Friday, July 07, 2006

Poor Food Blogger - Let's Use Her!

Journalist (Who believes only ‘they’ have the right to write and publish) to Poor food blogger:

Journalist: Hey, you food blogger. I don’t get it why people are reading your food ramblings and recipes instead of my fancy articles in glossy magazines. I’ve checked your blogs a total 5 seconds. The horror, you write about what you had for lunch (gasp), how uninteresting and weird is that? So weird! Well, anyway, my editor wanted to examine this weird phenomenon and you are our specimen this month. Could you please write about yourself, more about that weirdness we are interested in, also send me your favorite recipe. I need some photos along with the recipe, and by the way, make it snap. I have a deadline to meet.

Poor food blogger (elated): Thank you for considering me for your article on food blogs. I am trembling with excitement and deeply honored. But because this article is for a glossy magazine, I would like to be compensated for my photos.

Journalist: What? How dare of you to ask me such questions. We will be sending traffic your blog way. Isn’t that enough, you weird food blogger? We would make money, the publisher and me by writing about you and by publishing your recipe and photos. Be happy that we've picked you, OK? Or, no more blog traffic for you!

Poor Food blogger to Blog Farmers (BF is who makes money by harvesting the other blogs recipes and photos for his flashy web magazine.)

Poor food blogger: Could you please not lift photos from my blog for your money making machine. I have explicitly put a copyright message on my blog asking people not to hotlink images. Thank you very much.

Blog farmer: What? How dare you poor food blogger to ask us such questions? We are doing a favor, by sending increased traffic towards your blog. By the way, can’t you read? The photo is fully linked to your blog and we believe adheres fully to general copyright issues.

Poor food blogger (meekly): But sir, my copyright message says no hotlinking of images.

Blog farmer: Shut up, shut up. You are rude! How dare of you to ask us such questions you poor food blogger. You are aggressive! You think you have rights? We are going to bad mouth you; we are going to ruin you. Ha… ha… ha….

A poor food blogger’s experience! :)

This post is written by Indira of Mahanandi
(Published with full permission from the Head Mistress.)


nika said...

well done. You illustrate an important point - food bloggers have become typecast in a certain way (as necessary for the publishing elites who have to put labels on everything to comprehend and sell).

We dont buy it because each of us knows how different we are from the next but the "poor food blogger" image is becoming codified and it aint pretty.

I am guessing its a result of the clash between two distinct cultures: commercial media and we the mouthy consumer (tho the media keeps on forgetting we ARE the consumer, to their peril).

The commercial media is a much more homogenous monolithic world where there is a profit motive and much competition.

We, on the otherhand, are heterogeneous in the extreme and we LIKE that diversity. The food community thrives because of that diversity. We are also infinitely less competitive and strive towards sharing and do not generally have a profit motive (THAT gets beat out of a blogger pretty fast).

Thanks for the creative writing and if you are being so rudely courted *hugs* keep a still upper lip. They are buffoons in ill fitting undies.

drbiggles said...

Thank you so much Head Mistress for such a lovely breakfast. May I have another?


Rachael said...

You know, some people spend thousands of dollars a month on publicist who’s job it is to court the likes of a food magazine in an effort to be included in their pages. People who hardly deserve recognition at all.

Yet, these busy editors, of a major publication, came to you – after 5 seconds, after 10, who cares – wanting to feature you and you are offended they wouldn’t pay you for your pictures? They certainly would credit you, and who knows what playing nice might lead to!

Sure, they have deadlines and they make gobs of money, but in the end, they have circulations in the millions and all of those readers are potential readers for you. Isn’t that a good thing? Plus, they really can go to just about any other blog and get them to do what you seem unwilling to do. I guess I’m confused why this whole thing bothers you.

I personally would have stopped at your initial reaction...being flattered.

kitchenmage said...

I'm with Sam here. If people are making mney on your work, there needs to be something in it for you. Perhaps if Sam was looking to promote a business via her blog, it'd be worth the freebies to the mag; if she's not, I can't see how giving up her work for free to people who will profit from it is a good deal for her.

This, of course, means it's a question of what the implicit gains are worth to you. Is a mention in a magazine desireable? Do you want traffic from the magazine's demgraphic? If so, then it's worth donating your work. If not, then maybe it's not. (FWIW, there are some magazines I'd give things to and some I wouldn't...) Rachael, I can see why you would want to play for free, you'd gain something for your business and perhaps eventually see some profit.

