Dianne Jacob - Will Write For Food
Food blogging is a growing superniche (is that a word?) with a wide variety of niches in which a lot of people seem to be using blogging either as the focus of their business or as a tool to build a bigger business. Even if you don't blog about food, there's a lot to be learned from succesful bloggers in this space.
Will Write For Food
Dianne Jacob is a writing and publishing coach who has also done quite a bit of writing related to food, including a book about food writing titled Will Write For Food. Her site includes a blog that is clearly a powerful marketing tool. It allows her to demonstrate her expertise, connect with the fans of other writers and present fresh content to search engines that helps her standing among searchbots!
I found Ms. Jacob via a recent post about Jenny McGruther of Nourished Kitchen, a multifaceted business that began as a food blog and related newsletter. She interviews Ms. McGruther about her business and, in addition to some fascinating details that are shared quite generously, McGruther gives some advice that's relevant to all bloggers trying to build businesses:
"They need to build a devoted audience based on their specialized knowledge. Once they have a way to convey that knowledge to their readers, they need to make it very clear about what the product will do for their readers. If they outline it directly and hit a price point that provides substantial value, they’ll be in a good position."
The Amateur Gourmet
"For starters, you have to decide if you’re food blogging for business or pleasure. If it’s for pleasure, that’s fine, but that most likely means you’re blogging when you want to, about subjects that you want to, in a format that may or may not appeal to readers. You can do that (many do) but that’s not going to allow you to quit your day job. If you’re food blogging for business—meaning, you’re doing it to support yourself—you have to approach things more strategically."
Mr. Roberts has also used food blogging to build his brand as well as an impressive career as a food writer.
Blogging can be a great career builder. In a recent interview with A View From The Cave blogger Tom Murphy, he explains how a blog designed to document a year in Kenya led to an editorial position and, now, a move into entrepreneurship.
Here's one tip from the interview with Tom Murphy:
"One of the beautiful things about blogging is you can write multiple posts in a day. It doesn't have to be one every night. So being able to put a bunch of things down and to have content that you're getting people to consistently read...whether it's a really long, in-depth piece or it's a video with a quick comment...being able to turn people on to different things has certainly been something that I've stumbled into and realized that works well."
And two tips from me:
It's generally a mistake to post audio or video one hasn't had the opportunity to review. In this case, I'm banking on the solid brand of Brazen Life which also began as a blog.
If you get into podcasting or vblogging, it's always a good idea to indicate the length of the podcast or video if your tech solution doesn't reveal that automatically. That way people know if they need to put a lot of time into listening and/or viewing and may have to schedule it for another time or can go for it if it's a short podcast or video.
One of the reasons I didn't preview this one is that I don't have the info and I'm guessing it's a bit long for my current schedule. I could be wrong but my best guess has cost them a closer listen.
Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect
I find myself at a moment of crisis, one whose details I'm mostly keeping to myself, but a crisis that I hope will become a productive turning point. I could certainly use one of those!
Faced with my weariness at high volume industry blogging, something I pursued for a little over five years at a hip hop business blog I launched in 2005 called ProHipHop, I'm realizing I can't do that kind of thing right now. I sold the site and a related web property last year. That gave me some breathing room as I battled with this multipronged recession but it has not led to a new blogging business as I anticipated.
Instead, after exploring numerous possibilities including two that would make fine business blogs in areas that have not been glutted, I find myself incapable of turning on the machine and building such businesses.
Oddly enough, my recognition that I need to take a break from such attempts and return to blogging as a means of communication and self-expression is inspired not just by my difficulties digging in but by my viewing of a documentary about Rem Koolhaas, the Dutch architect, called Rem Koolhaas: A Kind of Architect.
It reminded me of my love of big ideas and meaningful details brought together productively in real world projects. But also of my love of thinking through concepts for the sheer joy of creative thought.
In a sense, that's where my blogging began, back in 2002 with a blog about hip hop, culture and politics called Hip Hop Logic. The earliest version of that blog is lost and a later version became part of a web project called netweed that was intended to be a platform for alternative culture and was inspired by a number of influences that I discuss at that site.
