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?
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.
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 …
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to a tween and a teen, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.