A little birdie emailed last week to say she was upset about a change in the James Beard Foundation’s Food Blog awards, which combined two food blog awards into one this year.
To understand the shift, here are the old categories from 2015:
Individual Food Blog: Recognizes individual enterprise and excellence in a single food-or drink-related blog that is the product of one or two primary voices. An entry consists of five links that best represent the quality of the work.
Group Food Blog: Recognizes group enterprise and excellence in an episodic, real-time food-or drink-related blog that is the product of a small group of regular voices who demonstrate responsive engagement with their community. An entry consists of five links that best represent the quality of the work.
Here is the lone award for 2016:
Food Blog: Recognizes enterprise and excellence in an episodic food-or drink-related blog that uses the unique tools of the medium (such as community, real-time publishing and flexibility of layouts and embedded elements) to their fullest advantage. An entry consists of five links that best represent the quality of the work.
Program chair John Kessler said the criteria had been the same for both awards in the past, so the committee decided to merge them. He also said that individual blogs are “not so distinguishable” from professional publications these days.
He explained that Beard journalism committee judges score their choices based on:
- Engagement (Is the content trustworthy, credible and interactive?)
- Style (Is the voice distinctive?)
- User experience (Is the functionality intuitive and easily navigated?)
So why did the little birdie email me? She is concerned that smaller bloggers now compete with mega group blogs like Serious Eats and that the focus is no longer on writing. When I asked Kessler about that, he said in past Beard awards, smaller publications have successfully competed with larger ones. Fair enough, but group blogs usually have editors and more resources, compared to individuals.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “I don’t think anything is written in stone.”
If you want to enter this award for best blog, pick five posts that represent the above criteria. The deadline is 1/6/16.
What do you think about this change? Is food blogging changing, where a strong voice is just one advantage? Will group food blogs have an advantage over individual blogs in this new award?
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You might also like:
- What Kind of Writing Wins a Beard Award?
- 9 James Beard Award-Winning Stories and Why They Won
- Who Qualifies as a Beard Finalist, and What They Wrote
Juls' Kitchen says
This is something which happened in Italy recently, too. Blogs created and kept alive by single bloggers are now competing in most national awards with blogs which have behind a full editorial staff and investors.
At the moment there are still no chances for small bloggers to stand out, hopefully in the long run their effort to remain true to self and provide valuable content will pay.
Thank you for this interesting insight: usually what happens in America happens after one- two years in Italy, too! 😉
Hah, what an unfortunate time to be ahead of the curve in Italy. But John swears all is not lost. He told me he had won a Beard award for a small story that competed against huge publications. He seems quite optimistic.
Rick Jaworski says
I would say this is a bias against individuals. You mentioned Serious Eats, well the company that owns them has a lot of investor capital to support the site resources as you also mentioned. They are also big on touting their James Beard Award and surely would like another one.
I’d like to point out another bias from our perspective. We were thinking of submitting one of our more popular videos, a detailed video on how to successfully make traditional croissants. Our fans tell us this is the only video they have found that has allowed them to successfully make them in their home kitchen. The problem is the video is so comprehensive that it is over 35 minutes long. The James Beard rules for video submissions say that the total video length cannot exceed 20 minutes. So for me to submit our video it would mean I would have to hack it down to less it down to less than 20 minutes and basically destroy what we were trying to accomplish.
I wonder if this 20 minute limit is to prevent longer videos like ours from gaining any traction. Our audience loves them and are constantly bugging us to do more like that. But for corporations to compete with long comprehensive videos is very expensive and they probably would rather not do them. So is there a bias on videos too?
I am not sure there is a bias for corporations. The thinking is that anyone can make a good video, just as anyone can write a good story (However “anyone” tends to be “established journalists,” if you check the links at the end of the post.)
I suggest you make a 20-minute video specifically to win a Beard award. Go for it Rick!
Rick Jaworski says
I have no intention of making a video just to win. We make videos for our audience, not awards. Nobody would ask an author with a 350 page book to tear out 150 pages and submit it. What they are saying is long form detailed food videos that actually (or better yet finally) tell you everything you need to make it yourself need not apply.
