Eight years ago, when Dianne Jacob started writing the first edition of Will Write for Food she didn't take blogging seriously.
A print journalist by trade with a background in editing and women's pages, she made sure the word blogging did not even appear in the book.
“Why would anyone care about someone who wants to write a blog,” was her viewpoint.
Now by her own estimate, which she freely admits may be woefully short, there are probably way more than 40,000 food blogs worldwide.
A blogger, blogging icon and author of the 'blogger's bible', the revised Will Write for Food, Dianne Jacob was keynote speaker at the third Eat Drink Blog conference just held in Adelaide.
She told the audience how American food bloggers have risen to great heights, moving beyond the digital world to take a place in print. Like Molly Wizenberg who took the honour of becoming the first food blogger to get a column in magazine Bon Appetit
American publishers are handing out book deals to bloggers left, right and centre and a handful of food bloggers are making a six figure living from ads on their site.
One of these is blogger The Pioneer Woman who has been profiled in the New Yorker, has several book deals, her own food show, and never leaves her ranch. She’s 'rolling in it’ according to Dianne. And the author of Food Wishes, who specialises in food videos, was hired for six figures with a two year consultancy agreement by an online recipe site.
While most bloggers are still doing it as a hobby and keeping their day jobs, many are creating their own work for which they are being paid. Bloggers have diversified beyond their initial roles capitalising on their new skills. They are teaching food blogging or photography, establishing social media consulting firms because they have been so successful in social media, becoming food stylists for photographers or technical consultants to other bloggers. Many get paid to develop recipes for brands or become brand ambassadors.
The blogging landscape has also changed with hugely supportive communities for bloggers and conferences like Blogher in America and of course, Eat Drink Blog in Australia.
- Food bloggers can have a reach that is bigger than food magazines. Check Dianne's blog for an upcoming post on this.
- Bloggers have become key influencers for the 82 percent of American consumers who do Internet searches when buying and believe what they read on line. 80 per cent of these people will buy on a suggestion they read online.
- Increased competition - A blogger has got to be responsible for everything - you are the publisher, photographer, marketer, accountant, SEO person and art director. There’s a lot to understand and it's changing all the time.
You have to keep up with all the many changes on Facebook, twitter, Pintrist etc.
When is it your own recipe? Be transparent about your recipe influences and what changes you have made to a recipe. Remember when you copy someone else verbatim you are not promoting their work. You can ask the author for permission - it's not so hard with Facebook and Twitter communication available.
Working with brands
Dianne says the bigger issue is working with brands because, as an influencer, a blogger has a lot of responsibilities. You don’t have to love something 100 percent to write about it as people want to know the pros and cons. For Dianne the most boring writing is gushing. She says people don't have to read your post as they already know you will love it.
There’s a line between boosterism and realism. Bloggers need to think about how they are going to feel about writing about a product and accepting something for free, before they even start.
“Your public has made you who you are. You need to be respectful of them,” she says.
While sponsored posts can be okay if you are transparent, Diane is not okay with advertorial.
“Let’s try to go forward in the most ethical and joyous way possible," she says and it's hard to disagree with that.
Bloggers vs journos
Q Have journalists in America warmed to bloggers in America?
A There’s envy for the six figure deals some bloggers have win but they still don't like them says Diane.
“They are in a world of hurt. They have to figure out for themselves how they are going to adapt to the new media world.”
The exposure economy
Q Free content in exchange for exposure? With media in Australia shrinking, some publishers are asking bloggers for free content in exchange for exposure, where should bloggers draw the line?
A “A 22 year-old ballet dancer who wants to write about doughnuts is not a threat to me,” Diane says.
“You deserve to be paid for professional work but you can decide when you want to do something for free.
It's the 'exposure economy’. Print people write for free when they are getting started and work their way up the chain. However people who are good, who are writing for free, devalue everyone’s work.”
About Eat Drink Blog
It was just a few short words in an online comment, “why don't you come”, that inspired Dianne's visit to Australia.
Eat Drink Blog 3 Co-chair Amanda McInerney issued the invitation and then set out to make it happen.
After visiting Adelaide’s Central Market Dianne announced she now wants to live in Adelaide and more than a few shared her sentiment. I'm sure South Australian bloggers would love to have her!
Disclaimer: Ed+bK was supported in attending Eat Drink Blog with accommodation courtesy of Mantra on Hindmarsh.