Monday, July 3, 2017

The Prodigal Food Blogger -- How the food blog world has changed for me

For the last few weeks, I have struggled with logging on to my food blog and Facebook Page. I just couldn't find the right words, and I'd second-guess if I should even write a post that doesn't have a recipe and photo. This morning, I'm on week #2 of my annual 4 week summer break from my job. I've decided to come clean about my personal feelings about being a Food here I go!

Here's the thing-- I started this food blog in 2008 because I love to cook and bake. I never sought fame and fortune when I created "A Feast for the Eyes".  I was inspired to start my own food blog by several food blogs that I was visiting on a regular basis.  My original goal was to store the recipes I've made, and then I discovered that I really enjoyed learning how to photograph food. (Some of my earliest posts are in dire need of a makeover!)

Even though I was raised in the restaurant business, I wasn't exactly the best cook. My recipe creativity and skills needed some serious help.  About 15 years ago, I began to crack open the culinary world when I honed in on Rachel Rays' 30 Minute Meals, on Food Network.  That's when I began to realize that I didn't need to buy canned soups or processed foods in order to feed my growing son. From there, I discovered Ina Garten, Tyler Florence, Ann Burrell and many other Food Network Stars.  By watching their videos, I started to improve my knife skills and was thrilled to discover that my cooking was improving!  I also found inspiration from food blogs and I'd spend hours reading blog post and slowly gathering my personal faves.  So, I picked up my inexpensive point-and-shoot camera and started posting. I found this to be so much fun!

Posting on my food blog become my obsession creative hobby and I slowly began to build a following. Slowly, but surely, I began to enjoy some perks of being a food blogger. I got "freebies" (food or kitchen tools) to test, went to food blog conventions and I became completely immersed in Food Blog World.  Today, small food bloggers (like me) don't get those perks any longer and any additional income that my food blog once earned no longer exists. The reason for this is that food blogs are expected to have very high traffic in order to make money.. I find that when I land on some food blogs, I am assaulted with pop-up ads and videos and so much advertising-- and I don't care for that.  I get it, though.  It's a way of making a living. Food Blogging was changing and I wasn't so sure this is the direction I wanted to head.

Today, Food Blogging has become a very profitable business and it has become a full-time job. I know Food Bloggers who make six figures a year (I'm serious), and who reap the benefits of their popularity (and their talents) with free cruises, free kitchen remodels and the perks of free cookware and gadgets. Kudos to them-- but I know I'm just not in that range of success and popularity. I would have to switch my blog over to a different platform and a re-design would cost me thousands of dollars!  I just couldn't justify that high of a financial investment since this is my creative outlet.

Besides, I have a full-time job that I love, but it also leaves me pretty tired at the end of the day. Plus, the food blogger ante has really been upped, with social media.  To keep one's food blog popular means having to be tethered to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snap Chat (I won't go there), mobile apps and to post on a regular basis.  The latest fad I've noticed is that food bloggers are producing beautiful videos, with music.

Wait! This is way beyond my scope of talent and time! How can I compete with this... or do I really want to??!! Have I lost my real purpose of why I have a food blog? Why have I allowed these changes to make me feel insecure as a food blogger?

So, folks, that's why I stepped back and had to reassess how much time and effort I was willing to put into my food blog. Editing photos, writing a printable recipe card and a blog post takes more time that one might realize. I'm not making any money at this, so should I continue?

Then, I think of the food blog friends and faithful readers who have always been supportive and encouraging to me. I think of the emails I get, thanking me for sharing a particular recipe.  Do I want to give that up?

No! Not yet.

My son is now all grown up, and has moved out. That boy could eat enough for 2 or 3 people.   We are now "empty nesters" and so I'm finding new priorities in my life-- and I need to scale back my servings!  I need to spend less time on the internet, focusing on my wonderful husband. We have recently adopted a dog from our local animal rescue group, and that is getting me outside and walking a lot more.

