Has anyone not heard of David Lebovitz? He’s a super successful American food writer blogger living in Paris. He’s also a gorgeous photographer, author of five cookbooks and one memoir, and author and co-author of two apps.
I first met him on email in 2005, when he endorsed my book, Will Write for Food. Recently we spoke about his success and philosophy on food blogging, writing cookbooks, social media, and how he finds the time to get it all done:
Q. Why do so many people adore your blog? What is it about you and your subject matter?
A. It’s a combination of things. Part of it is I started a long time ago so I’ve had a long time to practice, to learn about blogging and build a site. Part of it is I live in Paris and that interests people. Plus I worked as a professional chef, which is part of the mix. People say they feel my blog is very personal; they know the person behind it.
My blog is largely about cultural differences because I’m a foreigner living abroad, and the longer you live somewhere, the more it gives you more credibility. And perhaps people can relate to being an “outsider.” Years ago I was more of a critic of certain aspects of French culture, but now I’m more of an observer and I try to be more neutral. The longer you live somewhere, the more you understand how people are and I’ve become more integrated, too, and understand the culture better.
Q. How has your blog changed since you started your website in 1999? What kinds of posts do you no longer do?
A. Now I microblog on Twitter (105,000+ followers) and Facebook (26,000+ followers). I used to do link round-ups on my blog, but now I’ll put links and short things on Twitter, and pictures on Flickr or Instagram.
Q. How do you decide what to put on Facebook and what to put on Twitter?
A. Facebook is more about linking. Twitter is more about thoughts. When I’m out and about I can easily tweet a social observation or a photo of a bakery. I find that when people link to too many things their Twitter stream becomes less interesting because it’s no longer about them.
Q. How many times should a blogger refer to his or her most recent post on social media?
A. Once. You’re allowed to do it twice, but only if you sincerely believe people missed it and it’s a truly exceptional, amazing post that will revolutionize the world of food blogging.
Q. What was the turning point for your blog, when you knew it was successful?
A. The day I actually ran my fingers through Michael Ruhlman’s hair.
Q. Right, I was there! It was at the Food Blogger Camp in Mexico.
A. Yes, it was. Actually, I don’t look at statistics very often. It’s kind of a waste of time. When I was selling my current book, I saw that they were looking to base the advance somewhat on my online readership so I did check then. In general, book sales have been healthy because of my site. That’s what every author wants.
Q. Are your posts getting longer and longer?
A. My goal is to write a post that someone can read in 3 minutes or less. Even if it seems long, there are a lot of photos that people can scroll through. But I aim to write something readable in a relatively short amount of time.
Q. What’s the most important change you’ve made on your blog in the last year?
A. Moving to WordPress and switching servers. WordPress is so much easier to use, compared to Movable Type — which is for developers, because you have to know code. I had a wonderful web guy who was a Movable Type expert and then he stopped working with clients and I couldn’t find anyone who did Movable Type work, which led me to change.
Q. Which is your first love: writing books, blogging, photography, or social media?
A. I actually like blogging. It’s more fun than writing books because I can write something and post it the same day. I like the immediate feedback. And I can go back and edit things.
Writing a book is interesting, though, because the process is longer and I learn a lot when I’m developing recipes. It’s difficult in a small apartment to deal with the recipe paperwork and the notes, though. And, of course, all the leftovers!
Q. Do you have one post that you think is amazing?
A. My posts on food blogging, food photography, and Paris information get lots of feedback.
Q. On your post about food blogging, you suggest bloggers “find your niche.” Some people worry that they will get bored with their niche. How do they avoid that? Can you chance a blog into something else?
A. You have to start a blog about what interests you. Now I’m branching out doing more savory recipes, because there are only so many desserts. I don’t make chocolate tarts every day.
People should blog about what their life is about. You can start or stop a blog, but I never get bored with my blog so it’s not been an issue.
Q. I was at a conference recently where someone told me that recipes are meant to be shared, so what’s wrong with sharing them on a blog?
A. Music and movies are meant to be shared, too. But you can’t copy and redistribute them. If you have nothing to add to the recipe, you should just link to it. That’s sharing. Otherwise you should adapt it and write it as you made it.
Q. My sense is that you are interested in technology and often one of the first to jump on new media. Is that essential to be a food blogger or social media maven?
A. If you mean apps, my publisher provided my first app. For the Paris Pastry app, I wanted to do a pastry guidebook back in 1993 when I first moved to Paris. (It’s amusing because I still have those notes!) So when a friend who is a publisher approached me, we did it together. But in terms of being a techie, I can’t read CSS, I have no idea what it is, and I have no idea how to switch servers.
Q. Do you hire technical people?
A. Yes. They oversee my site, dealing with any technical stuff like WordPress upgrades, changing a font, cleaning up pages, or having something redesigned to be cleaner to read. I’ve hired web developers since 1999 and I think they’re a worthwhile investment.
In 2000, just after I started out, someone else who was starting out said they wanted to do it all themselves. I said, “Do it yourself and you take that time away from your baking and writing.”
