16 August 2011

Food Bloggers as Marketing Puppets | Part 1. Evolution

Photo Marialuisa Wittlin


Warning:
This is a food blog that encourages readers to not only think but to ruminate. This will not be a short post.
There will be two additional posts on similar subjects.
If you want pretty food pictures t
his isn't your kind of blog. Go directly to Stickifingers instead.




Online food media is a rapidly growing space.  

When I started the Deep Dish Dreams food blog in 2007, the number of food bloggers in Melbourne was sparse. After a meet up at VegOut Community garden - where we shared a meal cooked together in the garden’s wood oven - a core group of us grew into a tight knit community, that when Twitter began to grow tentacles was transferred into ‘The Melbourne Food Mafia’ or ‘Food Twitterati’.


I really enjoyed the interaction of this emerging community because our hearts were in it merely for pleasure. For the most part our blogs were read by friends and each other. There were no financial motivations involved, nor popularity contests, just a genuine sharing of the common interest in topics related to food. I was buoyed that I had found some kindred spirits beyond my family and professional networks.


At that time we bloggers were low on the local media radar. While in the USA, known bloggers were beginning to be refused entry into venues by chefs who felt aggrieved by them and threats of lawsuits were emerging. Back here, we were quietly minding our own business and enjoying each other’s food, company, blog comments and repartee. Just as in a sports or social club, blogging was our mutual hobby. 


After a while, some of the group stopped blogging but still remained in touch. There were some debates between the ‘What I ate or cooked last night’ Bloggers and the amateur ‘Restaurant Review’ bloggers. The Mummy cooks graduated over to new parenting blogger communities and a bunch of the Generation X bloggers bonded over ethical food philosophies, preferring more academic or opinion driven posts. My own blogging style evolved into storytelling and I went on to create other niche blogs too.



Smart phones and Twitter

Since then, the rising popularity of smart phones and Twitter in Australia has significantly changed the food-blogging landscape.


I have read speculation that there are now over eight hundred food blogs in Australia. I see that many of those initially connected to each other using Twitter. It certainly broadened the Melbourne Food Blogging scene, sparking a growth in semi-professional niche review blogs that felt more like magazines in their focus.


Twitter started a rise in physical connections  beyond our mere start up session at VegOut. And as more bloggers came on board we all went on tweet-ups to chew the fat, literally.


Now a number of the blogs also now have associated Facebook pages and some of the Melbourne Food Bloggers have joined a discussion group on Facebook. Food bloggers have increasingly become savvy at driving viewership by using multiple social media platforms, organising events and by appearing in traditional press articles.

 
For me that’s no surprise. It is a natural evolution. The internet is now rich with resources on how to capitalise on RSS and viral sharing tools, which blogging platforms to use, plug-ins, link sharing and how to choose a hosting platform, domain name, hook into smart phone apps etc. There are webcasts and local social media events detailing how bloggers can monetise their hobby, draw readers and get freebies.


The culture of food blogging

In the space of four years, the culture of food blogging in Australia has shifted significantly. I’ve noticed that the content of the newer blogs has a different format. For my part I find the posts of many reflect the global trend to diminished substance, lack of concepts and a starvation of rich language. I recognise that the popularity of this style has resulted from an overall lower attention span by readers in the first world. Some would argue that this is because we are suffering from information overload and media saturation.


In professional writing, this current trend in blogging could be considered an offshoot of the dumbing-down of traditional media – ie. blogging as parallel to tabloid forms of news entertainment. Many newer blogs are flush with more pretty photos than actual opinion or insight, and it is now not unusual to witness people pointing DSLR cameras at their food when dining out to fuel vapid but pretty posts created as soon as they return to their computer. 


For the most part, these blogs are dining diaries and cooking journals, online brag pages if you will. Some merely repost imagery from other blogs; vicarious blogging - a style that has developed in a world where intellectual property rights are increasingly blurred by link sharing.


I myself have also created a photo-centric food blog on Tumblr. It’s an adjunct to this blog, which connects to my Twitter and personal Facebook networks as the main audiences. You’ll see a widget for it in my sidebar. The language is rich but the posts are short. 


Another aspect of the rise of mobile technology influencing blogging and social media, is through photos and instant blogging apps. Most of the images on my Tumblr blog, ‘Stickifingers’, have been taken on an iPhone and the phone is utilised to publish posts. By popular demand, I have also created similar blogs for my clients, as bite sized chunks of visual media to be viewed by time poor fans. 