We still have to eat, so I've been cooking "Blue Apron" meals on a regular basis.  I find that meal kits have been a blessing for the two of us. I'm discovering new ingredients and spice mixes. I don't have to shop as much, and I can have dinner on the table in 30 minutes.

However, now that I have three more weeks of "Me Time", my cooking and baking mojo is stirring again.  I'm catching up on reading some of my newer cookbooks and magazines.

I'm not leaving.  I'm going to spend the next few weeks updating my food blog and editing some dormant food posts.  Thank you for reading this. I just had to put my feelings into words.  As a food blogger, we put ourselves out into the internet where anyone can read our posts. Sometimes, I do get mean and nasty comments. I've learned to accept that there are people out there, who hide behind "anonymous" to criticize something I wrote or the way I made a recipe.  Fortunately, those are few and far between.

I'm going to log on to my Facebook Page, as soon as I hit "POST" to reconnect with my followers.

Thank you, for making this a creative hobby of mine that I always enjoyed.  Cooking and Baking is something I enjoy because of the challenge of learning how to make it.  I particular enjoy sharing what I make with my friends and loved ones.


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Kate said...

Oh, Debby, you are wrestling with the very same thing that I have been! Food blogging has changed and you have done a lovely job of describing just what it has become for many people. I started following your blog and a few others many years ago. It became my creative outlet and a way of sharing kitchen successes, also. It is beyond overwhelming at this point. I decided that I wasn't willing to dedicate my entire life to something that was a creative outlet. I didn't want the obnoxious ads popping up all all over my blog. They block the reader and really waste the time I have dedicated to reading blogs. I usually steer clear of those blogs now. Like you, I still cook and I love to share, but I will do it when I want to not because I have to! Enjoy your vacation!

Gina F. said...

Thank you for your honest comments. I find I enjoy the smaller bloggers much more than the bloggers who are churning out content without much substance. There is a mega blogger today whom I followed from her very early days. I appreciated her so much more before all the success. She's a fabulous writer, but seems to have less time to write now. Of course, I certainly understand the need to make a living, so I try not to judge to harshly.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I feel exactly the same way as you do Debby. I enjoyed my little blog and was happy with a few likes and comments. The enjoyment came from writing, connecting with like-minded people around the world, and sharing what I enjoyed in the kitchen. Sadly I haven't blogged in almost 3 years and yet whenever I am at the farmers market, reading a magazine, etc. I find myself always thinking how I could photograph or create something in my home kitchen and share it. Once a blogger always a blogger.

Wave Watcher said...

Enjoy your vacation. Please don't feel pressure to cook and photograph and edit your whole vacation. Blogging should be enjoyable and still be your creative outlet. I think many of us have that need to be creative, but it can be found in many different ways, like walking your dog. Don't be pressured to keep up with others. Do it for yourself, as you originally intended.

I always enjoy reading your blog and have made many of your recipes, with lots of others to try someday. I'll read it whenever you post, but no pressure.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily said...

Yours is one of the very first food blogs I started following. I have always enjoyed it. While I'm not a food blogger, I get what you're saying. I don't think most people realize how much of a time commitment blogging is - and yes, I have those 'annoying' ads on my site because honestly, if I weren't earning a living blogging, I wouldn't have the luxury of staying home and just posting pretty pictures and writing about chcikens! At some point, I think every blogger hit this wall. Go 'professional' or close up shop...or just continue along doing something you love, just maybe not as consistently.

I chose the commercial route. Yes, I make six figures a year, Yes, I work hard at it, and yes, I'm still on Blogger. You don't have to change your platform in order to be successful. That's the biggest myth in the blogging world. I would stick with Blogger, maybe join an ad network and put a few tasteful ads on your site. I refuse to allow video ads, I don't put ads WITHIN the body of my posts - I think that's just too much! But a few on the sidebar isn't going to annoy anyone - or shouldn't.

I don't do sponsored posts. I think they're tacky. I have stopped following a few food bloggers who it's clear EVERY recipe they post has been molded around some product they were given or company they're being paid to promote.