Q. Let’s talk about product placement. How do you decide which trip to take or which product to feature, such as cognac or a ride on the Queen Mary? Are you bombarded with offers?
A. I only do things that I would really want do on my own, or that give me an opportunity to learn. For example, I didn’t know much about cognac. It’s part of life in France and visiting the region makes me learn and understand more about not just the item, but the culture and terroir surrounding it. I’ve been on a few press trips, which are important in France, because it’s very hard to get access to places unless you’ve had a formal introduction. It’s much, much easier to go see a place, and meet the people, if all the arrangements have been made in advance.
As for products, if someone wants to send me a spatula to try out, I would take it if I were actually interested in it. (Especially because it’s often extremely complicated to get something delivered here.) I was interested in green non-stick pans, and the Actify fryer so I gave them a try, and put my impressions on my blog.
Most important is that there’s nothing worse than losing the trust of your readers. It’s not worth a spatula, a piece of kitchen equipment, or a bag of nuts if readers get the impression you are just trying to get freebies.
Q. How do you feel about sponsored posts?
A. I’d feel funny about having a company pay me to write something on my site. If I wanted to make a lot of money or have a lot of visitors I would do three chocolate desserts a week instead.
Q. Of all your ads, which is the best moneymaker?
A. BlogHer ads. Like the line at Costco, it’s important to stick with something for a while and not jump around to what looks to be better elsewhere. I don’t judge it from month to month. The thing I like about them is that they’re bloggers. All my interactions with them have been extremely professional.
Q. You have other ads and affiliate programs too.
A. I have a BlogHer ad between posts, plus Amazon, Google Adsense, and Platefull in the sidebars. The ads are geotagged and only show in the US so I can’t see a lot of them. A lot of my readers are outside the US and I don’t make money from those that appear outside the US, but I love working with BlogHer.
Q. How do you carve out time to start a new project?
A. It’s very challenging. I’m starting to write a book now, and the blog takes up a lot of time, and I live in a country where there’s a heavy amount of administrative tasks. Life is a little more difficult here day to day. Things take longer. For example, if you need an orange or a sack of sugar for a recipe and it’s 9 p.m., there’s not necessarily somewhere nearby to get it. You need to wait until the next day, or when your market is open.
It’s hard to find the time, and it’s something I struggle with. For my last two books, I’ve gone out to the country for a couple of weeks where there’s no Internet access just to finish things without distractions.
I don’t have a schedule for writing. Today I started at 5:30 a.m. and I tested a recipe this morning. It took 1.5 hours to prepare and cleanup took 1 hour. It’s been in the refrigerator for 8 hours, and now it’s probably ready to taste. It’s the fourth time I’ve made it. Doing the math, you can see how long it takes to get work done!
Since I work a lot with the US, people there are waking up at 5 p.m. my time and they expect me to respond to e-mail. I have dinner at 8:30 p.m. and then I don’t want to go back to the computer, so I have to log off. Otherwise I make myself crazy.
Q. Do you think people really know you as a result of reading your blog? Or have you invented a character?
A. It’s really me. I’m writing about my life. I’m probably more open about certain things than other people are, like flushing meringue down the toilet. I’m often presenting a realist view of the city I live in. I feel like I’m pretty open and honest about everything on my site.
Q. Any final messages?
A. Food bloggers should think of themselves as part of a community. Don’t swipe material from other blogs. It’s not “passing along information.” Create your own content for your readers, and link to other people. That’s what the world wide web is all about.
You might also like:
- David’s post on Writing Your Own Cookbook
Lori @ RecipeGirl says
I just love David. His blog, his personality and his honesty. He says it like it is! XO David!
Me too. We were lucky enough to spend a whole week with him in Mexico. He says there’s no blogger camp set up for this year.
Cara @ Gourmet Chick says
What a great read. I have been a long time fan of David Lebovitz (and got a great thrill out of him linking to one of my recipe posts on his blog once). I really enjoyed this interview as it was from a blogger’s perspective whereas most other things I have read about David are from the perspective of him being an author and a chef.
It’s always my goal to do interviews based on what I think my readers would like, so thanks for noticing.
How wonderful that he linked to one of your recipes. I have been the recipient of his link largesse as well. Link Largesse! I think I created a new alliterative term.
flo makanai says
It’s a pleasure to read a little more on David Lebovitz “backstage”. Thanks Dianne.
(I like that he’s becoming a little more French as time goes by 🙂 )
You are most welcome. And he just bought a place there too, so he’s not coming back to the US anytime soon.
Flo Makanai says
Yes, I read on his blog that he’s bought a place in Paris. Lucky man : although I would certainly not live in Paris intra muros with my young kids, Paris is an absolutely fantastic city to live in when you’re adult. Have you ever visited France, Dianne?
Certainly! First at age 18, for three weeks, started in Calais, then Paris, and I’ve been back three times since then. I even taught a food writing class in the Lot.
flo makanai says
Fantastic! So maybe we’ll meet sometime 🙂
Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga says
Wow what an awesome interview, Dianne, and thanks to David for being candid, honest, humorous, and great…as always.
