Food blogging: the state of the nation and some thoughts

by Jeanne on July 20, 2011

in Food for thought

Post image for Food blogging: the state of the nation and some thoughts

 

Why do I blog?

It’s not a question that I often give much thought to.  After seven years, it becomes a little like asking “why do I breathe?”.  It’s just something I do, as a matter of course, nearly daily; a creative outlet that engages my cooking, styling, photography and writing skills all in one satisfying activity.  But events over the past week or two in the food blogosphere have prompted me once again to ask myself this question.  Things were said in a couple of articles and blog posts that, frankly, filled me with dismay.  Pretty strident viewponts were selected and reported as if these truly were the views of the overwhelming majority of SA bloggers and food journalists – views that in no shape manner or form represent MY viewpoint.  And I seriously doubt that my views on blogging are so unusual and unusual as not to be shared by at least a few other food bloggers.

Accusations (once again) flew around that food bloggers as a rule cannot write and cannot take photographs.  That all you need to be a food blogger is a free meal and computer.  That there is only ONE food blogger in all of South Africa who checks facts before posting them (!!). That all you need for an audience is an internet connection. That all journalists hate all food bloggers because they accept freebies (!) and can’t string two coherent sentences together.  That all food bloggers are, as a rule, a backstabbing lot engaged in a dog-eat-dog fight to break controversial news stories and snag the best freebies.  That the only measure of a “quality” food blog is how attractive it is to potential corporate advertisers.  I will not even start on the questionable ethics of a respected national newspaper openly saying that they agreed not to include a single comment from a particular food blogger in their article, at the request of another interviewee.  (Whatever you may think of said food blogger, that is plain ol’ censorship by another name.  And although I may not agree with what a person says, I will defend to the death their right to say it.)  It all smacks of sensationalism and does neither the traditional media nor the food blogging world any credit at all. It made me feel utterly depressed about the state of food blogging in general.

A number of South African food bloggers got in touch with me over the past week or so, asking what I thought about all of the above. I am not the burning bush and I cannot supply definitive responses to all these wearisome accusations, but I have been blogging for quite a while; and I can tell you a little about why I blog and what it is that I think blogging is all about.

1.  I started blogging because I love to write and I hoped that some other people might like to read what I write.  When I started out, there were so few food blogs worldwide that we all knew each other, and there was absolutely no question of making money from your blog.  There were no Google Ads, no Foodbuzz and most certainly no e-mails from PR people offering you anything – and that is how it stayed for at least four or five years.  And yet, I blogged.  To say that food bloggers all blog for the freebies is complete and utter nonsense and I am living proof of that fact.  Yes, these days I have one advert on my blog (which makes me enough money for oooh, two large Starbucks coffees per month), and yes, I do the occasional product, event or restaurant review.  I am not apologetic.  I disclose these to my readers; I make it clear to the company that the review might or might not be positive; and I never accept cash for a review/post or for the inclusion of keywords.  But the overwhelming majority of my posts are not sponsored/freebies in any way – and if all the PR freebies dried up tomorrow, I would still blog – just like I did in 2004. I am pretty certain that I am not the only food blogger who holds these views.

2.  I have worked really hard over the years at honing my writing and my photography skills.  I have invested countless hours of my leisure time, my money, and my effort to get to a point where I feel proud of the content of my blog.  Sure, there are lazy bloggers out there who put up fuzzy yellow photos and scrape content from other sites.  But I know many bloggers like me, who work tirelessly at improving their skills.  To say that all bloggers can neither write nor take a decent photo is like saying all journalists hack into murder victims’ mobile phones. Enough already with the rampant generalisations. Besides, if we are all so bad at writing, why are print journalists in such a froth about food bloggers?

3.  An internet connection and a blog is not all you need for an audience.  An audience is something that grows organically because of good content.  If you cannot provide pretty riveting content in an increasingly competitive online world, you will not have an audience.  Content is king. Period.

