Last Thursday, I had the great pleasure of standing in front of a room of food lovers, bloggers, PR and restaurant managers and talk about one of my favourite things.
Food blogging of course!
It was a fabulous night, General Assembly did a great job organising everything, and having a great but also very relaxed space to share openly and honestly. I was super nervous at first, my hate rate creeping up as it got closer and closer to my turn to talk (and it doesn’t help that I was the last to talk…), but once I got up, I had a great ol’ time!
Although I was a bit sad to see on Instagram that I had clearly not advertised the event enough, with several people wishing they had come. Hopefully General Assembly will hold another food blogging event soon (or maybe a couple of us should get together and hold something anyway?) but I thought for those who missed out, I’d just do a little summary of some of the things I talked about (with less swearing).
Why did I start blogging?
I did a fun little exercise where I asked everyone to put up their hands, as I assumed everyone was in the habit of taking photos of their food, then asked people to drop their hands depending on how long they had been doing it for. 1 year…2 years…3 years…4 years…5 years…6 years…7 years…and only a few hands remained up.
Long before this whole food blogging business, I had been taking photos of my food and general day to day activities and adventures and loading them up to Facebook. I had a friend who commented in May 2009 that I should keep a food directory of where I have been eating, and that I should blog about it…when then led to the question at the time…what’s a food blog?
Fast forward to November that year, after following Melbourne Gastronome, Mel: Hot or Not and several others, I figured it was time to start my own. No eureka story unfortunately, but that’s all there was to it!
Photo by Ewen Bell
What’s been awesome about blogging for the last 5 and a half years?
Yeah, I know, I’m getting ancient. It’s kind of scary to think about.
One of the biggest perks for me is definitely the friends I’ve made, some I like to believe are life long friends, but regardless, people who never fail to make me smile and laugh.
The community is amazing, and immensely supportive, and like the first point, it’s always easy to meet new people and make new friends.
Blogging is a wonderful creative outlet. I’ve always loved creativity, being a drawer, into digital graphics, and comfortable with a camera long before I started shooting food. Without my blog, I probably wouldn’t use my camera as much as I do today.
Learning, there’s so much in the world, and especially with food, there’s a lot to think about, whether it’s ethical eating, new ways of making things, new boundaries being pushed, or old traditions that need to be revitalised.
I actually met my boss for my current job, through blogging, at a couple of launch events she had for her eateries. And I learned when I applied for an internship I saw was available, she didn’t meet with anyone else, and after meeting me (a week after I applied), I was sitting in a client meeting with her a week later.
And of course, all the deliciousness I get to eat…duh! And the opportunities to go to more restaurants than I would otherwise, which is always a privilege, never an expectation.
What’s been a little more challenging?
Staying motivated and managing my time, for sure. Especially if you’re a one-man/woman team like me, doing all the photography, editing, writing and compiling of the post and you’ve got a full time job. I mean, between waking up at 6am for the gym, working from 8:30 or 9 until 6pm, then heading out for dinner most nights…when’s a girl able to write?
Managing waistlines. I actually have done pretty well for many years, but I’m definitely getting a little…softer around the edges! But I work hard at staying fit (3 gym visits a week at least most weeks) and try to eat relatively reasonably. Just cause you only see cake on my Instagram, doesn’t mean I’m not eating avocados or museli most mornings!
So what’s been changing?
So I’ve attended a couple of Eat Drink Blog conferences, which is an annual food blogging conference in Australia. I’ve been to one in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
One thing I definitely noticed, was that in 2011, I was one of the few restaurant bloggers amongst many many recipe bloggers, but in 2014, that almost flipped on it’s head totally.
What’s one of the main reasons I think that is driving this?
Well in 2014, at Eat Drink Blog, word for word, I got asked this question:
“Are you an Instagrammer or a Traditional Blogger?”
Talk about feeling ancient!
I think Instagram has really evolved the food blogging scene. Now anyone can take a picture of what they’re eating, or doing any second. There are so many more restaurants as well now that are affordable to visit on a frequent basis, and the huge drive in cafe culture means a lot more people going out for small meals, and obsessing over latte art.
Whilst I think a lot of the ‘traditional bloggers’ who made names for themselves were also all about content creation, and making a lot of unique and original stuff to share, Instagram has definitely created a culture of content curation, where other people’s photos get shared and their feed might not be entirely their own.
As mentioned on the night, I’m still figuring out how this fits in to blogging for me; I guess I might be a bit old-school, but I’m not entirely comfortable with content curation. Sure pinterest and tumblr are built off it, but I feel like it’s very obviously shared work and you follow work, or art, rather than the person, where it’s the flip side of Instagram.
Certainly nothing wrong with it, provided credit is given where it’s due, but I’m still not sure how to place my opinion on it exactly.
Which kind of leads me to my next point, another thing that’s really grown within the blogging and Instagramming community is this idea of ‘Influence’ and the increase we’re seeing with PR and bloggers being counted in as media. It was around 1.5 to 2 years until I got my first invite. Now I’ve met Instagrammers who’ve been at it for 4 months and getting invited out to events and share their experiences.
Again, nothing wrong with being counted as media, or getting freebies etc, but for people looking in wanting to get into blogging…why is it they want to do it? Is it purely for the love, or is there more a case of FOMO these days?
What about $$$?
The idea that eating out, taking pictures and writing about it as a job is an incredibly seductive idea, and I often get asked by people when I say that I’m a blogger, if I do it full time.
I wish guys!
It’s really a very few select people who ever will, but how I look at it, is that your blog should be a platform to show your skills that you want to be hired for.
Awesome photographer? Show us your shots.
Awesome writer? Practice it your posts.
Social media guru? Show us how.
Let's educate ourselves
I didn’t include this in my slides, but it came up in questions and I thought would be good to share here.
I think bloggers generally get painted by media and restaurant venues with a bit of a negative brush. So as bloggers, I think it’s in our interest to understand what’s going on in the restaurant before we make severe criticism.
If service is slow, is the restaurant super busy or is it quiet? If it’s quiet, fair call, if they’re super busy, have they just opened and haven’t figured out how many staff to put on yet?
I think as well, now with social media and bloggers, we tend to jump onto new restaurants really quickly and expect amazing things from them from day one. In the old days…this was definitely not the case, and I compared it to starting a new job. You’re not going to be expected to be 150% amazing, and will need a few weeks to find your stride and comfort levels.
So why don’t restaurants and cafes get a little bit of leeway as well?
Lastly but not least
Don’t start a food blog guys. Really.
Unless you really freaking love writing, taking photos, sharing, food or all the above. If you cannot find passion for any of them, it’ll be hard to keep it up in the long run. I know it’s cliche…but…do it because you love it guys. Simple as that.