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?
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”.