

  7. says

    I enjoyed watching the Event live Dianne and so enjoyed hearing you in action! You delivered so many relatable examples of the way to and not to do things I feel sure any bloggers could identify with. I’ve mentioned to Dennis I think there must be a way to harness this medium for the instructional aspects of what one experiences at blogger conferences. So many cannot afford the time or the cost to attend conferences, why not create similar sessions on G+ that are interactive with a fee to fill that gap? Time to put the thinking caps on!

    • diannejacob says

      So glad you like that idea, Toni. I am definitely thinking about how to do it. I don’t think they’ll ever replace blogging conferences, because meeting people in person is hugely valuable. I’m off to Food Blog South to do so next week.

  8. says

    I personally think there is a huge opportunity for bloggers to make money with video, but I wouldn’t bother with G+ Hangouts. While great for a panel discussion, cooking is evergreen content and doesn’t need to be live. A cooking demonstration will be just as valid 10 years from now as it is today. While you can record your hangout for your YouTube channel, the quality isn’t as good and goes unedited so why not just record it, edit it and put it out for eternity on your channel. Video is a lot of work and you don’t want to have to redo it later.

    If you can get a decent amount of views on your YouTube channel you can make money as a partner. Video ads pay very well at significantly higher CPMs than ads on a blog. While it is difficult for most people to get started on YouTube, bloggers with a following have a unique opportunity to jumpstart a new YouTube channel. By embedding your video on your blog you immediately get YouTube views from your following. Since YouTube counts embedded views the same way they count regular views, you immediately get traction and YouTube starts to feature your videos on their recommended videos because of the views they are seeing. All of a sudden you may start to see viewers from YouTube and ultimately that could become a whole new following that is monetized as a YouTube partner.

    This is how we did it! Within a few weeks we will have more total views on our channel than Food Network has on their YouTube channel. We already have way more than Martha Stewart and we started only 2 years ago. Food Network and Martha started their channels in 2006. Individuals can beat the big names and make money to boot.

    Once you start to get a following on YouTube you promote your blog to your new followers. You can even link from the video straight to your blog (this was just added recently for partners). They need the recipe after all! Now YouTube starts to support your blog and the cycle continues! Just remember to use metric as well since you will get more viewers outside the US than inside. Overseas viewers love American recipes, but they have no idea what a stick of butter or cup of flour is!

    So to answer your question Dianne, yes bloggers can make money with video, in fact they have a unique opportunity most people don’t! Start with your iPhone, it takes great video and move up to more sophistication once you get the hang of it. With so many food blogs out there it is really hard to get above the noise, but very few people are doing video and it is wildly popular and getting more so by the day!

    Rick Jaworski

      • says

        Rick, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with YouTube video for Joy of Baking. You provided such helpful information. I have been a follower of Stephanie’s since 1998 ’96 even before becoming a follower of David Lebovitz, in 2000, after his first cookbook, Room For Dessert (1999), was published. Stephanie truly is our first successful food blogger! Thanks again.

        • says

          That is so nice of you to say Stacy. I appreciate it more than you could possibly know. Yes I’ve been doing this a very long time, it will be 16 years in May. It isn’t easy being the first in anything and it often disrupts the applecart, but I’ve always pushed beyond that and listened to my followers first and foremost. Two years ago I realized my followers wanted video because baking is difficult and video helps bridge that gap in a way no other medium can. It isn’t easy and I really would rather not do it, but that’s what people want so I give it to them. So my advice to all bloggers that would like to take their blog to the next level is to listen to your followers over what you may hear from others in this business. That’s been my mantra all along and it has served me very well.

          Stephanie Jaworski

        • says

          I’m happy to help. Video has a steep learning curve so if anyone has any questions or needs some tips contact me offline. We just heard yesterday we are going to be working with YouTube directly to expand our audience with their help. So I may learn some things directly from the people that know what works that I may be able to share at some point. Maybe we can start a food video community if there is enough interest.

          • says

            So nice to connect with you both via Dianne’s blog. Thank you for sharing, Stephanie. There’s no doubt in my mind you upset some applecarts along the way, LOL. There is a timeline (although not all-inclusive) for food blogging in the book, Food Blogging for Dummies. When I read the book last spring, I immediately went to the beginning to see if your name was there. You were certainly overlooked for 1997, Stephanie! And, Rick’85thank you for offering your expertise with video. It is much appreciated. To both of you’85congrats on your YouTube success. So glad to have connected with you both via Twitter. Meanwhile, I am still kicking myself for not starting my site (blog) back in 1998 when I registered for the domain. Ugh! (LOL)

          • says

            It is great to connect with you too Stacy! It sure does make you wonder what’s going on doesn’t it! We are living testament to the fact that being constantly mentioned (or at all) is not a requirement to be successful.

  9. says

    Wow, what a treat! Thank you, Dianne. I had time today to watch the video.

    Terrific insights were provided on food blog writing by you, David, Chef Dennis and Holly. My big takeaways were developing a persona (true to life, of course) as part of your brand and being consistent with it while creating a personal narrative via good, old-fashioned storytelling to include a captivating beginning, middle and end in each post. Also, developing good characters, as David mentioned, is essential. One writing teacher once explained that not having well developed characters, with strong arcs (as David also pointed out), is like having a bunch of walking stick figures (with no substance).