Puppetry is Trending

In recent years, Food blogging has borne witness to sychophantic behaviour towards chefs. This mirrors the global trend toward entrepreneurial chef as rock-stars and product endorsers. It’s a wave of mass media that now also has an outlet in food blogging. While I feel personally disquieted by this, I do acknowledge that these blogs have their place in society as the generators of hype and publicity for venues. Essentially, they have become puppets in the food marketing machine.


Marketing has also given rise to the food blogs for which most posts are paid for promotions. These blogs also use link farming - online blogger contribution events - as a way of building viewership statistics. This is vital if you want to attract paid promotions, as brands want to monitor the blogger’s reach, influence and effectiveness.


Sadly, on these food blogs, back to back posts seem to be a roll call of sponsored items: from pushing a food product given to the blogger, some cookware or an appliance; a sponsored cookbook review; a PR event; a soft opening, discounted or free meal; sponsored travel; an advertiser created competition, meet the chef, etc. For some this has crept up softly so the question of manipulation by promoters is only just now arising.


When promotional posts are interspersed with link farming recipe swap events, it sends a clear message of the blogger’s motivation. That is, they’re in it for as much free stuff as they can get; it’s an embarrassment of greed. The really ugly side is, that for some it has become competitive accumulation between rival Australian food bloggers, as though those with the most toys ‘wins’.


I’ve witnessed this bring a spot of joviality at the expense of bloggers in marketing circles. In fact some bloggers of this calibre, have been referred to as "Cheap Brand Whores" who will "Fall for Blogger Bribes". It has resulted in companies such as Nuffnang and FoodBuzz jumping in for a slice of the money by wrangling bloggers as a commodity. The blogs are then traded as being willing pawns to the service of selling brands.


To me, these sorts of food blogs lack interest or entertainment. They’re rather like watching hours of poorly written advertisements – no one likes that. I wouldn’t read a food magazine if it were composed solely of ads, so why make a blog like this? 


It has occurred to me that some readers may not have realised what is going on behind the scenes of these blogs, but I also have seen plenty of discussion on twitter deriding this blogging direction. I believe the trend has coincided with the decreased average age of food bloggers and their readers. It may also be a matter of ego or a subconscious desire by a certain type of personality to fill an emotional void.


The millennial generation’s adoption of food blogging is a natural progression, given that the early adopters here were Gen X, but the popularity has gained momentum via the broad and rapid adoption of social media. So it is with this in mind that I feel the growth of food bloggers as ‘Floggers’ of venues, brands, chefs, products and events, may be the result of being naive to the machinations of marketing ploys.


Criticism

With this comes harsh criticism of bloggers from the traditional media for making a poor show at mimicking journalists and for eating into the press junket scene. Admittedly I have become weary of the injured refute from bloggers. Because to some degree, I think that we food bloggers may have left ourselves open to being niggled by jibes, by not clearly staking our ground. 


What do we actually stand for now? For many it is no longer a mere hobby. And for the food bloggers who wish to be considered professional, isn’t it time they behaved as a business and defined their brand values? 


Right now their credibility is brought into question by their willingness to disguise branded selling as candid, amateur posting and they’re dragging the opinions of others down in their wake. And those bloggers who believe that they are deserving of the same public status and remuneration as professional restaurant reviewers, isn’t it time they learnt more about the venue and the industry before posting commentary that could endanger the livelihoods of those in hospitality venues?


I expect that it’s the rapid growth of food blogging that has seen us all lumped together regardless of the style of our weblogs. But I think that will change. It will become evident that there are those for whom blogging is an online journal or amateur review, others who will fall into a commercial stream and some who will tenuously attempt to blend the two. 


Schisms have emerged in our culture. Aussie Food Bloggers, I believe it is time to nail your colours to the mast.



In the next post, Part 2. I look at marketing tricks and branded blogger bribes.







31 comments:

Reemski said...

Look forward to reading more.

HCGourmet said...

Big concepts. Good words. Well said. I look forward to part 2 and 3......

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

I'm not sure if sponsored posts and the like are what I want for my blog, and I'm yet to do any. When I write about a restaurant or store or product it's always been my own unpaid initiative. I don't know if that will change but I will always strive to be true to myself.

