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What Happened to the Food Blogging Community of 10 Years Ago?

A look at the food blogging community, then and now. It’s changed substantially since the early days in 2005-2009. Can we ever go back?

These are is the pear photo that my logo was created from. I love this picture.

When I first started blogging about food in 2005, the landscape of blogging was so different. There weren’t Facebook groups chatting about monetization or courses for learning about analytics. We weren’t strategizing about target audiences and writing media kits for potential sponsors.

There was just writing, food and the occasional picture. It was simple and unadulterated. It was an earnest community built by people who truly loved food, loved cooking and loved sharing it. We talked about our families on our blogs because in real life food and family go hand in hand.

Where did that go?

I fell down a rabbit hole on a recent evening and started thinking about this. The blogosphere felt like a more personal place then. When we corresponded with each other, it was about recipes, ingredients and our actual lives. I remember meeting Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes at a food conference one year. We were both so excited to meet in person because we’d been reading each other’s blogs for years and years.

These days, when I attend blogger events, it’s all hosting and social media hacks and business talk. That’s fine — I mean, I’ve run SCB like a business for years. But what’s been lost it seems is that personal connection … the part where bloggers read other bloggers just because they liked their voices, recipes and styles.

That evening, while down the rabbit hole, I came across some posts I’d shared as part of the Weekend Herb Blogging event back then — it was a weekly blogging shindig where food bloggers would write about different herbs, share their posts with Kalyn from Kalyn’s Kitchen and she’d do a roundup of all the great recipes and tips available around the web that were part of the event. It was organically built around the idea that we could educate ourselves and readers about how to use different herbs so they’d use them more.

Cate from Sweetnicks and I have been friends for 11 years. We met through blogging.

It was one of the first blogging “events” of its kind, but certainly not the last. There was also one devoted to antioxidant-rich foods run by Sweetnicks, the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge, various other weekend events and more. And they were interesting — you could literally click through and find all these posts that were created around the same interests you had whether it was dogs, cats, veggies, herbs, desserts or something else. There also seemed to be a greater transparency then when blogs worked together. We didn’t need secret groups to promote each other’s work, we did so in the open.

But then again, those were the days before ads on food blogs, before sponsored posts were a thing, before food blogging advanced from labor of love to career. There weren’t marketers wanting to know about the number of unique visitors you had on a post or how many comments you receive on average.

There was such a sense of camaraderie. Kalyn and Cate read my blog, and I read their blogs — not because we wanted something out of it, but because we respected each other and each enjoyed the other’s work. In fact, that was true of so many bloggers back then. I read so many blogs just because I liked them. We weren’t building community around our blogs, we were writing. We weren’t discussing monetization, we were talking food and cooking.

It was a good time to be a writer because there was such a lovely, supportive, international community to be part of.

But then things changed. As it does, money transformed the blog world from a quiet, fun garden party to raucous weekend festival. The food blogosphere isn’t just made of folks who genuinely love cooking anymore — it’s filled with an array of people. Some love it for the reasons it grew back then, but others are here for a different kind of community or just for the business of it or even just for the perceived chance of making big bucks.

Maybe I’m one to talk. I make money via SCB. It’s helped me supplement my income for years, giving my kids the best life I can. There’s nothing wrong with monetizing … only something wrong with it being the sole reason for blogging at all.

That’s not to say that all bloggers are doing that. The community still exists. It just doesn’t feel so front and center anymore. Or maybe I am just not as active a part of it. I don’t know. But I do know that if I am to continue writing here, I need to reconnect with the great writers of the food blogosphere. I want to feel that camaraderie again.

For me, this means a few things. I am accepting fewer sponsored posts these days. For awhile, I accepted a lot. The programs were interesting and fun, and having that income boost was awesome. But I want to hone in on the brands and organizations I have the most affinity for, and leave plenty of room for me to write what I want, when I want. I want there to be more food, more books, more travel. Those are the things I love writing about. It also means that I am going to work on rediscovering my voice. I’ve felt so constrained lately, like I wasn’t quite able to write. This blog post, these thoughts, are a good step in the right direction. And it means trying new things … like a video series I’ve wanted to do forever.

Goodness, it’s been so long since I talked about blogging on this blog. And maybe that’s part of the problem. In trying to built something people want to read, I lost site of what this is … it’s my blog. It’s about the food we really eat and the books I really read and the trips we really take. It’s about the shortcuts to a good life that let us live well even when we’re short on time or cash. And it’s blogs like this that I want to read.

Maybe the blog parties of 10 years ago are too much for the modern blogosphere, but I would love to see them come back. Maybe some modern take on the Weekend Herb Blogging style of event would be the right step toward a friendlier, more people-focused food blogosphere. It seems like it could be fun too …

I want to hear what you think. What are the blogs worth reading these days? What are the voices that you connect with? And would something like those blog parties work today? Would you, as a reader, be interested in seeing how other blogs are cooking with seasonal veggies or herbs or whatever?

Share with me. And if I am 100 percent off base, tell me that too … nicely though. This is a friendly space.

In case you’re curious about that video series …

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Introducing Weekend Farmers' Market Blogging - Sarah's Cucina Bella

Monday 22nd of May 2017

[…] I wrote about the changes I’ve witness and experienced as a blogger over the last decade of blogging. And, among them, was the feeling that the sense of community that made blogging so enticing to me […]

La Cuisine d'Helene

Tuesday 16th of May 2017

I started blogging in 2006 and yes, it was different at the time. I met a lot of bloggers online thru their blogs. Over the years I did work with a lot of companies and did sponsored posts. It was nice for the money but I was working a lot. Then my cousin (who was a brother to me) passed away of a heart attack. I was the one that had to sell everything he owned in his apartment and do the cleaning. During that time I had to cancel a lot of sponsored posts. After two months of driving to his apartment from my home, which was 2 hours away, I had time to think of what I wanted to do for the years to come. I made a decision to enjoy life, every minute of it, and that money was not that important. I decided to not have Ads on my blogs anymore and to take fewer sponsored posts. I have been happy with my decision. I also just want to go back to the old days of just blogging and visiting other bloggers. That is what brings my joy. Hope to meet you one day in real life!

Evelyne CulturEatz

Monday 15th of May 2017

Here here, so timely as I am about to celebrate the big 1-0 in 1 month. It has changed so much. I do still belong to a couple of monthly very freidly theme groups so that has helped nd I get a camaraderie out of them.

Cate O'Malley

Sunday 14th of May 2017

Completely agree. When you and I first started, I blogged 6-7 days a week and felt like I knew everyone and made many good friends through blogging. Then I slowed down to five days a week and knew almost no one. And for the past year or so, I'm doing two days a week. I would love to feel the way I used to, and am trying to get back there, and find some middle ground between enjoying it like we did back then, making some income, and have a close community once again.

Shelby

Saturday 13th of May 2017

I absolutely agree. I started blogging Dec. 2007. It will be 10 years this year for me. I started not even knowing what I was doing except I was writing what I wanted my kids to remember. I still write what I want them to remember but I also do sponsored posts. I have come around to this. It is my blog. I will do what I want. If blogs become irrelevant in the food world, then it won't matter. My blog is for ME and my children and their families going forward. I too miss those days where we all visited each other's blogs because we loved reading them.