    The most important thing I learned in my screenwriting classes, and from reading books on the subject, is to create characters and stories that elicit emotion. This is what audiences “identify” with or connect to. And, as you explained, this connection can be from sharing the simplest of life’s stories. People relate.

    As we all know, the very best stories always come full circle with an even deeper meaning or message at the end for audience impact. This, too, is what audiences identify with or connect to. I appreciated how David used the theatre to provide examples of classic story structure with his personal story of almost burning down the house while reducing maple syrup. (Poor David!) Since I often refer back to my screenwriting knowledge base, when he started describing in his own terms “rising action”, “climax” and “falling action” and, specifically, the term “d’e9nouement”, I understood him completely. Plain and simple, good storytelling is good storytelling no matter the medium’85playwriting, screenwriting, novel writing or food writing.

    Finally, my favorite takeaway was how David put all of this in the simplest of terms as to how food bloggers should approach their writing to connect with their audiences. He explained that we should write our nonfiction as fiction. This is brilliant! Every good story has a good cast of characters with backstories and arcs, interesting settings and captivating storytelling. David conveyed all of this so eloquently in one short sentence. Adding to this, and just as brilliant, was Holly mentioning that good writing can stand alone as the written word’85without fancy graphic design or captivating photos.

    Thank you, Dianne, David, Chef Dennis and Holly for being such exceptional teachers and for providing this mini food blogger conference. xoxo

    P.S. To answer your question, Dianne’85I am not active on Google+. However, you now have me seriously considering it! I think you could offer not only writing workshops but also a subscription (perhaps monthly?) for followers who wish to keep updated with discussions resulting from your blog posts. So cool! I would definitely sign up for both.

    P.P.S. Oh, one more thing. Dianne, the example you outlined for adding value to blog posts is exemplified with Winnie Abramson’s latest post at Healthy Green Kitchen of January 14th. She not only provided a “healing” type of soup recipe, she went on in her post to provide her readers with a good handful of natural home remedies for the cold and flu season. She also provided a helpful link to another site for additional natural home remedies. Her most recent post is a very good example to show your readers how to add value to their blog posts.

    • diannejacob says

      Stacey, what an essay! Thanks for summing up the main points of the session. Not all bloggers are storytellers, but if they are, David has provided great tips. All storytelling, like screenwriting, benefits from story arcs and emotional connections.

      Thanks for the idea of what to do on Google+. I will mull it over. And now I’m off to see Winnie’s latest post.

      • says

        Yes! Do check out Winnie’s latest post. It would be an ideal blog post to deconstruct for teaching purposes for your writing coach workshops or talks. As for Winnie, I shared with her that I mentioned her latest post here on your blog and gave her props for being a terrific, shining example for other food bloggers to follow. Definitely mull over Google+ as a venue for coaching. I agree with David…it would be a great opportunity.

  10. says

    Hi Dianne! Thanks so much for including my Google+ post link above! That’s very sweet of you. I think it’s difficult to think of Google+ in general as a way to monetize. That’s sort of like trying to think of how to monetize your Facebook or your Twitter feed. Most of the time, those sorts of things are there to help drive traffic and create communities for your blog. They are supplemental, not necessarily the final product.

    That said, I agree with Rick that YouTube channels are a great way to actually make money in terms of ad revenue. But I think Hangouts have potential. I’m curious to see how Chef Dennis’ ChefsHangouts work out and if it can generate revenue. However another (and potentially better) model could be the way that CreativeLive sets up their video seminars. All seminars (which are usually geared around photography – Penny DeLosSantos did one for food photography a couple of years ago) are streamed live to view. But if you want to view it again, or download it, you have to pay for it. I believe this model keeps them afloat, as CreativeLive seems to be doing really well…

    Just some food for thought.

    • diannejacob says

      My pleasure, Irvin. It was a great post.

      You’re probably right about Google+ not being a way to generate revenue directly. Most commenters here have not laid out any ideas for themselves — though they have had a few recommendations for me! Plus I did detail that it’s been slow going for Chef Hangout, so there’s always that to deal with as well.

      How interesting about CreateLive. That model makes sense. I’ll have to check it out.

  11. says

    Dianne, wow is the word floating around in my head. I just watched the hangout video via your post and my head is spinning. Hard to believe I was able to share in such an informative and valuable session for free. First experience with Google+, I am now a fan.

    I am not new to baking as I have been doing it all my life, but I am new to writing a baking blog. I gained a wealth of information from everyone on the panel. I have pages of notes to process and I’m sure I will be watching the video again.

    Your concise approach to sharing information is appreciated and easily digestible. I learned much from your workshop last year, and again while watching the Google+ video. I will revisit my writing and take a fresh view through the lens of the knowledge you have shared along with all the others on the panel. Thank You! (Just ignore the exclamation point.)

    • diannejacob says

      Hi Mary, I loved your post on the grapefruit cake. Good for you for not just tossing it and starting over.

      So glad you enjoyed the video, and thanks for attending my workshop. The one in St. Louis?

  12. says

    I stumbled across this today and have to say that despite a huge ‘to do’ list, I sat here transfixed and watched, listened and took copious notes. Thank you all for sharing and for making this very informative post. I’m now about to take a peek at my about page, slighlty terrified but empowered to do smething about that.

  13. says

    I didn’t get around to watching this until today, but it was worth the wait. I so appreciate having access to the minds of experts who have been successful with food writing and blogging. I found the information to be very practical and I took detailed notes. Thank you for the great content.


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