OTOH, asking for some of the money doesn't necessarily stop the conversation. I once wrote a book for which we couldn't find a cover image we liked. I finally offered one of my photos and then asked for the standard photographer's payment. They said they used internal stock photos so there wasn't cash. I asked again and they wrote a check. Not huge, but it wold have bought dinner for two at any restaurant I could have come up with. We chose the Herbfarm. smile

Sam said...

BTW this post was written by Indira of Manhanandi, not by Sam. Just FYI!

Personally I give away everything I do for free since under the terms of my visa the American Government does not allow me to make any money whatsoever from my hobbies or extra-curricular activities. Sucks, huh? The only 'payment' I can possibly accept is 'traffic' so that is the be all and end all of it for me.

That said - I have found that glossy magazines dont seem to generate much traffic - since I was mentioned in a UK food magazine. I don't think many people really go and type in a url from print press. Well I do occasionally, but then I am totally batty, anyway. Getting linked to buy a popular website garners far more traffic than a glossy magazine. If you are interested in traffic that is....

Sam said...

BTW - i was linked on the front page of the Food & Wine site last week and the hits i got from that were negligible although I was very flattered to have been selected.

Now if Elise from Simply Recipes or Nic from BaKing Sheet or Slashfood link to me then I started getting a noticeable glut of traffic, for example

Andrew said...

I think the same goes for national newspapers too (at least in the UK). I doubt Anne's small mention in the Times the other day had that much of an impact. Nice to be recognised though. A mention I recieved in Olive (or whatever it was) resulted in only a small rise in visits.

Also magazine sales are actually very small - I dont have specifics to hand (and many dont publish sales figures for this reason) but sales of glossy magazines are actually very small - perhaps the BBC mags come in at 100,000 or more but most (Wine magazine for eg) I would be surprised sell more than 30,000.

Andrew said...

Found some figures on magazine sales from the BBC


ABC Jan-Jun 2005 ABC Jan-Jun 2004 change yoy

Good Food 317,039 304,144 +4.2%
Olive 64,016 63,517 +1%
Easy Cook 60,000 35,000 +71%

Sam said...

that's incredible... a mag with a high profile in every newsagent in Britain only had 64k readers per month. The difference is, I guess that no one ever would pay to read our sites, when they obviously do fork out for the glossy mags (quite understand, I have a glossy mag addiction problem myself)

Rachael said...

Kitchenmage, just for clarification, I do not have a business to promote, all I have is a blog...I did in the past, but haven’t for almost two years, so that is not at all my motivation.

I simply think being asked to be included in something is nice, and I strongly believe being included in something increases your notoriety, therefore can potentially bring more opportunities.

I bet if Clotilde had demanded cash from NPR her career would have taken a different path...for that matter, I would love to hear of one blogger who has in fact been paid by an editorial magazine for their inclusion. Anyone?

Gabriella True said...

Quoting Rachael: "I would love to hear of one blogger who has in fact been paid by an editorial magazine for their inclusion. Anyone? "

When I was in in retail planning, if we were included in an editorial in a magazine or something similar, we were never paid for it. In fact, we had to send free samples that were not ever retuned. That was standard practice except for certain high end products from the Metropolitan Museum or Saks but any small items were considered the magazines once they received them. So to me, I don't really think a food blogger need be paid by a magzine to be included in an editorial. But of course I am new to this blogging world.

Kalyn said...

I was featured in an article in Woman's World Magazine, for an article about the South Beach Diet, rather an ordinary magazine (no offense to WW, since they were very nice to me.) I was a tiny, tiny part of the article, but they did put my blog url. For weeks after my blog traffic was more than double what it had been. So it can be very good for the blog if the coverage is the right kind.

Gabriella True said...

WWD is a really important magazine Kalyn. I read it everyday at Victoria and Saks when I was in planning. That is awesome!

David said...

I don't understand.
It sounds like they wanted to do a profile on you, and wanted supporting materials (photos, recipes, etc), which is completely normal.

Magazines and newpapers rarely (...actually, never) pay for excerpting material for articles like that. If they contract with you to write specifically for them, that's another story.

Raspberry Sour said...

The relationship between bloggers and mainstream media is generally in flux right now- everything is so new, people often don't know the protocol. I think the next few years will be interesting in that respect. One of Canada's national papers, the National Post, recently lifted an entire post from a local blog (, reprinted most of it (enough to change the entire tone of the original), bylined the writer, credited the blog, and ran it. The blog editors and the original poster were shocked, since they knew nothing of it. So the Post paid him and ran an apology.