But take it from me. If you can earn a comfortable living doing something you love without sacrificing your moral code, it's SO worth it.

Fresh Eggs Daily

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Debby, I really enjoyed your thoughtful post. I started in the food blogging world in 2008, the same year as you did. I totally understand how you feel about how things have changed in recent years. I toyed with staying on, but in the end I decided that it was best for me to say good-bye. So that's what I did this past November. I truly miss all of my friends, but my decision was best for myself and my husband, the photographer. Now we both have more time to devote to wellness and play time. Best wishes for continuing. I'll be watching and reading on Facebook and I applaud your honesty and your decision.

Vicki said...

Debby, if you enjoy blogging, then keep it up, but only when you feel like posting, not because it is another day and you feel obligated. Bloggers may or may not realize that readers who are in tune with their writing can tell the days that they really don't have their hearts into it and would rather be doing something else, or doing nothing.
I don't blog, but the main reason is because I don't feel creative or interesting every single day and don't want to feel the pressure (that I would put on myself) to come up with a post.
For what it is worth, I have enjoyed your blog for a number of years, but I don't expect to see a post every single day. Instead, I enjoy reading a post when I see there is a new one.
Good wishes and vibes to you!
Vicki in Birmingham

john hutchens said...

Thank you for your wonderful blog. I enjoy trying many of the recipes you post. My family has enjoyed adding new favorite meals to our menu. I do appreciate the hard work you have put into your blog and look forward to new recipes. My wife and I are empty nesters as well and adjusting to cooking for two has been a challenge. I hope that you continue to post wonderful new recipes when you have time.

Phyllis said...

I really enjoy your recipes and hope you don't ever delete your site! I also enjoy not having pop up ads blocking my view. If I have to x out too many ads, I just move on. Thanks for all your hard work making a beautiful site.

Kathryn Sparks said...

This is an absolute beauty. It resonates in me more than you can imagine. I've been essentially on hiatus from my own for-pleasure-only blog for a couple of years now after having blogged daily for well over 4 years, and for many of the same reasons you've taken this much tinier breather. I would like to return to blogging, but at a far slower pace and with a renewed sense of doing so with the dual purposes of self-motivation—my stuff is art, poetry, essays, and other quite random creative work, including food but never in so artful or organized a fashion as I find here!!—and the lovely community I've found with blogging and blog-reading friends. Both of these motivators continue to enrich my spirit, so I know I'll get back to this *eventually*, and I hope that you will find a deepened happiness and reduced pressure as you change your pace, too. Because I, like your other faithful readers, really do appreciate what you do, and know how much work it takes regardless of your enjoyment. You are valued! And a person of both integrity in your honest sharing and hard work, and of kindly and 'approachable' character and good humor. A pretty fantastic package deal, if you ask me. Thank you for your wise words here, and for all that you do.

Anonymous said...

Debby, your well written post touched on so many levels. While I'm not a blogger, there are areas in my life which once brought me great pleasure but recently have become more of a burden, and I find myself avoiding those areas - never good! So your post encouraged me to confront what I've been avoiding and make some realistic decisions and commitments. As others have said, I also enjoy your blog because it's so down to earth and genuine. I'm pleased you have some time for yourself and hope that this time will give you peace of mind and clarity. May it be most well with your soul! Debbie the New York Baker

Renee said...

Hi Debby, Yours is the only food blog I follow any more. I cannot stand the endless pop-up ads either so I stopped following many sites. I do enjoy your recipes very much, as a blogger myself I understand the seemingly endless deadlines get to be a drag at times. As far as rude comments...delete and block. Who knows why anyone feels the need to do such nonsense. You're such a nice person it is unacceptable behavior. Best wishes to you, thanks for sharing your feelings.

Anonymous said...

I read everything !!!

Kathleen Holzermayr said...

Thanks for sharing your process. I enjoy your blog and I can appreciate the time it takes to post as I also have a website (I'm a nutritionist). Kudos to you for your following your passion and staying true to what works best for you - in this case not to take your blog to the next level. All the best and keep up the great work!