I feel like I just got let in on all kinds of juicy details from him hiring out his tech stuff to liking his BlogHer ads (to me still kicking myself that I didn’t attend Food Blog Camp…b/c who knows if there will be another one).
Thanks to both of you for this post!
You are most welcome, Averie. David does show up in the US at blogging events from time to time, or book signings. I’m sure you’ll have an opportunity to meet him.
I have always looked to David Lebovitz as such a trustworthy authority on food blogging, and this interview with him only make me respect him more. Thank you for sharing this. I especially love his thoughts on referring to recent content only once on social media–as too many of the same links that I have already seen many times drives me nuts and makes me want to unfollow them fast! Now I don’t feel so bad for thinking that!
I also agree with his final thought: thinking of food blogging as being a part of the community. I see so many blogs these days pop up and I assume the authors of them only want to be “heard” or noticed, even if they have nothing original to say (or even worse if they take content from others and claim it as their own). It’s unfortunate as it really muddies the water for the bloggers who spend so much time, energy, and passion creating original content. The cream may rise to the top, but that fact doesn’t make it much easier to swallow with all the unethical behavior floating around.
It’s nice to have a reality check on things like that, isn’t it? Re being part of the community, I’m not sure some bloggers even realize they are acting in ways that are unproductive. People do evolve over time. I’m an optimist about that.
Ah, well that is an excellent point. I like your thoughts on bloggers evolving and I think you are spot on. That type of positive thinking is a great way to balance it all out.
What a fantastic interview! I spent a ton of time on David’s site reading his photography posts when I was just getting started with my blog….so helpful! And his recipe posts are so fun. It’s nice to read that he gets as much joy out of writing his blog as we all get from reading it 😉
Thanks, Winnie. I have read those posts several times myself.
Jennifer Carden says
Diane, great post, thanks so much!
Hey Jennifer, nice to hear from you. You are most welcome.
M'f3na Wise says
A great interview. David does come across as always telling it how it is.
I could not agree more with his statement on hiring out his web work.
I know I would love to just write and not have to diddle around with the technical stuff on the blog or wash all those dishes.
He is quite frank, which I appreciate. And even though he farms out his tech work, he must spend a lot of time washing dishes, considering all the recipe development work he does.
As always, David Lebovitz speaks wisdom with eloquence and style – thanks for hosting a great interview, Dianne, and thanks David for sharing a bit more about your approach and philosophy of blogging – especially your “final message”, which cannot be stressed enough – it should be broadcast loud and clear throughout the entire blogosphere.
You’re welcome, Jenn. Yes, I appreciated his final message as well. I think we do a pretty good job of being part of a community. Food bloggers are a generous bunch, overall.
I love the interview. I find the questions and answers so honest. It’s great that you have this relationship with him and can share that with us!
Thanks Mariko. You think it’s because I know him that the answers are so honest? Huh. I will have to think about that. I suspect he’s that way with everyone.
Great interview Dianne! I’ve been a follower of David’s blog for years now and love it. It’s great to get some background info too.
Thanks Simone. Most of his interviews don’t have this focus, so it’s nice to get to ask him questions that interest me and my readers.
I have a question… Have you visited him in France and eaten his food? 🙂 I want to do the David Lebovitz tour….
No I haven’t, but I’d love to. It would be fun to go on one of his tours too. One day…
A truly fascinating interview and a real inspiration for an aspiring food writer. Thanks for sharing this with us, Dianne!
My pleasure Sarah. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Katherine Martinelli says
Thanks, Dianne, for a great interview and to David for the honest, thoughtful answers! It’s an example of the interviewing skills you spoke about in your last post. Really a great read as a food writer, blogger, and aspiring cookbook author. I have been reading a lot lately about plagiarism in various forms and am glad he touched on it. I agree completely.
You’re welcome, Katherine. I’m glad you thought I met my own standards for interviewing. That’s funny. Re plagiarism, yep, that’s a big story these days. More and more of it happening on the web.
This is one of the best interviews of a food blogger that I have read. I have been a big fan of David’s blog, cookbooks and memoir, and now I know why. He really loves what he does, and it shows. Maybe you could talk him into doing a food bloggers’ workshop in Paris!!!!
Oh thank you, Annie, this is high praise indeed. Yes, I get that sense too, that he loves his work and is very passionate about it. That’s characteristic of all the bloggers I interview, actually.
It’s good to be back. I love your blog, Dianne! I’ve had to take some involuntary time off from reading your always well-written posts with lots of food for thoughts while moving from Los Angeles to Copenhagen. David’s blog and his blog advice was amongst the first I read when I started my blog as was your book btw. He is such an inspiration. Thank you for an enlightning interview both of you. And I can totally relate to not being able to get things when you need them. Europe is just different that way. The life style here forces you to be more structured, which is not so bad after all.
How fascinating, Stine. That’s quite a move, from LA to Scandinavia. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for the kind words about my blog and book.
