On Food and Blogging

A few weeks ago I ran across this post by Jamie Schler, “You are What You Eat: a Food Blogger’s Dilemma,” in which she expressed her disdain for the rise of food blogs that pass off meals made with packaged or canned ingredients instead of with fresh ingredients as homemade, unique and most damning of all, worth emulation.  She’s appalled that food blogging has become about big business with stats and cookbook deals dictating what food is created, resulting in shock value being valued over genuine, creative cooking.  She longs for the good old days of food blogging:

Food blogging, for many of us, began as a way to record and share favorite recipes and connect with other like-minded souls, maybe even learning something about new ingredients, cuisines or technique along the way

To Schler, food blogging has become Sandra Lee instead of Julia Child.

Then, this morning I read a post by Adam Roberts that questions whether food blogs are over.  The huge number and variety of food blogs indicate that food blogging is hardly dying out.  However, the real question he considers is whether it’s all been done.

What’s gone, as far as I can see, is a sense of discovery, a sense of danger. People start food blogs now to recreate what others have already created; very few food blogs feel new because they aren’t new. They’re doing what’s been done before, albeit with different recipes

Let me be clear: this blog is not a food blog.  I take all photos with my iPhone, and I’m lucky if the picture isn’t blurry or my thumb isn’t in the picture.  I like to cook and share recipes, but I’m not a foodie.  I could write a separate post on the elitist attitude and condescension dripping from Schler’s post (and maybe I will).  What struck me as I read both pieces is how their thoughts on food blogging could be applied to blogging in general.  When the first bloggers hit “publish” several years ago, it was somewhat radical, especially for those who became “mommy bloggers.”  Innermost thoughts, the challenges of the day, even mundane issues laid bare not in a locked diary that belonged to the person or in a dusty autobiography that was at best a one-to-one relationship but now available to anyone, anywhere and at any time. A one-to-many relationship.

It’s 2012 and now we jockey for ad revenue, sponsorships and above all, readers.  We take SEO classes and obsess over headings and keywords.  We see sleep issues, breastfeeding issues, PPD diagnoses, and illness or controversy propel bloggers from obscurity to popularity seemingly overnight.   This post isn’t a diatribe against anyone who monetizes his or her blog; it’s more of a question of whether there is room for everyone in the blogosphere.  Is there room for my mundane existence?

Schler writes:

Is it our responsibility to create content and recipes with integrity and thoughtfulness and not simply out of the desire to draw more traffic to our blog?

And Roberts:

Let’s all pledge to take more chances, to think outside the box to usher in a new era of food blogging: one less concerned about S.E.O. and one more concerned with surprising and delighting the food-blog reading public

I’m guilty.  I’m going to Tweet the link to this post because as much as I truly like the act of pouring out my addled brain onto this blog and the clarity and reflection it provides me, it is nice knowing that someone out there is reading it. I’m a unique snow flake too.

Where is the line between writing something real but perhaps not widely read and writing something crafted to obtain readers?  On the eve of Scary Mommy’s book release, will there ever be another Scary Mommy?  Or what will the next Scary Mommy look like? What will the blogosphere look like in a few years?  Does it help if you have a niche?

I don’t have the answers.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about blogging lately, and I welcome your input.

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3 comments

  1. Hmmm… I sometimes have similar thoughts about academia, actually. There’s like this aspect of it that’s all about doing something for its own sake, for the love of doing it, and props if you can do it really well… and then there’s this insanely competitive market aspect of it as well, where the currency isn’t necessarily always money, but just attention.

    For the most part, I read blogs the way I choose where to shop or eat out – I prefer the small, independent retailers by far over the big box chain stores. I do read maybe two or three “big name” bloggers, in part just to try to figure out what all the hype is about, but the ones I love and feel invested in are (for the most part) ones with smaller readerships.

    There’s more to it than that of course, but it is one dimension.

  2. I agree with Elizabeth. I hardly even know who the big bloggers are (I have never even heard of scary mommy) but I’m also a bit of a wierdo and I don’t have a tv and I am quite sure that I would never even be comfortable with lots of traffic or commercial support or whatever.
    My absolute favorite thing about the internet is the fact that lots of little bloggers can put their voices out there and connect with each other. Although things like corporate interests and egos are bound to be a strong presence in the blogging world, I personally will be happy as long as there are little fish in this ocean.

  3. I used to “write content” for a niche social network that shuttered about six months ago. Because of the nature of the network, I had a glimpse of celebrity. I think the closure was a blow to my vanity;I launched a blog right after the network closed. Not with any sense that I would ever monitize it, but just to continue to have an online presence, and maybe there are people who would be interested in what I have to say (I write about books, bookstores, book events in my area, etc).

    Sometime in 2011, I learned that a full 95% of people who launch blogs quit them within 12 months. My goal is to be in the 5% who make it to 12 months (and beyond). I don’t blog every day, but I refuse to be a statistic!

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