June Molloy Vladička says
I would tend to agree that this will impact negatively on individual bloggers. There are many hobby bloggers (by which I mean those who earn little or no income from their blogs) writing high quality pieces, often accompanied by high quality photos, but whose blogs are not as slick as corporate sites that can afford to spend money on design and coding elements. To me, though, the main drawback is that there will now be only 5 winners instead of 10. Hopefully at least 2 of the winners will be individuals, but it means that fewer blogs are getting the exposure of being shortlisted or winning. Sadly, none of this impacts me directly as I’m not in North American. I would love the see awards like these being made international. As it stands, there are very few credible international blog awards – the only ones I can think of are the Saveur Awards. As Mr Kessler has said, nothing is written in stone, so let’s see how it pans out.
Yes, I’m with you, June. Consider who has won in prior years — Orangette, Poor Man’s Feast — these are not high-end professional blogs. Just one person with a strong voice and decent photos.
Actually there will be only 1 winner and 3 finalists.
Early one there were other blog awards but now you’re right, it is down to Saveur. And IACP has a blog award as well.
David Leite says
I think the new direction is unfortunate because it seems to favor publishers over writers, groups over the individual.
“Embedded elements” is a vague term (Can I embed a video I see on Youtube or must it be my own? Does this mean audio? Slideshows? SnapChat stories? Twitter or Instagram feeds?) And I have no idea what “flexibility of layout” mean, but all of this is certainly not the focus of my work when I’m writing a piece for my blog–nor is it my focus when I write for print publications. My job is, and always has been, how can I tell the story at hand.
By nature, ANY blog is real-time publishing. You write, you edit, you fact-check, and you hit the publish button–in real time. If this is referring to news-based blogs, that knocks most food blogs out of the competition, because most food blogs (including the individual blogs that have won the Beard Award over the past several years) are not news focused.
It looks as if this is becoming a media award now–which is fine–but it should be removed from the journalism category, which has always emphasized excellence in writing. At least the way I understand the new rules from above, this rewards production values.
Woe to the lonely writer at his or her desk and stove, I guess.
Rick Jaworski says
David you make an excellent point on the embedded elements, flexibility of layout etc. I read that as the content itself is now being downplayed in importance in favor of these attributes. Attributes that are easier for larger companies to implement than individuals. So it’s a double whammy! Not only is the competition between big and small, the rules themselves appear to have been gerrymandered to favor large groups with the resources to implement these elements. So it’s less about the content, something that individuals are good at.
The good news is that the audience still cares about content and many have never heard of the James Beard Awards.
Okay then. Make a 20-minute video for your audience, not for the Beard awards. Then submit it.
Rick Jaworski says
Yes if I want to win that’s what I’ll have to do. But I could say then, the rules are the rules for blogs too. If bloggers want to win an award, then they shouldn’t complain, just suck it up and do what they have to do to win against everyone including the groups. Just because video is not your thing doesn’t take away from the fact that there is unfairness here too.
I’m not saying you don’t have a valid complaint. I’m just being practical. The individual bloggers have time to update their posts now to make them more attractive, based on the criteria, if they want.
Exactly. I was confused by those elements and John did not really address them. Maybe they’re talking about group blogs like Eater that are more news (really gossip) focused? I wouldn’t want to be a judge, comparing Eater posts with posts by an individual blogger and trying to figure out who is worthy. They seem like two different animals to me.
Shirl Gard says
I am a one-man show when it comes to food blogging. I love every minute of it: the planning, the baking, the creation and tweaking of recipes, the writing of the recipes, the photography, the writing of a story, and the organizing to make it all happen – then the repetition for the next post . It seems somewhat unfair that my one-man show would be considered in the same category where the blog post might be created by a creative director, a baker or bakers, a photographer, a recipe writer, a producer/organizer, and whatever other positions might be required. I say “nix” to this plan.
According to John, your posts could be just as good — or better — than theirs. That’s me playing devil’s advocate.
It’s an unfortunate change, and an obtuse one at that. If the organization can’t see the myriad structural advantages and disadvantages between a group/corporate blog and a single-owner blog, perhaps they shouldn’t be judging them to begin with.
I believe the main judge is Kat Kinsman who has a blog and who is editor-at-large for Tasting Tables, so knows how both sides work. That’s a good thing.
What I can see is a collapsing of ‘blog’ and ‘website’ and a merging of multi medias. I don’t consider the big names mentioned here like Serious Eats as blogs at all, even if they did start out as such. What’s the crossover point between these big blogs and a major news site these days?
Yes! It does seem confusing. I guess those websites contain many blog posts, whereas you might have only one at a time.