I can totally see how it might be difficult to turn down some free awesome kitchen equipment though. In general, I prefer reading non-sponsored posts, but I don't mind a sponsored one every now and then, if there's still enough quality content to keep me coming back.

I guess I'm not too fussed about all this - I simply pay more attention to what I like and scan or skip the rest. My motto is do what works for you.

Jobe said...

I think this is an excellent post because more commentary needs to occur around bloggers being pawns in the marketing game.

One big question I have, though, (and it's more a curiosity than anything else) is how prevalent are the blogs that are only in it for the cash or freebies?

I'm only speaking from the Sydney perspective, but I suppose it is somewhat comparable.

The blogs that I've seen seem more ignorant than coherently manpulative.

How many people are consciously in it as less than a hobby? Even the bloggers that seem to go to every shitty non-event and review every shitty product still seem to devote a lot of their free time and money to blogging about other food.

ozmouse said...

Very good summary ofmthe state of play re food blogging in oz ATM.

As a consumer of said blogs I am well aware of the changing environment. 5 years ago I would have sub to very blog.... Now heavy culling of blogs is the go. And I only rad the blogs I am interested I . They are usually articulate, defined by some nature/value. I respect their work. No different to any other consumer good I consume.

As with most things on the internet .... You have to churn thru alot of crap to get to the good stuff!

Thanks for the post!

stickyfingers said...

Thank you everyone for taking the time to comment.

Ozmouse, I feel the same way about what I enjoy reading, and like you, I have heavily culled my feed reader of blogs.

Jobe, going by the interest from my marketing clients and strategic planners in advertising, the number of blogs in promotional mode is growing all the time in Sydney and in Melbourne. Firstly it was fashion bloggers and then the Mummy blogs hooked in. Now it is the turn of food bloggers. The situation is less pronounced in the other states.

There are many bloggers who hope to throw in their day jobs and to live from their blogs, write professionally or hook a publishing deal. The motivation is not always apparent, and those who create a large number of promotional posts will appear to post some that seem unsponsored. But think about the content, often the self funded post is 'the hottest ticket in town' type venue or a blogger event organised by another blogger to raise the profile of a venue.

What the bloggers in this case naievely don't realise, is that they are losing credibility in the eyes of their readers. And as soon as they lose their influence, the freebies will dry up.

From the marketing end, the term brand ambassadors is often politely used for these bloggers. One marketing resource laughingly claims that brand ambassadors work for you 24/7 selling your product, brand or service for virtually no remuneration, as compared to traditional ad campaigns. I believe that many bloggers do not realise that this is the case, so it is my feeling that they are being manipulated.

steve said...

Great article as always sticky and loved that you did a Lord of the rings trilogy too.
Its a good point you make about all of us being perceived to be 'lumped in' with one another just because we blog about food to varying degrees. This says a lot about the marketers who still cant discern the subtle differences and audiences that some blogs have over others.
Looking forward to the next ep.

Ellie @ Kitchen Wench said...

As a blogger who treads the boards of the "sponsored post" blogs, I thought I'd throw my two cents in.

Do I read sponsored posts from other bloggers? Hell no. Do I like writing sponsored posts? Depends on what I'm writing about.

The past two months have been an eye-opener for me in that I realized I've bitten off way more than I can chew and that I need to make the sponsored posts much more infrequent since it's impacting my readers. To be honest, according to the stats, the number of readers hasn't been affected, but the quality of interaction with my non-blogging readers has definitely gone down and since they're my primary reason for writing, if they lose interest then that's not good for me.

On the flip side, one thing I can say for sure is that even if a post is sponsored, I'll make every effort to be transparent about the sponsorship as well as giving an honest review of my experience and as far as product reviews go, I won't accept a product review unless I can offer a giveaway to my readers as well - a little compensation for their inconvenience for the sponsored post.

I think that you can run sponsored posts on a decent blog, but there's a fine line between letting your blog be nothing but a marketing tool for PR companies and being able to maintain your integrity. Would love to hear thoughts from others on my views, though!

Barbara said...

Excellent post and I look forward to reading more.

I'm one of the few "Baby Boomer" bloggers I started blogging almost 7 years ago as a journal, which is what blogs were back then. My blog will remain a journal, although I do sometimes accept freebies if they appeal to me.