Blogging at Hip Hop Logic and building a variety of resources at netweed, some that are no longer available, taught me a lot. I went on to create other blogs about politics and alternative culture but eventually became best known in the world of blogging for ProHipHop: Hip Hop Business News.
Honestly, I thought of ProHipHop because I realized if I wanted to make money blogging, I should probably write about money. It was the first dedicated hip hop business blog and allowed me to become surprisingly well known among "tastemakers" and "influencers" in the world of hip hop.
I left that world for many reasons, including the fact that I had to deal with a lot of negative attacks and mishandled my response in a manner that undermined the business I was trying to build. But it was also undermining my love of certain forms of hip hop music and my desire to help other bloggers.
During the early years of ProHipHop, I boosted many unknown bloggers, some of whom went on to become quite well known. And some of those were the ones who either attacked me viciously once they had the attention they were seeking or stabbed me in the back the way self-centered careerists are prone to do. I'm past most of my negativity about those betrayals but they also keep me from returning to that world and made me happy to have a successful exit.
In any case, having learned quite a few lessons, my work there led to my current parttime position blogging about the music industry for Hypebot. But it has not led me to a new phase of industry blogging as I anticipated.
In fact, I've decided to return to blogging about things that interest me because I need a platform to share those thoughts and to open up possibilities beyond processing huge amounts of daily news, jumping on breaking news and generally wearing myself out as have so many people in professional blogging.
But I still love blogging and still think it's a great way to build a business, build a brand or just build a platform to share one's thoughts. And the latter looks like what I'm going to do.
Update to follow!
New York Magazine's website has developed daily news blogs in addition to magazine-related content and they've helped grow web traffic to a claimed "10.5 million monthly unique users for September". This is the site's highest traffic since its launch 13 years ago and advertising dollars are also up.
New York blogs include:
Vulture - Entertainment News
The Cut - Fashion
Daily Intel - New York News
Part of their success can be attributed to high volume posting with new content going up every 6 minutes between 8:30 am and around 7 pm with eight or nine different pieces added overnight.
Federated Media was an early player in the blog advertising space, focused not just on ads but on sponsored posts and conversational media. They've just made two big deals that now give them access to a lot of web properties.
The first was the acquisition of Lijit, a company offering web tools and advertising for many smaller web publishers. This move extends Federated Media's reach to 77,000 additional web publishers beyond their current partners.
Now they've made a deal with Wordpress owners Automattic to provide advertising to Wordpress.com hosted blogs.
Federated Media says their "advertising programs will now be available as an opt-in program open to all WordPress.com publishers in the United States."
The "Federated Media Publishing, Lijit Networks and WordPress.com combination will reach nearly 247 million unique visitors in the U.S." so this is definitely big news for Federated Media and for bloggers and web publishers using Lijit or hosted on Wordpress.com.
Solo Bloggers vs. BlogCorps
In a surprisingly disappointing Roundtable convened by MG Siegler on the Future of Professional Blogging, a group of bloggers famous in the tech world answer the question:
"Is the future of professional blogging more built around successful teams or individuals? Why?"
The question locks the respondents into a false binary resulting in surprisingly dull answers by people who generally seem pretty smart. But that's the nature of binaries. They destroy the interesting complexity of life.
Which makes me wonder, how can one describe a blogger known primarily in the tech world as the Michael Jordan of blogging? Tech blogging, maybe. But Michael Jordan? A world class athlete known far beyond the realm of basketball? Such comparisons really speak to the insular nature of the tech blogging scene.
But it does raise another question:
If MG Siegler is the Michael Jordan of blogging, does that mean his move into the world of venture capital will be like Michael Jordan playing baseball?
In any case, check out the Roundtable for yourself. If you haven't grown weary of the insular world of tech blogging, you might find something in there that interests you.
Related Business of Blogging Coverage:
MC Siegler, Former TechCrunch Blogger, Explains the Tech Blogging Game
The Sartorialist - From Blog to Book
Scott Schuman's highly regarded fashion blog, The Sartorialist, recently celebrated its 6th year.
The Business of Fashion's Imran Amed took the opportunity to examine the business of The Sartorialist which is apparently pretty good:
"The Sartorialist had around 13 million page views last month, a 44 percent increase over the same month last year...If current traffic levels are sustained and significant portion of the advertising inventory on The Sartorialist is sold, it could theoretically make Scott Schuman fashion's first million dollar a year blogger."