The Souper says
Thanks Dianne for another inspiring post. now I know why I like Twitter so much with the term mentioned micro BLOG (my iPad does not recognize this word lol )
Enjoyed this interview with David Lebowvitz.
You are most welcome. Yes I was struck by the term as well. I’ve noticed more people in my classes who use Facebook as a microblog, rather than going to the trouble of setting up a real one. It’s a lot less work!
I’ve long been a fan of Davids. I adore his wit and sense of humour, his affinity with chocolate and his insight to French culture. Thanks for a closer look at such a popular blogger and food writer, Dianne.
You’re welcome, Amanda. You’ve nailed the reasons why his blog is so popular. I also love the recipes.
Thank you for this interview. Like many other commenters, I’m really stuck on that “final message.” I honestly believe that so many people have no idea that they are doing anything wrong when they reproduce others’ work on the web.
People regularly post entire recipes of mine, verbatim, from my cookbook and from my blog. Whenever I find one cookbook recipe reproduced, I have to assume there are many others that I know nothing about. I believe that people wouldn’t do it so brazenly if they realized that it was inappropriate, so I don’t assume bad intentions. I think the confusion comes from the fact that we all share so many recipes online gratis. The line gets blurred, on so many levels.
I would love to hear your thoughts on that oft-blurred line, Dianne. How do we draw a line between what we share and what we give of ourselves for free, and what we won’t, when we begin by giving away so much? I find that it often seems to leave some readers inappropriately expecting (even demanding) more, which leaves me so cold.
Thank you again for such a thought-provoking interview Dianne – and David for always being so generous. And for so many years!
Yes, it’s becoming more and more of an issue — stealing work to “share” it. I agree that people don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. They have to be educated. It’s one of my jobs, and yours too.
Re your questions, only you can decide how much of what you do is free, and whether it’s worth it. For example, this blog is free, but it also drives people to buy my book, invite me to speak, or hire me to coach them, so it’s totally worth it. And I get so much satisfaction from the comments, especially when I get to meet a commenter in person at an event.
Cookie and Kate says
Fabulous interview, Dianne. As I read it, I felt like I got to know David better, and appreciated his tips and strategy on blogging. Thank you for this insightful, in-depth interview!
You’re welcome, Kate. Glad to read it was worth your reading time.
Judy@Savoring Today says
I really appreciate your blog, it is a resource for me as a blogger as well as an enjoyable read. This is another great example of why I subscribe.
Oh thanks, Judy, that is so wonderful to read. I appreciate that you are a subscriber. It implies a level of commitment — hard for people to do these days.
Sunchowder - Wendy Read says
Dianne, what a interview with David! I really enjoyed reading about his choices and the background. Great timing as aways.
Hi Wendy, thank you. Tell me why the timing is good. If I was really paying attention, I’d do it in conjunction with an event he was attending in the US, so his fans could meet him.
Sunchowder - Wendy Read says
Tming is perfect because you just posted great tips for interviewing!!! I view this piece as your interviewing skills in action which are impeccable 😉 And..it is just what I needed to hear, information shared from someone that is incredibly successful. I aspire to be interviewed by you someday too!
Oh yes right. Now people can see whether I follow my own advice. Hah! Wendy, I look forward to your success and the innumerable interviews you will give, perhaps even to me.
So much fun to read with my coffee! I need fun when it is January in Minnesota. Yes, I read David’s blog partly for the appeal of Paris – but mostly for his sly joie de vivre – he’s positive musings with just a hint of caution.
It’s really all about his voice, don’t you think? He didn’t mention that. I suppose living in Paris and baking for a living isn’t such a bad fantasy either, for the rest of us.
Carol Sacks says
So informative, thank you for a great post!
Thanks Carol, and thanks for the RT on Twitter.
Lauren at Keep It Sweet says
Great interview! Thanks so much for sharing with us. David is such a great example in the food blogging world.
Thanks. It’s great to have a role model who always takes the high road, don’t you think? I admire that about him.
Helene Smertnik says
The best about David Lebovitz are his stories and his wit!
He’s so good at that, isn’t he? And he makes it seem effortless, but he spends a lot of time on each post to get it right.
Janet Mendel says
Such a good interview–shows all the skills you talked about in previous blog. Did you interview David face to face? by phone? only e-mail? As I also am an expat living abroad (Spain), I find his comments about blogging about a “foreign” culture especially insightful. Thanks!
Thanks Janet. Sadly, I did not go to Paris to interview him. I wrote a list of questions, interviewed him on Skype while typing into my computer, and then spent some time editing the interview down and even moved a few questions around to make it flow better.
As one who was brought up the French way in Morocco (my mother is French), and now the proud possessor of an American passport, I love reading about David’s perspective on la France and les fran’e7ais. I love this “fusion” of cultures and thoughts.
Bravo David, and bravo Dianne for your most informative blog.
Thanks Kitty. It is a thrill to hear from you.