4.  Not everybody blogs for the same reasons.  Some want to use their blog to promote an existing business.  Some want to use their blog as a personal platform to launch a career in writing, cooking or media.  Some want to earn a living out of advertising and sponsorship on their blog.  Some are blogging purely as a creative outlet.  And you know what?  ALL of those are good and valid reasons to blog.  The fact that I blog a certain way or for a certain reason does not spoil everything for you and your different blogging goals. Telling people there is A Right Way/Reason and A Wrong Way/Reason to blog just discourages newbies and sounds pompous.

5.  For me, as for many others, the single best and most nurturing aspect of food blogging has undoubtedly been the community of like-minded people from all over the world that I have met, both virtually and in person, many of whom I am now proud to call my friends.  These are generally people that I would never have run into had I not been active online, and yet I feel as close to many of them as I do to old school friends I have known for many years.  We have laughed together, we have cried together, we have fumed with rage together – and when the chips are down and there is a crisis (family, financial, romantic, health), we have come together to offer each other whatever help we can.  Just like a “real” community should.

Maybe I have been left behind in the dust as people rush by me to grab freebies, writing contracts, book deals etc. But I deeply and honestly do believe that food bloggers form a community and that we need to remind ourselves that if we cannot support each other, or at the very least show some professional courtesy, we stand to lose this community of like-minded people which is so precious to many of us.

I, for one, will fight tooth and nail to prevent that from happening.

 

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Hila July 20, 2011 at 10:13 am

Well said! Like you what I love about blogging is not the “freebies” but the “free love” if I can call it that.

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Katie July 20, 2011 at 10:14 am

Freebies? There are freebies?
I think that if one is out of the mainstream (like I am – readers mainly in US, me living in the middle of nowhere, France) one can only blog for the love of it.
Anyone who makes generalizations is sadly lacking in any journalistic (whether print or blog) integrity. Is it no longer common practice to check facts? Or have a valid basis for an opinion?
(I was offered a free magazine subscription a few years ago – until they found out where I lived….)

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Móna Wise July 20, 2011 at 10:16 am

Jesus. What a piece. I felt every word and pen stroke Jeanne.
Here. Listen……..
What qualifies a Food journalist/writer? Typically it is because they went to college to learn how to write and because they like food or cooking they gravitate towards writing about food and this becomes their area of expertise.
Have they worked in the service industry? Have they owned a restaurant? The majority of them have not. Actually, a larger percent of them are not even acclaimed home cooks. They JUST LOVE FOOD and eating out (at someone elses expense).
I know why you blog. And I love ‘why’ you blog and ‘what’ you blog about.
The thing I hate though is when others seem to think they make all the rules.
Keep writing for all the ‘write’ reasons and for gawds sake come visit me!
A virtual hug will have to do ……
Móna xx

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Gregory July 20, 2011 at 10:24 am

Journalists and print media are under siege and striking out like wild animals. Perhaps if they had decent unbiased content there would be nothing to fear and the reading public would not need to rely on the blogspere for independent comment.
On this notion of independence, I immediately lose interest on “advertorial” blogs where every entry is supplied or complimentary. It just seems like you are on the take! Ultimately, I believe one can only really be independent if you are a real customer i.e. joining the queue and the paying the bill !!!

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meeta July 20, 2011 at 10:30 am

Well said Jeanne. I honestly dislike generalization. There is a world full of extremely talented people out there and with this platform it becomes “easier” than it was in the past to display your work. Having said that it takes a massive amount of work and investment of time and money to see through to your goals – whatever that goal may be for any particular person. I have been blogging for over 5 years and in the process, this blog of mine has indeed given me the power to discover so many new creative outlets I have within me. I love to blog because it pushes me to write and photograph, 2 great passions of mine. As you also said – blogging also has provided me cherished friendships that I would never have found.

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Karen Muller July 20, 2011 at 10:42 am

The generalisation is insulting.
Trust me, getting freebies is rife in other non-foodie blog circles.

