Jul 192011

Strawberry Rhubarb Smoothie. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Strohmeyer of Virtually Vegan Mama.

What do you do when another blogger copies your recipes, ideas, and even gets the same freelance gig? That’s the situation food blogger Jennifer Strohmeyer of Virtually Vegan Mama found herself in recently, when another blogger took Strohmeyer’s recipe ideas for her own blog, and even got the same freelancing gig at the same website where Strohmeyer contributes.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. We’ve had lots of discussions here about adapting recipes. Everyone modifies everyone else’s recipes, it seems. Maybe Strohmeyer was imagining things?

I think not. Let me tell you what happened.

But first, a little background on Strohmeyer. She started her blog in mid-January (full discloser: Strohmeyer is a former client), sending photos to Food Buzz and Continue reading »

Jun 282011

Earlier this year, former Gourmet Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl began her consulting gig (rumored to be worth $250,000 annually) at Gilt Taste, a high end web food store that’s paying her to advise on food writing on its website.

Gilt Taste is a new kind of media for Reichl, one that blurs the line between advertising and editorial. That’s a sea change from her days at Gourmet, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. To my surprise, she welcomed the switch.

“The notion of the wall between advertising and editorial,” she begins in an interview with Eater, “If you’re dependent on sales and you only have things you are really proud of, there’s no need for that wall and there’s no reason to be embarrassed by saying a product is great and this is why it’s great.”

Really? My eyes widened. So she’s assigning advertorial now, where a company pays to get an enthusiastic article that looks and smells like regular journalism? And her big name freelancers are going for this? The former magazine editor in me got ready to protest.

No, no, and no. It’s so much tamer than that. Some of the stories have links to products Gilt Taste sells. That’s it. Links.

(Here are two examples. For a recipe by New York Times regular freelancer Melissa Clark on steak and potatoes, the words “boneless ribeye steaks” are hot, and they link to a catalog item for $127.95 for four Continue reading »

Dec 222010

An urgent email from a p.r. person offered me payment of $50 per post if I would write 9 to 15 posts about a bakery chain over the next three months.

Obviously, she had never looked at my blog, because I don’t qualify. And anyway, I wouldn’t do it.

The question remained, however: Should food bloggers write sponsored posts, and under what circumstances?

In the email, the p.r. person took it upon herself to suggest what I might post about:

  1. Sharing recipes from the bakery
  2. Talking about what breaking bread means to you
  3. Sharing your thoughts on going to the bakery
  4. Linking to video assets of cooking /baking lessons.

(And if I wrote the maximum of 5 posts per month, that would be 15 posts @$50 each = $750.)

The p.r. person also wanted me to drive traffic to the bakery’s website on Facebook and participate in a Twitter party. I’d get a few free meals from the bakery. I’d also get a guaranteed minimum payment of Continue reading »

Nov 012010

While at a doctor’s office last week, I read  an editor’s letter in Conde Nast Traveler, about the importance of telling readers the truth. I tore it out (sorry) and brought it to my desk to ponder.

I started out thinking her credo was noble, but then lost out to cynicism.

Editor Klara Glowczewska invoked the words of the founder in her editorial: “We are wholly independent. We pay our way. We have no hidden obligations. We have no higher obligation than the one to you: to provide truth in travel.”

This philosophy, she wrote, is even more relevant now, “with the proliferation on the Web and in other digital formats of travel advice from thousands of unexamined sources, a tide of unfiltered bits of data masquerading as reliable guidance and clamoring for our attention.” Translation: she doesn’t respect web writers.

She’s tough on freelancers. They can’t even fly at a “discounted rate.” “If we discover that a reporter has accepted favors while on assignment,” she writes, “…that person can no longer work for this magazine.” Traveler correspondents must always be anonymous, too. “If we were to accept favors, our views and recommendations would lack authority — and we pride ourselves on Continue reading »

Sep 302010

Food blogger Amy Sherman of Cooking With Amy

First I just Tweeted about this offer because it was so outrageous. Then I decided no, it’s worth sharing with you.

Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy sent me an unsolicited email she received from a company that wants her to feature its product on her blog. That’s not unusual, right? But read on, and you’ll find some crazy requests. Here’s how the email begins:

“The event is at a culinary trade show in Italy. You would be picked up at the airport  for the event, lasting two days. We would put you up in a hotel and cover all meal expenses for the 2 days of the show. “

Sounds reasonable so far.

The Request

But now it gets suspicious Continue reading »

Aug 022010

Back in April I put my first ad on the site. It’s over on the right, a network of revolving ads from BlogHer. Now that I’ve brought it up, you’re wondering whether I’ve made any money, and whether it was worth it.

To the first question, yes, a check finally arrived recently. But it was only enough to cover a Mexican dinner for two. I was disappointed, but I don’t hold it against BlogHer. The model for online advertising stinks compared to print.

Let me explain. In the past I was the executive editor of an international magazine. I felt proud when I realized recently that its annual readership was once the same as the number of annual unique page views on my site. To buy an ad in the magazine cost hundreds to thousands of dollars for just one issue, however. Here on my website, it costs pennies to reach the same number of eyeballs.

At the magazine, the money from advertising supported a staff of around 20 people. Here, I can get a few enchiladas.

Still, it’s been a good experiment, despite ads for Coffeemate and Crystal Light (not classified as junk food, which I banned.) My relationship with BlogHer has grown. I got paid to syndicate a post on recipe writing on the BlogHer website. Last week BlogHer’s syndication deal with Continue reading »

Jul 012010

Befriending chefs and purveyors when you’re a food writer can be perilous. Worse yet, the practice can come back to bite you in the butt.

And that’s exactly what happened to Josh Ozersky, a food writer who got married recently in New York and showed poor judgement when planning for his wedding.

The trouble started when he accepted food from his buddies in the business as  presents: free bread, dips, seafood, lasagna, strip loins, and a free place to hold the event.

Then he devoted his column on Time magazine’s website to promoting the food and purveyors, never mentioning that his buddies supplied the goods for free, and saying most caterers “aren’t really good cooks” anyway.

Another food writer, Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice, busted him in an open letter, suggesting the food and venue could have cost $24,000 and asking whether he paid. And then the New York Times did a fascinating story about not only Ozersky but the whole issue of restaurants getting an increasing number of requests for free meals.

Time got so many comments on Ozersky’s column that they Continue reading »