In a recent post on The Amateur Gourmet, Adam Roberts ponders whether food blogs are over, concluding that they’re not but cautioning prospective bloggers that they can’t only replicate what’s come before. “Let’s all pledge to take more chances, to think outside the box to usher in a new era of food blogging: one less concerned about S.E.O. and one more concerned with surprising and delighting the food-blog reading public,” he writes.
For many, that might mean delving deeper into blogs aimed at consumers trying to make changes such as switching to gluten-free, vegetarian or some other specialty diet. There’s a conference in Chicago next week that aims to address the needs of this group. The Nourished Food Blogger Conference, co-organized by gluten-free chef and expo organizer Jennifer Cafferty, is scheduled April 13, followed by a two-day gluten-free food expo. I spoke with Cafferty to learn more about the event and the status of food blogs in 2012.
What are some of the ways food bloggers are finding to stand out or differentiate themselves in a crowded field?
I think that food bloggers who have really excelled have some sort of niche they focus on. Most of them have nice photography, most of them have a unique voice — you get to know their personality through their blog. And a lot of people are doing giveaways and contests to attract people to their sites.
Are all of the good ideas already taken? Are food blogs over?
I don’t think food blogs have come and gone; I think the market is saturated. The public still turns to food blogs to get a lot of information, and some food bloggers have such a powerful voice that people listen. That’s shown in the way big companies advertise with them.
Most people start a food blog because it’s a passion of theirs. They don’t expect to make money from it; they want to share what they love. If that then turns into something that’s a moneymaker, that’s wonderful. But at this point, there are so many out there that unless you understand the business side of it, you’re not going to make money. And, even if you do understand it, there are very few food bloggers who are actually making a full-time living from it. It’s a passion, something they love doing and sharing.
There’s another misconception: How many people have a food blog and then decide that they want to write a book? The perception that writing a book is a moneymaker is wrong. Most people don’t make money from cookbooks. It’s a great way to get your name out there and it’s a great public relations mechanism, but it’s generally a money loser.
What will be different about the Nourished conference?
It’s mostly about gluten-free and restricted diets in general. The general topics would pertain to any food blogger. The food we’re serving at the conference, it’s all gluten-free and refined-sugar-free. We’re very into labeling everything: The food at lunch and the breakout sessions have a card listing the top allergens in the food.
Gluten-free is one of the biggest specialty diets, and it’s a medically necessary diet for many people. But there’s also a renewed interest in “Is this a healthy diet for me?” A lot of people believe it has health benefits, which is good and bad. It’s good because there are a lot more gluten-free products on the shelves, but it’s bad because, if you truly need to be on a gluten-free diet [because of celiac disease or allergies], it might not be viewed as seriously because so many people are doing it.