Great interview Diane. I wish all newbie bloggers would read it. Being part of a community seems to be missing these days as people monetize their blogs. Community has been replaced by competition. I have been a David Lebovitz fan since I discovered blogging 7 years ago. I was honoured when he once linked to one of my recipes on his Facebook page.
That is sad, Barbara. I just came back from a Food Blog South last night, and the spirit of community seemed alive and well. There are so few opportunities to monetize a blog if you don’t have the numbers, and most food bloggers do it for fun anyway. You must be talking about a small cross-section of food bloggers. I hope.
I compare blogging to when I started out in 2005 when there were only a few of us around. We all muddled along learning as we went. The a couple of years things changed. People began to monetize their blogs and a heap of newbies appeared on the scene. That was when the community spirit seemed to disappear. I have noticed recently, as more people have appeared on the scene, many bloggers have started to mix with people in their own country rather than a world wide platform, the sense of community is returning. New Zealand and Australia are perfect examples of this.
Yes, in the earlier days, a small group of food bloggers knew each other and helped each other. Now there are thousands of food bloggers, books and sites (ahem!) and conferences devoted to them, and marketers running after them. Definitely a different world.
I’m so glad to see an interview with David, actually a conversation between you, Dianne and David is a wonderful read. He is so open about his life, experience and his work which is what I feel makes his blog so interesting. I feel like I know him. Thanks for sharing and taking the tiime to make this happen.
You’re welcome, Yvonne. Someone else asked if he was that way because we know each other. It’s a good question, but I think he’s pretty open about his life and work all the time, as you mention.
Ann P. says
AHAHaa “Like the line at Costco…” David is always hilarious. SO excited for the new book to come out! Great interview, learned lots of things I didn’t know about David before. 🙂
I’m glad to hear there was new stuff in this interview. It’s aimed at fellow food writers and bloggers, so it doesn’t have the same angle as it would if it appeared in a newspaper as a feature. He’s had lots of those too.
Thank you Dianne for this awesome interview with my personal fave food blogger.
Mr. Lebovitz is definitely my inspiration to start my own blog. I look forward to becoming part of the community of bloggers he speaks of.
Wonderful, Barbara. Best of luck to you on launching your food blog.
Thanks for everyone’s nice messages and am I was thrilled – as always – to spend time chatting with Dianne. (Next time, we need to get her to Paris, though!) Just to respond to a few of you:
Nicole: One would think that someone with a food blog would know how much work is it to write a recipe and a post, and I’m always surprised to find content lifted and reproduced word-for-word elsewhere. Aside from being illegal, it’s just wrong. Someone had recently taken a whole post of mine, including the photos, and put it on their site. When I sent them a note asking them to remove it, they said that they were a “fan” and was just “sharing information” (oddly, omitting the source of the material.) Why blog if you’re not going to write your own stuff? It doesn’t make sense to me..
Barbara: There are competitive people everywhere and it’s actually quite funny for me to see the rise of all these “competitive cooking shows.” I worked in professional kitchens for 35 years and we always worked as a team in the kitchen. Most people who were competitive didn’t last long. Blogging should be fun and it’s not a popularity contest. I read blogs that have a gazillion readers, and some that have none, and I enjoy them for different reasons. Kind of like cookbooks, we all have the classics, but it’s nice to have niche books, too. It’s all part of the mix.
Allyson: Social media can be many things, but I think people lose sight of the fact that it exists to be, well, “social.” And just like at a party where we want to talk to friends, meet new people, and hear what they’re up to, not everyone is drawn to people engaged in heavy-duty self-promotion. I’m all for hearing the news and what’s up with people, like new posts, new projects, etc – but when people keep tweeting their same posts, or continuously retweet others who have retweeted their posts, then retweeting those retweets, and so forth..for days after they’re posted, it can be a little much. I love sharing interesting things I come across (which I do on my Facebook page, because it is more static than Twitter), and reading other things people post of interest as well, but I just think one’s intentions need to be for the right reasons.
I also think people should stop checking out who is following them, and unfollowing them, and stop writing to people thanking them for the follow – (I always feel like I’m “being watched and monitored” when I get those) and just have fun with it all. We’re not curing serious world issues here, so it’s not worth getting all worked up over who is following you and who isn’t. It’s not important. Like writing a blog, first and foremost, you should do it for yourself and write about what you’re interested in, rather than trying to engage the masses. The food blogs with the highest traffic are written from a personal viewpoint, post consistently, and really engage the reader, and their traffic comes naturally. As mentioned, if I wanted to have more traffic, I would blog only chocolate recipes and post pretty pictures of Paris, but I’m happier writing about some of the quirks of life where I live, accompanied by recipes and personal stories.
Kitty: The cultural differences are amusing and when I first started blogging, I was far more critical. And as you know, being critical is simply part of French culture to some extent. But the longer you life somewhere, the more normal a lot of the quirks become. (Although I still can’t figure out why cashiers give you a hard time if you don’t have exact change when they have a whole drawer of it…)
Thanks for taking the time to respond to commenters David. Such a gentleman.