Blogs have evolved into two different genres. Those who blog for fun and those who blog as a career or in the hope of it leading to a career. I think we need a new name for those blogs.

stickyfingers said...

Steve - I had to mention here that I loved your Twitter response and RT: "Are you candid or branded?". It would have made a fitting subtitle. May I use it in Part 3?

Ellie - Thank you so much for your insight. I think it takes careful planning to intersperse sponsored posts into a blog. I have considered setting up a second page on this blog just for sponsored posts in order to measure their impact.

Barbara - I think your blog was one of the first I read before I started blogging myself. It inspired me and I think that journal style posts appeal to readers because they provide the kind of insight and self reflection that doesn't occur in professional editorial media. Australian marketers don't yet comprehend that this value generally doesn't translate into sponsored posts.

I'd love to see some suggestions of labels for different food blog genres.

Donna said...

I was interested to read this post as someone that has just started a blog this year. I have no intention of trying to make money, promote products or events or even take crisp slick photos cause for me it's a outlet to ramble about my interests and not a marketing exercise. I'm sure you weren't saying that the "true" food bloggers are those that attended that first meeting way back, and surely some new blogs related to food are good too? I think it is really obvious when someone is angling for something in a post and I don't know why but I find it a bit offensive when people really pan a place, or have their own point scoring system. I agree with you that the sycophant nature of chef's as rock stars is rampant and is only perpetuated by shows such as Masterchef. Having studied art and being continually frustrated by the snobbery around artists and the every day person thinking it was all too hard,food seems to be going the same way. The part that I love is when people share recipes, give advice on how to rectify a baking disaster or what to do with an ingredient you may have in abundance, I like that sense of community. Dunno, I'm ranting a bit, but the thing that REALLY stuck out was how can people write a "review" without asking any questions? If you aren't prepared to find out a little about where the food comes from or at least tell the owner what you didn't like something face to face to me you don't really have much integrity. I also think that people shouldn't be afraid to start a blog, but yes be clear what your intention is. I also agree that there is a widening in food blogs between those where it is obvious that the person respects the food, the producer & effort and those that speak with no authority or insight. Anyway, I enjoyed this enough to make a comment! B

stickyfingers said...

Hi Donna, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

I believe that there is a place for all kinds of blogs and I don't believe that the older blogs were necessarily "the true blogs". As I mentioned, evolution is natural and inevitable.

The camaraderie and interactions that were established between Aussie food bloggers pre Twitter however, was very special and I am deeply grateful to have been a part of it.

Ellie @ Kitchen Wench said...

Jane, I completely agree that it takes very very careful planning to do it well, and it's a tact I'm going to be taking as I move forward since the way I've done it over the past few months isn't working for me or my readers. My readers, for the reasons stated previously, and not for me since it eats into the very little valuable "free" time that I have outside of work hours. I've found that it's even making me dread blogging - though this might be since I'm just not a restaurant reviewer and struggle to find the necessary words to describe restaurants and have my roots as a recipe-based blogger.

At any rate, I've found myself turning down more food/product review chances over the past few weeks due to sheer tiredness (though admittedly the take-out pizza post was fun) and as far as restaurant review writing goes, this most recent Malaysia Kitchen nonsense has made me sick to death of it. Nothing against Malaysia or the cuisine (which admittedly is quite tasty) but I just don't particularly want to go there and am still questioning myself for taking part in the whole damn thing. Maybe I'm just competitive?

As for Donna's comment, I've had quite a few instances in the past where I've eaten out (not for a review but just out with friends) and tried to speak to a manager about a negative experience and quite frankly, 50% of the time they're too busy to speak to you or don't care. And if a waiter isn't savvy enough to realize that a dish has barely been touched and ask whether there were any problems, then I honestly believe that they're not doing a good enough job.

steve said...

Hi Sticky-of course you can, truth be known thne phrase just jumped out of you article anyway-it seemed to me what you were refering to anyways, so absolutely and of course use away-cheers!

Jobe said...

"I think that you can run sponsored posts on a decent blog, but there's a fine line between letting your blog be nothing but a marketing tool for PR companies and being able to maintain your integrity."

I totally agree with this.

I think the line depends on the blog itself.

There are blogs that are utter trash and you really only read them to see the pictures and get info on new restaurants you haven't yet heard about. The bar is way lower for these blogs since there is no quality based engagement with the readers: it's all quantity. If they want to review a woeful consumer product then we can ignore it like we ignore their terrible prose.