Mimi G said...

Debbie, I have enjoyed your blog for many years(2011). I think it is truly one of the best. Don't ever change. Your writing is so down-to-earth and friendly. I especially love the stories about your growing up years and family. Your recipes are fantastic and your directions are easy to follow. I'm always so happy to get a new email from you and look forward to many more.

MamaStephF said...

Hey Debbie! I understand exactly what you mean, and it's good to know, based on your post and these comments, that I'm not alone. I started blogging in 2009 because at the time I was a stay-at-home mom and I cooked a lot for by three sons. I enjoy writing, so put that together to have a creative outlet, like you mentioned. I have enjoyed it so much, and still do, though I am able to post much less frequently now that I have a full time job.

Definitely there has been a shift in the world of food blogging. People seem to have staffs when they used to just write like we write. They were able to turn their blog into a business. I probably would have enjoyed that, but I am blessed with a job at a local tv station where I have great insurance. :) They have also given me a cooking segment once a week, which is super fun.

But blogging is different; I have only about 300 views a day, mostly from Pinterest traffic, but I haven't had a ton of comments ever, for whatever reason. I've always wondered why that was!

Anyway, good for you for living your life to the fullest and enjoying your creative outlet when you feel like it. I am with you!

Charulie said...

Enjoy your vacation! You deserve it. I love your blog just the way it is. I was so glad to read this post. I am not so tech-savvy and thought something was wrong with my phone because I was getting so many pop-up ads. I'm glad to know it's not my smartphone; it's the bloggers allowing all that irritation into their blogs. I go to blogs to relax and not to be bothered. I'm staying with the bloggers who don't use all those annoying pop-up ads. Thank you for all the beautiful recipes and photos. Do what YOU want!

Lisa Zanardi said...

Just wanted to say how very much I enjoy your posts and have tried many! Thank you for taking the time and energy for your readers to enjoy the benefits! No bells and whistles needed or over complicating necessary. Looking forward to keep reading your posts - enjoy that beautiful pup and your hubbie!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I know how you feel. The food blog world isn't the same as it was when I started 10 years ago. I felt there was a real community out there, but I have lost most of my audience due to bloggers losing interest and going offline, or blogs hitting the big time and going commercial. No one has time to just hang out online and read their friends' food blogs anymore. There have been times I have been tempted to take my blog to the next level, hire a designer, pay for a hosting company, and make my blog a full-on "lifestyle" blog. I could become an "influencer", but honestly that's a time and money investment I don't have. I know my food photography is terrible and I sort of like that (it's my trademark!). My blog will remain what it was when I started it - a place for me to archive my recipes and share then with anyone who might be interested in them.

I find I enjoy reading these simple Blogger-hosted, non-commercial blogs than I do reading the highly-produced, ad-filled, "influencer" blogs. There is something so much more authentic about ordinary people cooking for themselves and not for an audience. Keep doing what you are doing. I will keep reading!

Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily said...

I can't believe that people seem to think you need to switch from Blogger to a 'hosted' blog to be successful. Very much not true. You also don't need to 'sell' out and start posting only sponsored (and non-genuine content). I am on Blogger, I don't do sponsored posts. My content is my own and has remained very much in my voice. Sure, I have ads on the sidebar, I am a freelance writer, and author, and earn a living blogger, but I don't feel that I've sold out or given up any control over what I post. I think there is a way to do both successfully.

I understand what some of you are saying about preferring the small, non-commercial blogs, but I can tell you that one by one they end up just going dormant. Very few of us can manage to blog consistently year after year and NOT earn a living at it.

Norma said...

Ditto for me on all you've said. I don't like all the pop up ads and refuse to put them on my blog.

I'll post twice a month or so and I'm content with that. I never wanted it to be a job - just sharing.

Stay true to yourself - life is too short.

Lorrie said...

I'm never stopping reading! I'm so glad to learn more about the blogging world you are in and it's evolving for you. I only follow you and Noelle so I'm pretty loyal. Hugs and thanks for sharing. I'm a better cook because of you.

pbadaluco said...