I’m really grateful that you took the time to respond, David. I agree, Dianne. It’s very gentlemanly and gracious. He’s living proof that manners will get you far.
David, if you’re still checking back, I would just like you to know that my knowledge of your frustration with the rampant plagiarism on food blogs and elsewhere has long been a comfort to me! The fact that you confronted someone whose response was that she was “just a fan,” which somehow was meant to make it all perfectly acceptable, really says it all. I have a very curmudgeonly perspective on why people blog even when they have nothing original to share, but it’s probably best if I not cop to it on this very public forum. 😉
karen brown says
Hi Dianne, what an interesting post. I can’t agree more that blogging is about community. I initially started a blog because I was bullied into it by a friend who was amazed at my total incompetence with a computer. She insisted that I would learn by doing, and that I knew things worth writing about. And you know what? she was right! But the unanticipated side of blogging is the sense of connection to readers, and of those blogs I read myself, the feeling of empathy with the authors. This has been the most rewarding part of the whole process for me. I only have a small readership, so I always send a “thank you” note to anyone who follows me, not to “watch and monitor” them, but in genuine gratitude at their interest. David’s blog is the first food blog I ever followed, and he continues to delight me with his delicious writing. Thanks for a great post. Cheers from the South Seas, Karen
Hi Karen, thanks for writing. Good for you for starting a blog when you were not computer savvy. That’s a great way to face what scares you. I agree that the best part is becoming part of something bigger — a world-wide community of people who get to know each other because of a shared obsession with food.
Sally - My Custard Pie says
Integrity runs through everything David does. He’s shared some very specific and useful advice here too – this is always impressive coming from someone as successful as he is. Others in his position often claim to give advice but it’s often too general to be of real value.
I love his ethos of community too – he sums up what blogging should be about and we sometimes lose sight of.
Great questions and article Dianne.
Thank you Sally. Yes, we are lucky he shares so much information with us. I think a lot of successful bloggers work behind the scenes — they are constantly asked for help and they probably do much more than we realize.
Having worked in professional kitchen for a long time (as well as being a martial artist for 20+ years) I learned a lot about gaining knowledge from people with experience, and then passing on knowledge at a later date as well. Dianne is right that there are people that are very accomplished that share a lot more than we think and I’m really grateful to those who’ve helped me, and am happy to pass along what I’ve learned as I go.
Sally: People do lose sight of things and it’s often good to step back – and take a deep breath. When Dianne asked me about what should people do who get bored blogging, I didn’t quite know what to answer since my guess is that most people do it for fun, not because they absolutely have to. So why not just enjoy it? : )
I LOVE David. Finish and klaar 😉
Okay. I have to agree with your sentiment, Simone.
Wow….loved the interview and went back and reread the old post David made on food blogging and food photography . This is such a great and informative article. Thanks!!! Really helps to hear this over and over again, to always be yourself. To always do your own thing, at all times to be nice, to do your best, learn new things and improve your skills. Thanks, I certainly enjoyed the article.
Thanks Angie. David has the kind of messages that resonate for people because they make sense. We get caught up in all kinds of nonsense sometimes, and he brings us back to what matters.
Pat Machin says
Thanks for a great interview. As a very new blogger, you and David Leboviitz have set the standard I would like to aspire to . . . some day! BTW, your book is well thumbed and copiously bookmarked now.
You are most welcome, Pat. Thanks for taking the time to comment and good luck with your blog. Happy to hear that about my book!
Jackie @Syrup and Biscuits says
Such a great post….as usual. The term “microblog” describes perfectly what you do on Twitter and Facebook. Gosh, I wish I’d come with that.
It’s always helpful to get another person’s perspective on blogging. Thank you for sharing this interview with a talented photographer and author. I’m inspired.
Hey that’s my main goal, Jackie — to get people inspired. You made my day. Thanks.
Toni (Boulder Locavore) says
David and Dianne, thank you so much for this post. It is full of so many nuggets I feel are always afloat and ripe for consideration in the blogging community; sponsored posts, endorsing products and parameters of using other’s content. I have experienced myriad scruples in content use and loved a tweet I just read saying ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of not having an original idea’. Both of you remind to find one’s voice and be true to that, which is invaluable advice for anyone communicating their thoughts in book or blog form.
I’m not against sponsored posts, but I think one has to realize there is a possible trade-off when you do those things. And if you accept something, you should really try to be objective when writing it up and think of your readers first, because they are the ones you are writing for and hopefully you want them to come back. As mentioned, I’ve gone on press trips and do accept items from time-to-time, but that’s not why I blog and those things are a natural part of what I do and my regular “job”. And if I write about them, like the trip to Cognac, it’s because I’ve learned something and want to write about it, not because I’m there to promote a specific product. Press people and journalists do go on press trips because you get access to places and people that you would not normally have access to.
Thanks David. For more on writing sponsored posts, see this post I wrote and the comments.
Laura @ hip pressure cooking says
I wanted to address the linking and how to do it on social media and your own websites.
