It’s time for Food Blogger Pro Open Enrolment. Enrolment only lasts one week (from May 24-31) so if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll click on one of these links or the ad on the right, to sign up. After that there’s a waiting list.
(And hey, if you want to skip the sales pitch to read my interview with co-founder Bjork Ostrom, a thought leader on food blogs, entrepreneurship, and intentionality, just scroll down.)
I am an affiliate of Food Blogger Pro, which means I receive a small percentage if you purchase a membership. So yes, I’m biased. But, for a reasonable fee, you get all kinds of information I don’t give you on this blog, about growing and monetizing your food blog.
While I post mostly about writing, finding agents and editors, making money as a writer, and book promotion, Food Blogger Pro gets into all the technical details and more. So between my blog and their copious content, we’ve got you covered.
A Food Blogger Pro membership includes more than 350 videos, bootcamps and mini courses, including:
- Photo editing
- Making professional recipe videos
- Creating an eBook
- Building traffic and understanding SEO.
There’s also a robust online community where you can ask questions and get answers from both the community and experts at Food Blogger Pro.
The price to join Food Blogger Pro is $29 per month or $279 for a year. If you sign up for the yearly membership, you get:
- One year of access to Nutrifox, an embeddable nutrition labeller for recipes ( usually $89)
- Access to the SEO Action Group, a one-month accountability group to help you implement SEO concepts ( usually $99).
Meanwhile, today I have an exclusive interview with co-founder Bjork Ostrom. I consider him a thought leader, although he’s too humble to agree. I think he goes as far as “influencer.” Together with his wife Lindsay of Pinch of Yum, they developed their blog and Food Blogger Pro into a multi-million dollar business. (They’ve stopped updating their eye-popping monthly business income, but you can still read the reports.)
I like Bjork’s brain. He seems to have synthesized the best practices for living an intentional life, building an efficient and profitable online business, and not getting burned out.
Here are Bjork Ostrom’s thoughts about the future of food blogs, the role of influencers, and how to develop the skills you need:
Q. What trends do you see in food blogs?
A. A trend that needs to be acknowledged, and maybe people roll their eyes at this, is the evolution of how we use media. The biggest change from five years ago is the presence of video and the transition to getting closer access to people. Video is a medium for that, not only YouTube but also Instagram Stories and Snapchat.
Video can be raw and authentic. More and more, influencers will not only develop skills around recipes, recipe development, and photography, but they will also tell a story, in any type of medium. Because of the availability of bandwidth, video is becoming more accessible. A phone can stream video no matter where we are.
Q. What do you think food bloggers worry about most?
A. There’s a fear that they are going to miss out on whatever it is that everyone else is doing. To think that, “The newest trick or tool will make or break my website.” It can create tiny echo chambers where they get caught up in micro conversations that are distracting on a macro level.
Things change very quickly and food blogging is a long-term game. So you have to balance your technology interests and focus on 3 to 5 years, not 3 to 5 months. Otherwise you will be so consumed by following the latest trend and doing the latest thing that you will lose track of the main thing, which is posting consistent, high-quality content.
Q. How will food blogs evolve in five years then?
A. They will look very similar: a recipe with some story and photos around that, but that piece of content is evolving in how it operates and connects with people. For example, people are getting better at photography, storytelling and they are willing to be more transparent and have a personality. They will be really good at being 150 percent of who they are.
What do you mean by 150 percent?
A. You have to understand who you are, how you communicate, and really lean into that. In the evolution of influencers – and that’s what food bloggers are – the individual is more and more important.
For example, Lindsay and I consider it very important that we are from Minnesota. We both grew up here, and it’s part of our story. I bring that up in podcasts and when I’m speaking as an influencer. It’s genuine. It’s not making anything up, but it’s amplifying a part of us that’s important for people to understand.
Q. Speaking of being genuine, many of the students in a writing workshop I did recently were afraid to be personal.
A. The Internet can be a scary place. At its core, we don’t want to be hurt and we don’t want people to say mean things about us. We need to protect ourselves. That’s totally valid.
It’s hard to be void of a personality and connect with people. Like a friend who never tells you what’s happening in their life. If you only blog so you can build traffic and sponsors, you’re not going to feel compelled to reveal yourself. If you’re naturally someone who doesn’t want to do it, then you need to move through it.