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Colleen July 20, 2011 at 10:47 am

I have never been more in agreement or so proud of you before. I love everything about your blog. I love everything about you! I am so honoured and privileged to know you and work with you. Your ethics are unquestionable. You blog for the same reasons that I blog. Thank you so much for writing this. xx

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Kit July 20, 2011 at 10:58 am

It’s the people and the friends you meet through it that make blogging worth while. That’s the reason I carry on, however sporadically these days. And it’s a great reason to keep writing personal stuff, even when I am now spending my days writing for clients about all sorts of other subjects.
I would have thought the freebie meals would only go to those who had proved that they could write decently anyway, as surely restaurants check the blogs that they are giving freebies to? So you earn them anyway.
Just let it all go over your head and carry writing just the way you do. Haven’t bought a newspaper in years – I get all my food news from blogs!

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Barbara July 20, 2011 at 11:09 am

I’m not familiar with what has happened in the SA media. However I imagine it is similar to whatis also said in the Australian media. Like you, for me blogging is all about community and the fabulous friends I have made through my blog.

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Marisa July 20, 2011 at 11:10 am

Excellently put! As for the whole freebie issue – it’s not as if journalists DON’T get them, so honestly, what’s the big deal? Most bloggers at least disclose this in posts on a specific product later on, I have not once seen a magazine who published a rave review about a new product AND disclosed the fact that they got it for free.
Not that freebies are the reason I blog of course, but I’m not going to lie & say it isn’t a nice perk.

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twitter.com/eggboxrobin July 20, 2011 at 11:17 am

Well said Jeanne, and thanks for speaking up for what I’m sure is the majority of bloggers, doing a great job for basically the love of it.

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Joe July 20, 2011 at 11:47 am

The article should have been a two-part issue, Jeanne: the first dealing with the animosity between professional journalists and bloggers, the second about the disconcordance within the Cape food-bloging community itself.I strongly suspect that many a journalist is feeling the financial pinch, and incorrectly blames foodbloggers for this while pushing out sub-standard work. You’re very right when stating that it is all about content; honestly the quality of food-writing in general has become an abomination in the SA press. The correct English may be used, but most often the articles lack passion, integrity, and content beyond the absolute basics.
As for the in-fighting between bloggers: while I enjoy Clare Mack’s twitter-like writings, I find it immensely arrogant of her to portray herself as the only “true and factually correct” blogger in Town- and yes, unfortunately her past is catching up with her, in part due to the sly gossip by the “unmentionable” blogger Chris von Ulmenstein.
[Comment shortened to keep it on-topic and non-defamatory - please note that my blog's comments section is not a soapbox for people with an axe to grind. - Jeanne]

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Victor July 20, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more, Jeanne. All bloggers blog for a reason, and not all bloggers blog for the same reason or motivation. I’ve blog for less than 3 years. Only last month I decided to stop blogging and asked the same question as to why I blog versus Twitter or FB. I stopped, but then decided I enjoy writing and started a new blog again. I am glad that I came across your post while flipping through Zite App on my iPad2. Thanks, Victor

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Jacqueline July 20, 2011 at 12:33 pm

What a great post Jeanne. I really think you have said what most of us feel. It is the great community that inspires us and urges us on.
I am happy to review products, but like yourself I let the company know they will get an honest review, although to be fair, I do avoid products that I am not interested in personally. I also decided early on that I wasn’t interested in advertising and have never hosted any on my blog. I am not interested in making money through my blog, just improving my cooking skilled, expanding my repertoire and enjoying being friends with such a warm and friendly group of people.

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pete July 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Wow … love your blog, this article and all the feedback!
The only comment I have to add (as Co-owner of the Foodbarn with Franck) is whenever we have something to say, we include our food blogger colleagues as much as possible … the energy, passion and commitment to the cause is infectious, honest and contributes greatly to the eating out (and in) experience in Cape Town!
Viva bloggers !!!