But there are some blogs that have genuinely well-written reviews and the engagement is totally on quality. If you go from quality, honest reviews to sponsored reviews of rubbish then you're going to jar your readers. But if you, for example, get a free meal at a top restaurant and you blog about it with no (conscious) influence as if it were any other restaurant you were paying for, then I think the readers will generally accept that. If that's fine with the marketing companies too then I see it as a big win/win for blogging.

GourmetGirlfriend said...

i Loved this post.
I am relatively new to blogging.
But not new to my pasion for good food and the sharing of it.
I guess I fall into the category of using it as a medium to find and interact with like minded people.
I feel it has really done this for me. I have made real life friends with quite a few of the people I interact with online that I know would not have happened otherwise.
My blog, although it involves food & cooking, is about the rest of my life and my passion for good food is a big part of that so food always features. I don't ever intend the blog to be about making money.
I guess for me it is and has always been about sharing.
I love that the internet has provided a way of reaching out to others of similar minds. And twitter is an amazing medium for conversation with these people.
I have seen recently the interest in money making in blogging. I have always been attracted to the blogs that are not about this.
I would buy food magazines if I wanted advertising.
i REALLY look forward to your next posts Sticky.
Great writing.

Anh said...

An honest post!

I consider myself a "seasoned" blogger, since I started out 5 years or so. At that time, the blog world was much smaller and was a less complicated place. Frankly, I am a bit scared looking at the blogging world right now. It seems to be too competitive, too many product endorsements, too much ego etc. I accept and agree it’s the natural evolution of things, nevertheless.

About sponsored posts and such. I tried one or two times in the past and decided it was not for me. Time consuming, and I did not get much satisfaction from it. I am happy with a few text ads on my blog, but no more. I don’t need and want to earn anything from my blog. I don’t read sponsored posts on other blogs. So clearly, this thing is not for me. I stay out.

Blogging has brought me a few freelancing deals. That was nice. But I know that it will forever remain as a side hobby. Having said that, I do want to keep a certain image for my blog, with a clearer direction somewhat.

Kenny said...

As a blogger of a mere year's standing, but a lifelong career newspaperman, I am always up for reading or debate about Australian food blogging or food blogging in general. So thanks for opening this can of worms! (Just kidding - I know the issues raised here have been around a while.)

However, as with the mainstream press articles I've read, so full of broad generalisations, the world you're talking about here seems like a parallel to ours.

I do have ambitions for my blog, but they're of an indirect nature. I see it as a sort of glorified calling card. It's also a glorious pick-me-up.

Happily, I have been approached by just a single PR outfit, whose function I was unable to attend. If I do so in future it will be prominently labelled as such. This lack of attention certainly makes a drastic contrast from my previous life as an entertainment editor for the a major metro newspaper!

Even if WordPress allowed me to carry ads, I wouldn't. Well, not yet anyway. I was approached by a coupon-style company a few weeks back. But to paraphrase another blogger: I never click on those things or ads of any form when I visit other blogs, so it seems logical to assume our visitors won't/don't as well.

Also: The ads/coupons/whatever simply look horrible - and make blogs look horrible. There seems to have been no effort at all to harmonise them with the design of blogs.


(Aside: As per the recent FB blogger group discussion, my numbers a pretty puny but growing steadily. Moreover, there are more ordinary western suburbs punters than bloggers leaving comments. I love them all, of course, but I feel deeply grateful and happy to have thrown our lot in with Melbourne's western suburbs so strongly. It feels like we are part of a community vibe that is not just bloggers.)


The blogs I visit overwhelming, AFAIK, don't have paid posts. The blogs I visit regularly and enjoy the most seem to have a lot of integrity and plenty of well-written, thoughtful words.


As for Twitter ... I was advised quite strongly by various people early on that it was vital, but I kept prevaricating. Then, quite recently, a fellow blogger confessed that they and their mates were so busy tweeting they barely had time to do blog posts.

Any I idea I had of doing the Twitter thing ended then and there.

For starters, I only have simple prepaid mobile. It's never turned on and is for car breakdowns and emergencies only.

As well, I see my blog as a matter of record. Maybe it's the newspaperman in me, but I want it to be something solid, substantial, real, archival.