If you’re creating content to influence and connect with people, you’ll be able to fight back against your fears of sharing your story.
Q. Will food blogs be around forever?
A. No. But the attention will be, whether radio, TV, Internet, or mobile phones. People will still want to eat, interest in food will always be there, and the ability to influence media through things that we create will be there. Search engines will change, and how we interact with the Internet will change.
But people will always be influenced by others. A micro influencer’s power will grow as big media shrinks and our power as individual creators grows.
Q. How has social media changed food blogging?
A. A really good example is that people comment less on blogs because they’re commenting on social media. Page views will continue to go down but general engagement with content will go up.
So it’s becoming more important to live in each platform and it’s no longer the best practice to say, “everything is on my blog and you need to come here to get what you want.” Your blog can be the central hub but you have to allow your content to live where people are.
It’s hard because social media can change how your followers see your content, but social media is active and thriving and it has people who are interested in your content. You have to figure out where you fit in as a content creator. Sometimes the value lasts only two to three years but that doesn’t mean that the connection wasn’t valuable.
There are new platforms to learn, which complicates things. There’s still value to creating content, but you have to think about how to put it into other places. On our podcasts, for example, we do a 1-minute video with the text from an audio clip, and post it to Facebook and Instagram. We don’t have to build from the ground up. So think about how to reproduce and section off pieces of your content.
Q. How is the role of influencer changing?
A. Influencers have an increased responsibility to understand who they are, and how that translates into a brand or business. You have to increase your expertise in branding and the business of being an influencer. You also have to know when to say no, and where your boundaries lie.
Q. Why is food blogging a full-time business for many?
A. Even if people are watching TV, most are looking at their phones. The opportunities have come because attention has shifted from traditional media to Instagram or YouTube. With attention comes the ability to influence, and with that comes the opportunity to impact the bottom line.
People are paying attention to individuals in ways they never did before, and trusting them about a product, or even which park to go to.
Q. What is the biggest business obstacle these entrepreneurs face?
A. Patience. And time. People vastly underestimate them. They want something to happen in 3 months that takes three years. The payback also isn’t guaranteed, so you have to potentially work on something that’s not guaranteed to pay off or not a good fit at the end.
Q. Do food bloggers need a 5-year plan?
A. A five-year vision would be helpful. A 5-year plan would be really hard to do. A 5-year vision allows you to envision how you want to be operating in the world at that time. There are individuals who thrive on having a structured outline, but I’m not one of them.
Q. Is Google a big part of whether food bloggers succeed?
A. A huge part. SEO and social media are a long-term play. Most bloggers want to find an organic following and create an income from it. But there’s a whole other category based on ad revenue.
For food blogging, Google is either your best friend or worst enemy. You don’t really like it until you have content performing well on searches. Sometimes it feels like we are serving the Google god.
It’s unfortunate that search traffic is centralized in one place, because if Google changes something, your business could be crushed under it.
Q. What is the most important skill for a food blogger?
A. Stick to it-ness. Getting better and showing up every day. It’s going to pay dividends over a few years. We’ve committed for 5, 10, 15 years, so we’re not in a rush to get there tomorrow.
Q. Is good writing still critical to a food blog’s success, or has photography and video cut into that?
A. The ability to speak with a strong voice is one of the most important skills you can have. People can get around it, and still build a successful business. Maybe they have someone ghostwrite for them, or they are only doing audio or video media.
It’s about communicating clearly and impacting people with your writing. And I’m not just saying that because you’re interviewing me.
Q. Thank you! What’s new at Food Blogger Pro?
A. As Pinch of Yum and our team has grown, so has the depth of our expertise. We have people on our team who are really deeply educated on topics. At some point they understand video and sponsored brand work better than we do. They can weigh in and advise in a way that we couldn’t before.
Q. Any last words for overwhelmed food bloggers?
A. Understand who you are. Go for the combination of the least amount of resistance and the most amount of opportunity. Don’t just look at how someone else has success. Build around who you are.
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Food Blogger Pro Open Enrolment lasts only a week. If you would like to grow and monetize your blog, join the community.
(Disclosure: If it’s not obvious, this post contains affiliate links.)