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Sarah, Maison Cupcake July 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I think it all boils down to jealousy and insecurities. Many journalists are insecure that bloggers are taking their work away and use every opportunity to rubbish bloggers. Publications are waking up to how talented and what good sense it makes to employ popular bloggers who are equally capable of producing quality material and come with a built in “following” and proof people like reading them. Meanwhile you have bloggers being jealous of other bloggers who are more successful than themselves – whether this be in getting “freebies”, getting “freebies” that they thought they ought to have had instead, or book deals. It’s just sour grapes. Thank god I’ve made such fabulous friends through blogging at the same time, if it was all about the bastards I’d have given up a long long time ago.

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Joan Nova July 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm

While I’m not aware of the comments that provoked this post, I totally agree with your stance.

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Erin July 20, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Jealousy rears it’s ugly head again. So, are they trying to say that print journalists don’t get freebies? Because I can tell you that people send me stuff all the time in the hopes I’ll write about it. When I am contacted about a product I always inform them that I make no guarantees that I will mention their product. I have no intention of letting marketers dictate my content.
These people need to adapt to a changing world and are fighting it instead. As bloggers become more respected and influential they will work harder to discredit us as a whole instead of trying to compete in a new world. The lack of distinction between myself and someone who will do anything to get something for free is an insult. I have operated my blog with integrity and while I know not everyone does this, I think most do. Also, I like many bloggers fact check, but sometimes people make mistakes. I think any print journalist knows this and has experienced it firsthand as well.

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Elizabeth July 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Whoa!! The only reason I can think of that these articles (that I wasn’t aware of until you mentioned them) have virtually attacked food bloggers is that their writers are afraid. (What it is they fear, I can’t begin to imagine. Perhaps they are thinking they will lose their jobs because they are getting paid and bloggers are not.)
Or perhaps, as others have already said, they are jealous.
And speaking of jealousy, WHERE are my freebies?!! I’ve been robbed!! I’ve been blogging for years.
I have no idea why I blog with zero ads, zero FoodBuzzing, sometimes zero images – plenty of ranting and raving though (ha!!! Zero real content?? :-D)

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Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen July 20, 2011 at 3:33 pm

“An internet connection and a blog is not all you need for an audience” YES!!! Why do so many people dismiss what we do as easy or without worth or talent. We put our heart and souls into our blogs, it makes me sad to see that being so easily dismissed. Thank you for this post.

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Elizabeth July 20, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Oops. THAT’S why I don’t get any freebies! I compose awkward sentences. I meant to say “I have no idea why I blog.” and then was adding as an afterthought that I blog with zero remuneration through ads… and then to add insult to injury, I sometimes blog without adding any photos (eeeeeek!!! no pictures??? how can I expect that anyone won’t click right past?).
See? It’s true what they (the ubiquitous “they”) say. Using me (and let’s face it, EVERYTHING is about me me me) as the standard, food bloggers can’t write and can’t take photographs.

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Eggs on the Roof July 20, 2011 at 3:43 pm

I’m really proud of you for saying all this Jeanne and I agree with every word. You’re an inspiration to us all. Food bloggers are some of the friendliest, most talented and supportive people I have met in years.

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Gourmet Chick July 20, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Well put Jeanne. Blogging has changed a lot in recent years and maybe people do get into it for freebies now but there certainly were not any around a few years ago. I think it is up to individual bloggers whether they wish to accept products or experiences to review (journalists certainly do without a qualm) but this should be fully disclosed to readers.
As a journalist and a blogger I think many journalists do feel threatened by bloggers but lashing out at bloggers is not any kind of solution. Both can coexist.

