1 Year Anniversary: Food Blogging, Where are We Going?

Well, this is a whole year of Hampshirecook’s Blog.  I have learned so much about blogging and promoting and tweeting and commenting and rankings and spammers…and taking (or not taking) reasonable photos of food in the middle of winter!  I have found some really nice people, helpful and caring bloggers so willing to share their knowledge, and I have developed a rather different perspective on the power of t’internet and what we academics call “communities of practice”. 

There have been real developments in food and cookery publishing in the last 12 months, with some horrible recipe conglomerate sites falling way down the google page rankings, and other, better sites emerging as more dominant.  When I research in food blogs, recipes too seem to be becoming more “professional”  in terms of writing and presentation, with less long, long diary introductions to wade through before you reach the bit you were really interested in…and lots of very high quality food porn photography.  There is also more commercial sponsorship of blogs and posts and I see the community really struggling to balance its conscience and independence with its desire to “monetize”.

With comments, I am also seeing “jumping on the bandwagon” one-line, six-word comments (Great dish!  Will definitely try this!) on popular food blogs, where dozens of other bloggers pitch in on every new post to get the links back to their own sites.  I do wonder if publishers realise we can be a community who feeds off itself, and that if a blogger has hundreds/thousands of visitors, there are no guarantees that any one of them would go out and buy a hard-copy cookbook by the same blogger.  Hampshirecook could have more comments in terms of numbers (see below) but I get annoyed and have deleted some obvious link chasers when they get on my nerves.  My view can be either leave a real comment that shows me you have actually engaged, or don’t bother.  Too harsh, or too old fashioned maybe?

I am also finding less informed opinion & interesting posts to read.

Are people scared of their own views?   It feels like there are many food bloggers chasing the dream of a book deal, but very few with a unique voice and the courage of their convictions that might hook and land such a prize.  Are these would-be Delia’s and Julia’s and Nigel’s self-censoring to appear publishable perhaps?  Will a range of good themed recipes (regional, family, cupcakes?) and nice pix be picked up by publishers and more importantly, make anyone significant amounts of money? My view is probably not, something more than this is required, though of course there are some visually lovely new cupcake books out there. And books on macaroons. And soup is the new soup, etc…but if I ever want to look at lovely cupcakes, I don’t need to spend any money at all to do that.

If I was back in “proper” publishing now (my first degree is in publishing and business) I would be looking for strong voices, unique or singular propositions, utterly trustworthy recipes with no hint of sponsorship to make me suspicious, social media friendliness and lots of visual treats.  When anyone can google and find multiple recipes for any dish that they would ever want to cook, the reasons for buying a hard-copy cookbook become less clear.  Depressingly, the easy-peasy publishing proposition seems to be celebs with (oh, the shock!) an oven: Gwyneth Patrow, Eva Longoria and Sheryl Crow have all launched their own cookbooks latterly, but surely these are just one-shot deals headed ultimately for the remainder bins? Interestingly too, these ladies seem to be relying on very old-style PR and done-to-death propositions with their fame as a somewhat shallow USP. I do wonder if they are making back their advances…though in the weird world of publishing, this is not always the aim.

So, that’s a taste of my 12 months of food blogging experiences and the random thoughts that flit through my head when I am in this blogging world.  To finish, and in the spirit of sharing with the community, some Hampshirecook stats:

  • 60 posts
  • 200 comments
  • 11,500 views
  • 220 views on my “best” day so far (thank you very much Foodpress!)
  • Traffic 50-50 USA and RoW

It took 4-5 months to really get going in terms of driving traffic (though to be fair, I was never really aiming for this) and to my utter astonishment, Hampshirecook was No. 1 in Google for a few search terms and remains on the first page for several more.  That is quite a buzz.