Additionally, one the most surprising and delightful outcomes of blogging has been the preposterous amount of fun and gratification I have doing it with my 10-year-old son. In some senses it is becoming a record of his growing up.


Regarding Barbara's remark: "Blogs have evolved into two different genres. Those who blog for fun and those who blog as a career or in the hope of it leading to a career. I think we need a new name for those blogs."

I disagree. I blog for fun AND I would love to see it help my journalism career. But I think there's different ways of going about it.


A final note, if I may, as an old-school newspaperman. What follows is not necessarily criticism, but merely my perspective:

I remain constantly surprised by how many food bloggers make it really hard for visitors by:

Using typesfaces too small.
Using typefaces on inappropriate backgrounds.
Making paragraphs waaaaay to long.
Hiding/burying the name and/or address of the places they're writing about.

Surely it's not meant to be an obstacle course?!

Thanks to you and those who have replied thus far. I'm looking forward to the rest!

Ed said...

Jane, a post that has been much needed. It's funny to think how innocent those times were at Vegout with the wood fired oven. What an evening it was and a different world.

It's a tricky path to tread as with the conference last year to recruit supporters but not to sell out.

I feel sad that we see so many sponsored posts because bloggers are now in the same boat as journalists that are on the freebie bandwaggon.

I'm not totally aganist a free meal. I spend so many tens of thousand eating each year, it's useful to see the food at the odd restaurant.

I think, like with eating, it is a question of being picky and everything should be done in moderation.

The Fringe Food Festival we've started is a mechanism to bring bloggers together with producers, suppliers and winemakers and chefs outside the cynacism of pure promotion and making money.

I think you may well agree those interests intersected in a good way at the first truffle dinner.

I think to stay true one should write about what they like and dislike.

We should catch up soon.

Phil said...

I think that the simplest division between Melbourne food bloggers is the line between those that write analysis and provide context (even if that context is about themselves!); and those that don’t. If blog posts can't answer why the subject is important to at least the writer, even if the source is a press release, why bother reading? As a blogger, I don't read any of the latter group any more, and as a marketer, I'm not interested in them pimping my product. They might work well for products with undiscerning buyers and no other way to get coverage or build links.

Not many marketers and PR folk that I've worked with take these views: these views are my own and not necessarily those of my employer. It's still a game of quantity of coverage over quality for most - PR companies will often just report how many bloggers posted about something rather than how many people read it and most don't do the follow-up analysis to say whether a blog promotion "worked" in the sense that it sold more product or contributed to selling more. If they did, my guess is that they'd be respecting and avoiding certain bloggers quite differently to what they do now.

@Sticki - want to start a blog marketing superblog?

Jo said...

Thank you Jane! I was looking forward to reading this after you first mentioned it on Twitter. This post and the ensuing conversation in the comments has reminded me why I started blogging and how I choose the blogs I read.

Personally I that everything has it's place. Never say never... However, I get a lot more out of things that make me think, so I find myself being drawn to posts with the thought, context, and opinion that bring a blogger's passion to life on the page.

Can't wait for your next instalment.

Kenny said...

Phil, is we're to divide by two, that strikes me as a much more astute way of doing it.

Jennifer said...

What an honest and interesting post.

Like Anh, the more I've delved into the blogging world the more scared I've become about how competitive and cliquey it is, even more so because I am quite a shy pereson. There are some extremely talented bloggers, food stylists, photographers and so on out there it's hard to not feel a little inadequate in comparison. I write my blog because I love cooking, I love the challenge it provides me to continually come up with new recipes, I love the skills I have learned as a result of that, and I love some of the wonderfully passionate food bloggers I have met as a result.

I was recently approached about doing dome sponsored posts, something I had not done before, and thought hard before saying yes. The first was the review of a product I was genuinely interested in trying out and thought my readers would be interested in too. The second was participating in some restaurant reviews. Again, I was interested in the concept and thought reviewing restaurants, particularly from a vegetarian point of view might be a but of fun for something different. However, a few weeks into it I found i wasn't looking forward to visiting the restaurants and felt locked into what I had to do. I like to let my blog follow the whims of my cooking, so feeling the pressure to do something on a deadline wasn't enjoyable.

I have also written some posts, which some may have mistake as paid sponsored posts, but were written because I wanted to share some of the experiences I had overseas and thought other people might be interested because of the fact they are not your everyday type of place.