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Herschelian July 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Well done for your spirited defense of blogging and Bloggers. The first para of your blog – about some inter-nicine fracas between SA food bloggers/food writers left me completely out of the loop as I had no idea who you were refering to. However, on the general principles of why you (or anyone-else) blogs, you were smack on the button.
I am a voracious reader, and in my previous (pre China) blog, I posted many a book review. As well as food bloggers (of whom you are in pole position dear Jeanne!) I read many book blogs, and exactly the same arguements have been thrown at them. I think the ‘book’ journalists, having got their little niches within various (paper) publications, feel very very threatened by bloggers. Books are pricey, so before I part with my money I would rather rely on the review by a blogger whom I have grown to know and trust,rather than a commercial hack who may have the appropriate degree in literature, but who is following an agenda – have you noticed how in the book pages of all the broadsheets on a Sunday the same few books are reviewed?
The same is true of the food blogging world, the so-called professional reviewers are feeling the cold wind of competition blowing up their backsides – and about time too. Blogging although still ‘amateur’ is so much more professional these days. I have seen how your photographs – good though they were in 2004 – have improved, and this can only be because you have invested time and effort.
Do not be discouraged, you and others like you are blazing a new trail, and we are happily following it!

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Ishay July 20, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Hi Jeanne. Thank you for writing this- I am so glad you did. I know we discussed parts of it as it unfolded. Being in the game 10 months, and watching this blow up before my very eyes was a combination of startling and disheartening. I was at the lunch from whence the mutterings arose, and interviewed for the article too. There were various ways to report the well known feud between the ‘warring parties’ and using sweeping generalisations, lauding one/few above all others and sensationalising issues was certainly not the outcome I expected. Jeanne, like you and all of us, I make time and often steal time to work on my writing and photography skills- I’ve never approached anyone for anything and have even gone to the extent of asking P.R companies why I’ve been invited to X or Y. I’m flattered and honoured to be included in events, but never expect it and am well aware that I can not be invited to everything. I also make it very clear when I can not write something (my own workload prohibiting it) and in my case, if I haven’t before been to a restaurant, featured in a launch, I make sure I attend privately (and at my own expense) to get an unhindered feel of the place. Is this the ‘right’ way to do it? Certainly not, but it makes me feel comfortable. I was at a launch this morning, with a journalist who was at the lunch that sparked the M&G article and she confirmed that she knows a bunch of jounos with few scruples who are only after freebies. I was told only yesterday of bloggers who call up restaurants offering a post in lieu of a free meal!!!! There are people on all sides taking advantage of the system.
So, what are we going to do as a food loving, food blogging community, whatever the reasons are that we entertain this mad hobby? Now is the time to join together. We have talents and we have privileges. My suggestion is a global campaign to use those skills to help the 1B+ people who won’t smell a crust of bread. I won’t Mother Theresa you here, for deets, please email me via my blog.
Thanks again for your courage Cookie x

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Candice July 20, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Oh Jeanne, you’re brilliant! Reading your article made me so proud it gave me goosebumps :) I remember chatting to you just after I’d read the M&G article – as a newcomer to blog land I was so disheartened, but just chatting to you, and hearing your passion reaffirmed helped SO much! Thank you for being a for being food bloggers **Happiness Fairy**!

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Angie July 20, 2011 at 4:23 pm

This lurker has seen the boom of food blogging since the beginning. Sad that jealousy brings out the worst in people — including “professional” journalists!
You go, Girl — keep doing what you do so well, & don’t stop encouraging others to keep it up.

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Krista July 20, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I could hug you tight for this. :-) It is so silly to generalize about folks. Some of the dearest bloggers I know take wretched pictures – but who cares? They make my life better each day just because of who they are. I am a journalist in the “real world” (going on 13 years now!!) and a blogger and I love both my little worlds and the people I’ve met through them. Thank you for shattering some foolish statements and sweeping judgments. I’m glad you’re here. :-)

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Made With Pink July 20, 2011 at 5:22 pm