Debby....I respect your decision to cut back. I always enjoy your posts and recipes and whenever you post I will read! I also know your area and my husband and I always love visiting from So. cal. Enjoy your empty nest....and your little rescue! We rescued our pup last July and couldn't be happier! I will be looking forward to your posts whenever they appear! �� Pat

Bernice said...

Debby, your past posts have calmed me and helped me dream of being home in my kitchen and cooking. My two year old grandson is at CHLA, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, having been diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric leukemia and an advanced stage at that. I stay there with my daughter and get home with my husband once a week.
In the quiet, I have read my daughter's FB posts and replies then just browsed online. I look up recipes and I have been reminded of Christmas mornings (Eggs in Purgatory) and other happy events in our family's wonderful days and food is always a big part of huge smiles from kids, their spouses, and grandkids.
This is a devastating fight - after two weeks off, he is back at CHLA on Friday to do the heavy Chemo Prep for a bone marrow transplant on July 21st. Yes, we have a match. An angel from France (Notre Ange de la France - la Belle Femme) is donating her bone marrow in order to hopefully, safe the life of our "Fierce Pierce".
It's been a heavy road but you have been a part of it from afar.
I hope my story helps you in your struggles with the intricacies of blogging. There may be hurdles but you are helping me with mine.
Thanks - you're a love.

Bernice Merryman

Debby Foodiewife said...

Dear Lisa,
Please don't think that the comments are against blogs like yours! There are some FOOD blogs that have gone overboard with too many adds. I especially hate the ads that bounce across the screen and you have to chase it down to close it. I particularly find videos that start playing very annoying! I monetized my blog, but I don't expect to make any significant money. I told the company that I didn't want those annoying ads. If they get that way, I'll drop them!
You are very fortunate that your blog makes money, and I am truly thrilled for you! I am not envious nor resentful of food bloggers who have done very well. I just don't have the time, financial investment, nor talent--and I finally found peace with that!

Anonymous said...

I guess my earlier comment did not make the cut. It happens. Please know that my remarks were not critical, but a legitimate question; I did not - and do not understand.
Truth told, I love you blog and I'll continue reading in any format that you offer. It really IS great and I continue to learn from your posts.
I understand your frustrations and I support you. You've got one of the best recipe archives I've ever seen, for the kinds of foods that you and your husband - and son - enjoy. Me too.
If you can get past the temporary issues, please continue, knowing that your work will be read and your pix thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you for the substantial effort! Best wishes to all,
-Craig (The other one) and guests.

Velva said...

Hi Debby, you were one of the first food bloggers I discovered. I have been very careful over the years to not impose blog stress on myself. My blog mantra was "I owned my blog, my blog does not own me". I don't advertise or do reviews. Like you, it was my hobby and creative outlet. If a few weeks go by and I was not feeling like blogging, I simply did not. The feeling always seems to return,

You have a wonderful blog. You are a fabulous baker and cook. I wish you the best!


C.B. said...

Your blog is one of my favorite food blogs! I always trust that what you have endorsed as delicious will be a household hit!! I even got my husband eating carrot ginger soup!

Glad you're taking some time for yourself and hope you enjoy it. I will continue cooking your archives :)

Ctraum said...

So I was sent a post from one of your recipes from 2012. I had never been to your blog before. I also have never posted a comment on a blog so this is my first. It was your recipe and your heart felt comments about what you do and thinking about stepping away that made me post. Your recipe was amazing and was able to bring my family around the table. I know that small food blogger are now given the same appreciation they once were as competitive edge for every one wanting more and more but I want you to know what you are able to share and post is fantastic. Please continue.

Anonymous said...

Hi Debby,
With no new post since July 3, I guess that you've ceased. So sorry to hear it, but the numbers rule! I still use your recipe index and achieve great results. As long as the site/blog stays up, I'll visit now and again.
and Oh!! I hope that nothing untoward has happened to you or to a family member. Please God, look after these folks.
-Craig (The other one), now with revised email address and a truly horrible new computer.