First, if you ever refer to someone’s content, add a link to it. You never know what might happen. One of my first link was on a post on Pressure Cooker Creme Caramel, and then I went to the post (on David’s site, BTW) to just tell him I linked to him and thank him for the step-by-steps on making Carmel. As a just-got-started blogger I actually got a very small but steady trickle of visitors from that ONE link.
Altruism is infectious, so now when someone links to my website from theirs I give them a mention on Facebook and a thanks.
Then, when I find something interesting, I link to it from facebook with extra information. In my case, when I link to a whistling pressure cooker recipe I comment on the actual cooking time for modern pressure cookers – or when I linked to the LA Time’s Pressure Cooker Bolognese I suggested the cream be added at the end of cooking for a more authentic sauce. I only publish once a week and post a link about once a day… so I end-up linking to my own recipes only 1 out of 5 times. Sometimes I post pictures that I find on the web of what people should NOT be doing in their pressure cooker. And when I take an interesting photo I post it and play a guessing game. Which, when the recipe is published is a second opportunity to link to it. I try to add value to my links and my readers appreciate that my Facebook page is THE place to get the latest information on pressure cooking.
On Twitter, I re-tweet what my followers are pressure cooking for dinner or send quick conversation-starter messages to chef-celebrities about their pressure cooker recipes- Heston Blumenthal has not answered yet… but he might!!!
I have not gotten the hang of Google + yet, but basically I share whatever pressure cooking posts I find on there with my 8 readers.
To grow your followers, likers, etc. You need to follow and like. Whenever I link to a story I see if that website has a twitter or Facebook account and add myself to them. 50% of the time I get a follow back. That’s more than I would have had if I had never linked to them to begin with!
Now, back to David. His food blogger advice is dead on. I cannot emphasize the “find your niche” strongly enough (and so does Diane!) I tried travel blogging, home decor blogging, generic food blogging>/a> but nothing caught google’s attention or comments like my blogging about pressure cooking. In fact, I started posting my converted pressure cooker recipes because I could never find the recipes I would like to cook online and there are so few cookbooks on the subject.
I liked it. Everyone liked it. Almost no one was doing it (since then a host of new pressure cooking websites have sprung up). When I decided that was they way to go there was not going back. I couldn’t stop coming up with new ways and new foods to pressure cook and publishing them online – within the first six months of starting a website dedicated solely to pressure cooking – I received an invitation to visit a Pressure Cooker manufacturer in Germany for a week (to teach them some of my new techniques), the opportunity to introduce pressure cooking at La Cucina Italiana’s cooking school and a free pass to the Milan Housewares Show!
Once you find your niche. You will know it. And most importantly, so will google traffic – especially if you’re the only one doing what you’re doing and others don’t know how but would like to learn how to do what you do.
David is an inspirational story not just in success but willingness to share it by example. I followed his, and Diane’s advice TO THE LETTER and now: a year-and-a-half after starting this journey I can already start thinking about a book (more on that later, perhaps).
It’s not an easy path to forge. When you always try and do something for the first time there will be alot of failed experiments (and your family will balk at this) but when something works for the first time and you know that you’re the first one doing it the personal satisfaction is INCREDIBLE!!!
Find your niche. Keep at it. Share. Share. Share!
Good lord, Laura, this post has inspired you to add an entire post of your own with helpful information. Thank you so much. I like your advice on finding a niche. I know some bloggers have been incredibly successful with general food blogs, but I think most people are better off with a particular focus.
Laura @ hip pressure cooking says
Sorry Diane and David – insert red cheeks here- I couldn’t stop writing about how right you both are and how your advice has helped me!! ; )
Please don’t apologize. What you wrote was worthwhile. I’m always excited when I get someone that worked up.Thanks again, Laura.
Nancy (Spicie Foodie) says
Like many of the people commenting I adore David’s blog and honesty. This is one of the best interviews I have ever read. Mainly because of the honest advice. Often times successful bloggers or food writers just give useless advice they think others want to hear. But everything in this interview is helpful for everyone from the newbie to the more seasoned food bloggers. Thank you Dianne and David for making our community a better place.
Such a nice compliment, Nancy. Thank you. This interview is aimed at food writers and bloggers, so if you got something out of it, that’s because I’m trying to write it for readers just like you.
I really enjoyed reading this interiew with David. His was one of the first blogs I ever read, so it’s nice to get to know him a little better. I had to miss the food blogger’s camp in Mexico last year due to surgery and I was really looking forward to learning from and being inspired by his experience with blogging.
I have read the comments and have to say that it really is becoming more and more like the Wild West out in the blogging world. I cannot tell you how many times we find our entire posts (word for word, photos and all) on other sites with no attribution. We work really hard to produce this content and it is at personal expense. To see it stolen is quite discouraging. I hope that these types of discussions and interviews with some of the original food bloggers covering this topic will raise awareness. I find it very hard to believe that people don’t know it is wrong to take recipes with no credit or to lift entire blog posts and put them on their own sites with no links.
Thanks to you and David for speaking about this topic.