I love this post! I agree with everything you said above. I started my blog because I’ve always loved baking, but saw some huge differences between baking in North America and the UK. I wanted to share my creations with the world because I was proud of them, so instead of just sharing them with my husband and co-workers I could share them with a ton of others that just happened to stumble across my blog. I’ve been blogging for just over a year and have noticed a ton of new food bloggers pop up, most of which are lovely and very supportive. The best “foodie” event that I’ve been to wasn’t a product launch where I got handed a generous goodie bag, but a small gathering of lovely food bloggers (all of whom I’d never met before!)where we all got together at someone’s home shared food that we baked and tips on photography and blogging. I blog because I like it! I love reading the comments and emails that I get from readers and other bloggers – it’s very rewarding.
Unfortunately I have to agree with you on the jealousy thing – although I haven’t experienced this from journalists I’ve seen it with other bloggers, Not necessarily directed at me, but some of my fellow bloggers that have expressed their own views that others don’t agree with. It’s also very frustrating to see some bloggers act like they’re better than everyone else because they’ve got a bit of attention from a major company or have signed a book deal. Where they once replied to your tweets and facebook messages, they now see themselves better than you and only respond to other high profile bloggers and those with book deals. I find this very frustrating and arrogant because they seem to have forgotten that they were once new to blogging and a small fish in a big pond. I think a lot of these people need to stop and think about where they started and the journey they’ve been on to get where they are. It’s almost as if they think if they give out any photography or recipe tips another blogger is going to come along, steal their thunder and have a better selling book than them….

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The Food Fox - Ilse van der Merwe July 21, 2011 at 8:46 am

Hi Jeanne, I also felt that terrible depressed feeling when I read the article that spurred this whole debate. But then I realised that I want no part of it. I know that my blog has only been a source or pleasure for me, and I intend to keep it that way! I will have no part in the politics that a few people might like to stir up. And yes, the SA food blogging community is truly a great group of people, and I am proud to be a part of that. I sincerely love food, and I sincerely love writing about it. There!

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Kay@Chopstix2Steaknives July 21, 2011 at 10:01 am

Well said. It’s the community and the like minded people I get to meet that makes this the most rewarding. =)

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Sam July 21, 2011 at 10:14 am

Nicely done Jeanne and always good to remember that we all blog for different reasons and does it really matter what they are. The M & G article and the post on Food24 about what constitutes a good blog, left me rather saddened. My blog has brought me so much joy and opportunity, this far outweighs any of this negativity and the opinion of few.

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Firefly July 21, 2011 at 10:30 am

Wow! Looking at all the comments it seems that there are a lot of people out there who agrees like you. And so do I. Firstly I blog cause I want to and its my hobby. Secondly I blog because photography is mu other hobby and I want somewhere to show off my photos. Thirdly I blog cause I have a passion for South Africa, its attractions, places, nature, ect and want to share it with people. I have never made a cent off my blog (actually I sold one pic to a magazine from it, but other than that nothing) and I’m not doing it for the money. Wish I could though. I have never been invited to a place or something because I’m a blogger. I sometimes get invited because I’m in tourism and then use the opportunity to get stuff to blog about. I don’t write fancy nor have the time to spend ages to think about what to write, so what you (and I) see is what you get. There are way too many websites out there that pretends to be a blog but is nothing more than a news website that makes money. Doesn’t mean that if it gets updated every couple of hours or every day that its a blog. Anyway, blah, blah, blah, I have already written way more than I intended to.

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Firefly July 21, 2011 at 10:35 am

I’m curious to read the articles / comments you refer to. Won’t you pass on the link please.

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Betty Bake July 21, 2011 at 11:11 am

wow – lots of interesting comments and ideas going on here
i thoroughly enjoyed your writing and you have such good points
I agree with them and well done on keeping up a lovely and enjoyable blog
thanks for visiting mine the other day and commenting :) I love seeing who visits :)
have a great day
Betty Bake x