Kenny said...

Excuse my ignorance, but isn't there a bit of smoke and mirrors here? Going by what I've been reading in the past week or so, many bloggers are finding that just about all their comments are coming from other bloggers. If so, where does the benefit of the likes Nuffnang come from? Or is it about the amount of "toys" - invites, cookbooks, sample products, free feeds, bottles of plonk, appliances - that folks can amass?

Ellie @ Kitchen Wench said...

Kenny, majority of comments may come from other bloggers but that doesn't mean that majority of the actual readership is bloggers. If the personal emails and comments that I've received via both email and facebook are to go by, I have much more and better quality engagement with my non-blogging readers - who are my main audience.

As for Nuffnang, I'm not part of their program so I can't say, but my sponsorship with Kitchenware Direct as well as other paid posts have been beneficial in being able to provide me with little things for the kitchen that I need as well as giving me some extra pocket change which I inevitably end up putting back into the blog in some manner. Some of the bloggers who've been around as long as I have may remember my personal blog and the particular situation I'm in that makes the additional income I gain from the blog quite valuable in that it allows me to do things I might not otherwise be able to do.

For example - next week I have the privilege of being able to take my mother to the Hunter Valley at very little cost as it's part of a media junket. I definitely couldn't afford to do this on my own coin and my mother is in no situation to be able to do it herself. So yes, while there will be one or two sponsored posts as a result, the fact that I will have a wonderful quality mother-daughter time in the Hunter Valley is very much worth it.

In the end, nobody can dictate what another blogger should or shouldn't do. They're personal blogs and are run as such. I think that a debate around this topic has been simmering for awhile so it's good to get it out in the open and see what others have to say, but by the same token, there's nothing to be gained from negativity that doesn't promote or encourage the discussion.

Kenny said...

Thanks, Ellie - that explains a lot very well. I agree - comments and visitation are not the same. Still glad I've got heaps of non-blogging comments, though! Your policy/approach seems sound, workable and sane.

Jennifer said...

Well said Ellie! Your comments reflect how I feel.

Kenny, re your comment about Nuffnang, I'm a member of the Nuffnang network and have used it to earn a very small amount of money towards my hosting costs. I can't comment about people using it to accumulate toys because my involvement with them has only been from an advertising perspective.

Fitzroyalty said...

Ha ha and boo hoo. The pro-advertising princesses have ejected me from the private 'Melbourne Food Bloggers' group on Facebook for discussing this topic. Hilarious...

tori said...

Brilliantly put. 'Link farming'. I love it, and the way you write.

Lau@corridorkitchen said...

A few thoughts.

Very interesting post, but you seem to be implying that the 'new' food bloggers are 'wrecking' food blogging as a medium, and I take issue with this. I also take issue with your assertion that these bloggers are brand puppets.

I think what is missing in this discussion is the human element. I mean, say a pr rep from a company (a person) contacts, me, a blogger (also a person) and invites me to a restaurant she works for. I go, maybe I pay for my meal, maybe I don't. I write a post about the place, including the fact that I was invited, what I ate, whether I paid etc, etc.

I don't see anything wrong with that, although I'm yet to receive a free meal. I know I would feel pressured to write positively, but I would also feel pressured when asked at a dinner party 'How did you like the food?' to say 'it was fantastic!' whether it was or not.

A lot of this comes down to politeness, it's not always about brands 'using' bloggers. Blogs can be very personal, they ARE word-of-mouth. A lot of us do this for free and for the love of it - we may not seek out sponsorship or freebies.

I am not a big fan of food blogs that are all photos or all promotions either, but then again, I just don't read that kind of stuff. I agree that we have seen a decrease in written content over the years but that's not always a bad thing. The length of a post in no way indicates its value.

Chopinand @ ChopinandMysaucepan said...

Thanks for such an insightful article. As a new blogger, I have also thought about these issues but have not read or heard sufficient debate and this is a great forum. What I have found useful in guiding the stuff that I blog about is asking "why am I doing it". As long as one is clear and focused about the "objective" or "goal" of blogging, then I think gratification will come. I have been invited to freebies and understand that I reserve the right to write objectively or even choose not to write about my experience at all. I do not hold back when asked about the food and will always give my own honest opinion. Integrity first and all else come after.