Hi there, Gwen. Sorry to hear about your stolen content. It seems to be becoming more of an issue these days. I just gave a talk on Ethics, but I think I’m speaking to the converted at food blogging conferences and on this blog. The question is how to reach the people who steal the content and educate them. I guess that’s what you’re doing, one person at a time.
Nicole @ GFShoestring says
I posted above with a similar sentiment. I honestly don’t think that most people who steal think it’s a “big deal.” My best guess is that they think that, since you have a big stage and they a small one, why should it matter to you that they’re passing off your content as their own. The idea is this: Aren’t you interested in sharing anyway? Isn’t that what this is all about?
I blog about making food gluten-free food affordable, but I’m not a charity nor do I pretend to be. Yet I still hear from readers who think that it’s wrong of me to sell a book, that I should just give everything away for free because not everyone can afford my book (even though it’s about 12 bucks on amazon). To me, this sentiment is a similar one. It’s a lack of perspective.
Sorry to jump in there.
I have heard that same sentiment from bloggers. People truly do believe that it’s okay to take whatever they want from the internet and others think there is nothing wrong with swiping recipes with no attribution. I guess I come from a different place where taking something that is not yours is stealing. I don’t care if it’s on the internet, from a cookbook or out of my home.
I was amazed at the number of people that came up to me after I spoke on a panel concerning ethics at IFBC in New Orleans last year. They said they had no idea that there were ethics they should be adhering to when writing their blogs. Isn’t some of this just common sense? Aren’t we responsible for our words and actions just as you would be in a job or at school? Why do some people think the internet is a place where everything is free and anything is yours just for the taking?
I think this is going to be a real issue as more and more media sources move to the internet. It will be interesting to follow. In the meantime, I guess we have no real recourse other than to approach people individually and ask them to remove our recipes, content or photos unless they want to give credit and links.
nancy baggett says
To use the SNL line–don’t get me started! I spent decades creating my own recipes because cookbook, mag, and newspaper editors demanded original work and could get sued if they published recipes owned by others. The laws haven’t gone away, it’s just that lots of peeps now “publishing” on-line don’t know anything about these irksome legal details. It’s easy to advocate sharing of recipes if you are the one doing the borrowing; not so much if you’re the one who spent lots of testing time, money, and expertise to come of with original work. I’ve heard people brush off borrowing by saying “Well, there are no original recipes,” but the chances of any two people creating a recipe with the IDENTICAL ingredients, proportions, methods, intro and text are about zero, and if you go to the trouble of testing and really doing even a popular dish YOUR own personal way, it is original. And I’m sure the molecular gastronomers (not to mention bakers like David and me) have come up with plenty of original recipes.
Wow, I did get you started, Nancy. Did you read the post that follows this one? That one will really get you going.
Michelle Dudash says
Diane, I LOVE these interview-based posts that you write. Love.
Thanks Michelle, for taking the time to say so.
Well done, I really enjoyed the insight!
Thanks for taking the time to say so, Rhonda.
Cooking Lady says
I really enjoyed reading this article. Thanks for sharing
My pleasure. Of course, David is a fascinating subject!
Mise En Place says
Always loved David’s style and photography! Makes me hungry everytime…Thanks for the amazing interview Dianne.
You are so welcome. Thanks for chiming in from the UK.
Jean | Delightful Repast says
In just a few days it will be my second blogiversary, and I must thank people like you, Dianne and David, for putting such practical information out there for bloggers and for setting an example of quality and ethics. I appreciated David’s comment to Barbara about the rise of competitive cooking shows and the competitiveness of some bloggers (two of my pet peeves). Anytime I’m making bread (kneading dough is my version of meditating!) I think of these frantic people and what they’re missing out on!
Thank you Jean, and congratulations to making it to two years. I happen to think that the big bloggers are very competitive people also — that’s part of why they succeeded. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.
nancy baggett says
Great post! Love David’s remark about “sharing” recipes. It’s harder to feel quite so generous when you’ve spent the hours assembling ingredients, testing and cleaning up that he talks about ( I’m familiar with that, too). Then, there’s that little issue of rights–recipes in cookbooks, magazines, etc., are owned by somebody, and unless they are adapted and put in the users own words they can’t legally be used without permission. I want to know more about Michael’s hair.
I understand completely. David doesn’t post recipes that often anymore, but he does have a huge online database of them.
Re putting them in the user’s own words, yes, that’s a subject of much discussion on this blog. I keep trying to find ways to discuss it.
Re Michael’s hair, it really is quite luxurious, but I have never touched it.
Roberta Roberti says
Great interview. It’s nice to know that even successful food writers have difficulty carving out time for everything that needs to be done. I struggle with the time issue and no matter what I do, there just never seem to be enough hours in the day.
On a general note, thanks for this blog. It’s wonderful of you to share your body of knowledge about food writing.
Oh yes, I think we’re all in the same boat. Everyone struggles with time management.
It’s been my pleasure, Roberta. The most fun part is to interact with commenters like you.