Schuman started out building his reputation at Style.com and GQ while continuing to build his blog:
"Once The Sartorialist began to attract serious global attention, Schuman left these high-profile gigs behind to focus on building his own business. With his newfound independence, Schuman knew he would have to build out his own revenue streams. 'You have to constantly spread out your streams, so if one stream starts to dry up you can go on.'"
Additional revenue streams have included gallery shows with prints of his photos going for between $1500 and $4000 each, special projects with fashion brands and a book also called The Sartorialist but ads are taking the lead:
"Like other photo bloggers, Schuman also sells his images to magazines, through his agent, Jedroot. But by far his biggest (and most stable) source of revenue now comes from ad sales on The Sartorialist website. Initially, Schuman worked with Style.com to sell his advertising inventory, but has taken this function back in-house, explaining that he is in a much better position to sell the ads himself because he understands the website better than anyone else could."
Scott Shuman has taken a path that few bloggers can follow but that doesn't mean one can't learn from his example of blogging about something he loves to do and finding multiple revenue streams in order to build a livelihood:
"'You can really make a living out of this,' said Schuman emphatically. 'It's tough, but if you work really hard you can create a business, if you're smart about it and have something real to say.'"
Anil Dash on MC Siegler's Post
Oddly enough, one commenter I ran across labeled the post a "parody" of tech blogging but, if you pay attention to what tech bloggers have been saying (and complaining) about the business, you know that it's a pretty accurate look at tech blogging today.
Other writers would put it differently but for the top tech blogs making that money, it's a cutthroat race these days as it is in many other sectors of blogging as a business from hip hop blogging to gossip blogs.
Sadly, Siegler's approach to blogging is only satisfying for winners.
Happily, there are a lot of ways one can build and profit from blogging without it having to be a stats game.
BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2011 LA Promo Video
This year's BlogWorld & New Media Expo's Los Angeles edition is taking place from November 3 to 5. I think the upbeat video above gives you one sense of the conference but it basically seems to be a massive social media conference with a big emphasis on blogging.
I found the Attendee Profile pretty interesting:
40% of attendees state new media is their primary business.
42% of attendees produce a blog.
24% of attendees produce a podcast, internet radio or TV program.
64% of attendees are men.
36% of attendees are women.
50% of attendees earn at least $50k/year from their new media activity.
Australian reality TV blogger Emma Ashton is launching a consultancy, Reality Ravings Consultancy, that will "offer expert advisory services to both potential reality show contestants, and to the shows themselves."
The consultancy is built on Ashton's achievements with Reality Ravings, an Australian reality TV blog, she launched in 2007. Her blogging status led to her identification as a reality TV expert by the media, leading to numerous media appearances in Australia. She also launched a Reality TV Insights Survey that has given her more media attention and helped establish her as an industry researcher.
For $275, wannabe reality TV performers will receive:
A consultation over Skype or phone to find out about you, including your background, skills and personality and why you want to go on the show;
A tailored application is drafted and sent to you to upload online or send in; and
Ongoing advice when you get to the interview rounds.
Ashton also offers:
Speaking engagements including panels, conferences, lectures, workshops and seminars about blogging and reality TV;
Freelance writing for articles, reviews, submissions, speeches and reports;
Pre-production and concept testing advice for new reality shows;
Research related to reality TV shows; and
Expert commentary on reality TV.
I don't have any idea how well the various aspects of Ashton's offerings are being received but this is certainly a nice look at how one can build a brand and related services around a topically-focused blog. The survey is particularly smart for building authority.
Back when I blogged about hip hop business, I tried to find partners to create a hip hop demographic survey. My research training is in qualitative methods so I needed a quantitative partner but I was unable to pay for the needed support.
I understood why researchers outside of hip hop were only interested in participating if paid but I could never understand the short-sightedness of hip hop marketers who could have been involved. It would have given any of them national visibility that would relate to their business interests and yet none of the people I discussed it with could see that. Then again, that lack of vision helps explain why none of them have achieved national recognition in marketing since.
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