Now for Year 2 — do I really need to develop some commercial aims and ambitions for Hampshirecook, or is that just vanity and a misplaced work ethic, i.e. if you spend time on something, it ought to generate an income?  Is it not enough to have this as a really nice hobby, that gives me a sense of achievement, a place to keep all my recipes together and a voice in the food world about things that might bug me or interest me?  I guess it is “watch this space”.

6 Comments »

  1. This is a fascinating post.
    I started my blog as a bit of fun for me and a place to log my cooking and pictures of the kids for reminiscing. I quite quickly became involved in dialogues with other bloggers and I love this aspect – commenting on my favourite blogs and have them comment on mine. I do realise, though, that a lot of my comments and theirs are a bit of a mutual appreciation rather than any real debate on anything – but, then, that is the nature ofmy blog – I don’t really discuss anything – simply record what we had for tea or what I tried cooking that was new to me. I do find myself sometimes drawn into looking at my stats and wondering if I need to up my profile. I don’t really know why. When I think about it, it shouldn’t be something that interests me at all. And yet, there is a fascinating pull from those statistics as if they give me some kind of approval.
    I certainly have no desire to ever write a book but I do have a desire to improve my blog so that I can look at it with a sense of achievement.
    I do notice a big distinction between blogs like mine (predominantly written by Mummies) and more professional ones in terms of looks and content.
    Anyway, I enjoy your blog and your forthright views so I hope you carry on in much the same vein. Congratulations on sticking with it for a year.
    Lou.

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    • Thanks Lou, I get drawn to the stats too like a moth to a flame, oh my poor ego! …and I do the mutual appreciation society stuff too on others blogs, but would argue that it is nice to pat each others backs and connect, it is no different from meeting a neighbour down the shops and exchanging social niceties and that is what social glue/cohesion is all about. I do loathe those awful link-chasing bandwagonners though, I mean, I go into some sites and there is a very ordinary post with about 100+ messages extolling how blinking wonderful and *amazing” it is. Total sycophantic, link-chasing rubbish. I have noticed too that the more professional blogs seem to push me along to up my game a little, which is a probably a good thing! Anyway, I like you blog, it is authentic and real and that very much appeals to me.

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  2. How about posting the ocassional low-calorie recipe for me! I’ll send you some more cake recipes in return (I bake for work, to try to avoid eating it all myself). I’m needing some low cholesterol stuff as well – most of it is about avoiding refined foods, but it’s also on avoiding dairy, which is harder than you think (mayo, anyone?… and don’t get me started on lo-cal cheese…!).

    And there are also websites that calculate the nutritional value of a recipe if you put in the ingredients – try searching for sparkpeople recipe calculator. This might be handy to add in to the recipe.

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    • I have looked at those calorie counters, but they are fiddlesome — check out some of the USA blogs, they tend to use the calcs more, and there are more healthy blogs over the pond… But, I could do a wee series (quinoa anyone?) post summer for unloading the holiday extra baggage…in return for the walnut & coffee cake recipe???? 🙂

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  3. Great dish – will definitely try this.
    No, I am kidding. I am totally with you on this one. I started my blog because I wanted something to occupy my mind when a work contract came to an end and I was at home all day with small children. I love my children but I do appreciate having something else to think about. At that time I really wanted to write a cookery book but as I had absolutely no idea how anyone ever gets anything published I thought I would try something I was vaguely familiar with-websites. It has surprised me how much enjoyment I get out of my blog, particularly connecting with other bloggers. Although I have never met these people I have forged friendships and know more about their lives than the lives of friends I see on a daily basis. I guess that is the nature of blogging, you tend to give things away about yourself. I have decided though that I should try to make money from my blog, especially if it helps me stay at home a bit longer to do the school run etc and that is my ambition for this year to try to get an income stream going somehow.
    May the HampshireCook continue to be bold in opinion for many a year to come.

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    • You are a star, thank you and I wish you loads of success with “the ordinary cook”, whatever you do with it. It’s a great blog–which stands out–and that is an unusual thing. It has a lovely tone to it, very smooth and reassuring and not gimmicky.

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