Anonymous said...

Debby You are angry and more than a bit frustrated. I GET IT. No post since July 3, suggests that this is serious. I hope that you can move beyond the blockage and resume posting your excellent PIX and recipes from whatever source, to get the blog back in motion. Your contributions to the Foodie World have been substantial and they are missed, especially in the Food World.
To my knowledge, nowhere is written that a blog, especially a Foodie Blog, will turn a profit - and even break even. I today's competitive market, small bloggers such as yourself ought to understand that. And that said, it does NOT mean that your blog is without great value. It means only that any measured profit,, measured as dollars-in-pocket, is not likely. As painful as this may be,, I foresee only to choices for you and your blog: 1) resume publishing your usual WOONDERFUL material and PIX, offering some of the best that you prepare for your husband and son, considering it a hobby if you can afford it, or 2) shut it down and vanish.
Frankly, Debby, your historical offerings - and PIX - are world-class. Beyond you family treasures, you report on what Real People Eat. Many blogs go elsewhere and typically talk about what might me served once a year or even less often. You, OTOH, usually write about what Real People really cook and eat! For me - and most of your readers, the former is of far more use to most of us! Dreaming about what I might make someday is great fun at times, but figuring out what I WILL make 2-3 days forward is far more productive and pleasant. You are a genuine expert home cook (and photographer) but not a professional chef. You cook and serve HOME food and just like the rest of us. Hearing more about what things land on your table is what I want to read. I want to know some details of interesting dished that I've never made before, the details, what - if anything needs changing and how well you diners accepted the dish. Will it satisfy my table? I can easily find that p-elegant 'gourmet' edition on countless other bogs and sites. With a Feast for the eyes, I'd like to see the best of what YOU put on YOUR table, how you made it and how it was received.
Debby, you DO have an important role in the food world and we need you! Most of us are fairly competent cooks, have no interest in melding ourselves professional 'chefs,' typically need to load the table at least once per day - and we Welcome the creative ideas that you have. Flipping open some cookbook simply does not cut it. Since your interest is photography, what should the important steps and finished dish look like? I want to know WHY you made it, HOW you made it, and HOW IT WAS RECEIVED at table.
Will this generate even a small profit for you? Ha-ha and not likely. I would pay a modest subscription fee, but I suspect many would run. keeping up with the accounting would be a horrible pain and not worth the trouble. So... What to do?
1)) Bite the bullet, consider is a hobby expense and provide readers with the Very Best of your own daily fare, emphasizing the best that graces your table, or as noted, shut it down and vanish back into the larger Monterey community. (You know where my vote goes!) By some (broken key)*uirk of nature, your area has the best of everything for 11+ of the 12 months. Use it and please tell us what you have made and how you've done it. In short, you have Sooo much to offer and nearly all readers can improve their fares by reading your posts. At least in my case, I have zero desire to replicate the high-end fancy, goofy stuff, but I want to expand my horizons. You already know most of what I need to know and yes, I'm already an experienced cook and baker. I Need MORE viable ideas. So PLEASE, ,Bevvy, don't shut down or continue the mute state. Even experienced cooks can benefit from your posts!! IORW, lady, please COOK, WRITE and make PIX! I think youoo are a little bit behind schedule.
From the heart, best wishes,
-Craig (The Other one)

Anonymous said...

Ha-ha! We already know that you do not bite. Your thing is to LOVE, both through your food and through your PIX of that food. How much more generous can one be? Per my prior note, only an hour or so earlier, You are MISSED, Your Fans want you back and it really IS that simple. Whatever your terms. we will accept them and enjoy your posts. you have so much to offer, and for the reasons noted earlier, we WANT to see whatever you have to offer. Sooo... Please get with it.

-Craig (The other one.)

Anonymous said...

Something got lost. If I do not see a response within a few days, I'll revert to email.. We WANT you!
-Craig (The other one)

Debby Foodiewife said...

Email me, Craig!