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Ailbhe July 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Oh, you do write so well! Light and logical and passionate but not ‘emotional’. Funny, there seems to be a few recent ‘why do bloggers blog’ discussions recently (obviously I don’t know the ins-n-outs of SA scene) and a lot of emotions are running high. Like you I blog for me, for my own creative development, to improve writing skills, to improve my illustration skills, to make sense of all my recipe clippings, to share my cooking, for lots and lots of reasons but none involve ‘getting freebies’. Now don’t get me wrong I like a ‘freebie’ much as anyone but above all I love to cook and draw (the photography is sloooowly getting there) and that is why I write about it. Yes there are greedy bloggers, yes there are pushy, opinionated bloggers who only want to shock, there are divas and bullies but there are also a lot of generous, sweet, dedicated, funny folk who I love meeting and would love to have around my table. Anytime. As for bloggers / journos friction well, I don’t waste one minute of my life on that. I’m a graphic designer by profession. If I were to spend my life ranting and raving at ‘unqualified’ people out there designing logos / brochures / websites on their home PCs I’d be considered a sad, stuck-in-the-mud old bag! Live and let live I say. Cream always rises to the top!
Just keep on blogging : )

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Barbara July 21, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Great article Jeanne! I’m not a food blogger myself but an avid cook and have been enjoying reading your blog for nearly all of your seven years. As a fellow Scatterling, living in different parts of the world, it’s been my go-to place for many “home” recipes and the CookSister favicon has been positioned alongside the daily newspapers for as long as I can remember. There are so many blogs to choose from now but the familiarity and comfort of factual delivery from your blog make it a #1 for me. Stick to your guns and keep up the good work!

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Karin July 21, 2011 at 7:05 pm

it’s also the words friends! in an age where electronic impulses have simplied our lives they have also changed them and we are all connected through the words sharing our love for food and images of it.
Thank you Jeanne for speaking out.

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Ursula July 22, 2011 at 12:06 am

As a food blog reader, I found the article personally insulting, because it assumes that readers have no basis for distinguishing quality versus garbage. If a blog is poorly written, I won’t read it. If the recipes and photographs are shabby or unoriginal, I’m not interested. A food blog is as much about the personality and style of the blogger as anything else, not about what’s “true.” And I for one would be happy for you to receive whatever remuneration is economically viable based on your readership!

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Cassie July 22, 2011 at 2:54 am

So, very well stated. This is my first visit to your blog but I’ll be back! Thank you for being so open and candid and passing this information along!

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Jeanne @ CookSister! July 22, 2011 at 9:38 am

Firstly, a warm welcome to all those who had not commented or visited my blog before this post! And secondly, a huge THANK YOU to each and every person who left such well-reasoned, supportive and thoughtful comments, some of which made me positively tearful (I’m talking to you, Candice, Krista, Herschellian & Ishay!).
For those of you unfamiliar with the pieces that prompted me to write this, I have now added links to the newspaper item and the blog post to my post – see above.
I am thrilled to see that many other bloggers also blog for the love of it and value the community aspect of blogging as much as I do. Yes, I do think jealousy is becoming a problem in an increasingly competitive environment, but I also believe that the vocal minority of bloggers who choose to put other bloggers down would do well to remember what our mothers taught us as toddlers: if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all. There is enough sunshine to shine on all of us – how about concentrating your considerable energies on achieving whatever your blogging goal may be, and refrain from expending energy on putting others down.
As to the journos v bloggers debate, I do think that some of it is fuelled by high-profile food critics (hello A A Gill) making sweeping “controversial” statements (i.e. generalisations!) about food bloggers partly because they know this is a guaranteed way to get a flurry of free publicity from disgruntled bloggers. I also think there is something to the point that many of you mentioned, namely that the current threat to print media represented by new media is making everybody a little sensitive. I would probably be sensitive too if my livelihood were being undermined by the amount of free content available on the net, generated in part by bloggers! But I also think that traditional restaurant reviewers and bloggers have subtly different roles to fulfil. Yes, a restaurant review in the Sunday Times may make me giggle at the sarcasm and wit, but there is almost never a picture of the food – and THAT’S what I get from blogs: more a blow-by-blow illustrated account than a collection of witty insults with the food taking up the last 3 lines. So I honestly believe that there is room for both, and that the overwhelming majority of food bloggers and food journalists get along just fine (some of my best friends are food journalists ha ha!). It’s only on the lunatic and attention-seeking fringe that there is conflict.
As regards product reviews and free meal posts, looking at the comments above I do not think there will ever be 100% agreement. Some people feel this is always wrong and negatively impacts on a blog’s credibility; others feel that the occasional freebie is fins as long as you disclose it (a perk of the “job”, if you will); and others do almost exclusively sponsored posts and giveaways as this is a way to generate income from one’s blog. Personally, I have no interest in the latter – but that’s a subjective view. I also don’t agree that ALL freebies are unacceptable. As many commenters pointed out, the entire food journalist world operates on the basis of freebies!! When last do you think a newspaper restaurant reviewer paid for their meal? Magazines are choc-a-bloc full of freebies. Travel pieces are sponsored by hotels and airlines; food for features is provided by stores or suppliers; props for photo shoots are often sponsored. So they feel the need to disclose in the same strict way that bloggers are expected to? Not really. Do you ever see really scathing product reviews in print media? Very, very seldom. Hmmm. I think that, provided you disclose them rigorously, the level of freebie acceptance on your blog should be a matter of personal choice. Readers soon realise which blogs are thinly-veiled advertorial – I know I do.
@Jacqueline – good point. It’s a good rule of thumb not to accept free product samples if you would never ordinarily use the product. “Would you like to sample some marshmallow fluff?” Ummm, no. Even if it IS for free!
@Pete – thanks for your comment. I’s good to hear that some restauranteurs have realised the potential of food bloggers as ambassadors. They tend to be super-enthusiastic and the feedback is far more immediate than with a journalist – surely a winning combination? Keep up the good work!
@Made With Pink – also another good point – why do people who have achieved some modicum of success (a book deal or a sponsorship) feel the need to snub former friends/colleagues? Surely it is far better to use this opportunity to give back to the community that supported you to get where you are?? By teaching others, you learn!
@Ursula – another excellent point! “As a food blog reader, I found the newspaper article personally insulting, because it assumes that readers have no basis for distinguishing quality versus garbage.” Precisely – content is king. If your content is crap, you will not have a readership.
And my favourite quote from all the comments is from @Ailbhetweets: JUST KEEP ON BLOGGING!

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PinkPolkaDot July 22, 2011 at 10:19 am

Well said, Jeanne!! I went to a cookery evening last night with some food bloggers and it was soooo much fun! Food bloggers love food! That is what we have in common and I think the main reason for blogging! Thanks for this post! Zirkie

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Robyn July 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I think you hit the nail on the head Jeanne! Generalisation doesn’t help anyone, it only serves to make the one speaking it feel better about what ever issues they have. It blows things out of proportion and I’m sad that it’s tainting something I love and am so passionate about. Personally, I’ve never posted a restaurant review or received any freebie of any kind. I don’t think those bloggers who do it are necessarily wrong, but that’s just not what my blog is about. I blog to spread the passion, to show people that baking isn’t hard and hopefully through that they’ll become confident in their own kitchen. Like you said, there ARE those of us who blog out of passion and love for food and we DO have a meaningful community that truly cares for those in it. Thanks for speaking out for us!

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Kelly July 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Thank you so much for sharing! I love how blogging has become a second instinct to you. Blogging is great to share thoughts, experiences, and receipts with others. It’s great when you have such great feedback like yourself! I recently launched http://www.whyiblog.com as a way for bloggers to share their story and read what others have to say. I would love to hear what you have to say and your receipts look delicious!

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Kalyn July 23, 2011 at 7:13 pm

I’m not sure which I find more distasteful, those who lump all bloggers together or those who don’t recognize the rights of everyone to pursue a particular activity according to their own standards and wishes. I do see blogs every day who do things I would never do or produce content I’d be embarrassed to have on my blog. But I defend the right of every blogger to pursue it in the way that works for them.

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Bob Morris May 26, 2012 at 3:53 am

Well, I’m a food blogger. I’m lucky to visit this page and I will share it to my friends. Thank you for posting this article! Keep it up!

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