But I think in this situation here, the blogger is like any other source/subject for an article- and sources/subjects never get paid. The writer gets paid (and often not so well), and that's it. This isn't really all that different from any other person who's interviewed for an article. You're getting publicity, and the writer gets a cheque. Personally, I've found in the past that giving things away for free (or far less than they're worth) in the beginning pays off later. Right or wrong, it's the way the publishing/writing/media world works.

Also, on the subject of magazine readership, it often doesn't reflect the profitability of the publication. It takes years before a publication starts seeing a profit, hence all the magazine start-ups and deaths every year. And even if a publication is profitable, the editors (and in turn, their writers) are generally on a tight, fixed budget. So anything that can be squeezed out for minimal pay, is.

nika said...

In some ways its a sellers market.

Traditional MSM WANTS to share in the glamour of the blog-o-sphere (only because it is the current trend) and so they need to interview and discuss bloggers.

How that goes is up to you as a blogger.. do you write content that you want to be stolen or "used without notification" or bought for a very low cost (or used gratis as if you should feel fortunate that anyone at all would read your blog) or do you write it as an expression of yourself which you own and feel proprietary towards?

Just because the publishing industry works a certain way doesnt mean that a blogger HAS to comply as if they signed on to it. If they DO sign on to it (likely as a writer) then they play by that game. Pretty simple.

But a blogger should not be made to feel like a rube for desiring to have total control over their own content. If that means that they get "overlooked" then fine, that happens. In the fullness of time, such notice is quite puny.

The blogger knows the score (or will soon). If the blogger wishes to play the game then sally forth blogger, have fun with that.

Shall I just say that I come at this with a serious dose of realism. I see this as an art, something I do for myself.

Blogging would NEVER make enough to replace a regular salary in my field or many if not most others, period. (FYI: I am a scientific/medical writer and editor).

I let go of those annoying, potentially heart-breaking, and illusive goals of making serious bux with a blog and thus I ENJOY DOING IT.

I would not enjoy dealing with piddling usage payments and disrespect from an industry that seems to think it can impose it's own self serving definition of us on us.

If you dont like the terms, say so and move on.

Catherine said...

Based on the write-up here, it sounds like the approach of the journalist offended the blogger.

If someone approached me and said, "I don't know why people are interested in reading you, but my editor wants me to cover you. Send me this and that by tomorrow" I, too, might have a negative reaction (although I'd probably point out what's very cool about food blogs, 'cos I'm an explainer). Still, I wouldn't want my blog to be the butt of a negative/defensive article on how weird food blogs are.

Regarding the photos, I can certainly see why they'd want yours - they're awesome! Why recreate the wheel? I have to say, I've been looking very carefully at glossy mag photos of food (and ads) and thinking, I see better pics than this everyday on tons of food blogs.

Regarding payment for photos, it depends on your food blog goals. If they are crediting you with the photos like any other food photographer, and you have career goals to get into the food writing/photo biz, it might well be worth giving it away to get your name out there and a published credit. That said, it's perfectly reasonable to ask for compensation.

Generally, if a related publication is promoting a business, the business isn't going to get compensated for the info/pics they provide. In fact, the little biz is sending them all kinds of marketing materials: press releases, brochures, blurbs, links, reviews, customer comments,etc. in order to get appropriate positive press coverage (I have start-up publishing experience and have been the one sending out this info, making phone calls etc ).

I think this was, perhaps, a big compliment with a poor delivery. I'm certainly glad to have found your awesome site!

neil said...

It's worth pointing out that the journalist asked Indira to write an article about herself, rather than the journalist do the interview and write the article and maybe take a few photos. In which case Indira is doing the work. It depends on how you feel about it at this point. We all write our blogs because it's something we enjoy, not because we necessarily want to get paid for it.

Before blogs came along I wrote some food articles that were published, they are a lot harder to do, required more discipline and deserved payment. If at this moment a magazine or newspaper wanted to do something with my blog, I would do it and not expect payment. After all some of the ideas that pop up in my blog have come from these same sources and I'm not sending them a cheque.

I guess you need to ask yourself are you being a blogger or journalist? Then you can figure out if what you are doing is something you want be paid for.

Sam said...

good point t-u-t

writing for yourself couldnt be more different than writing for someone else, the latter being about 100x more difficult to do

Owen said...

Hah! An area where I actually have a LOT of experience. I once was the head of the reviews depertment at an extremely large national magazine. While I was there circulation (monthly) rose from 800,000 to 1.2 million. I like to think I had something to do with that. Anyway, I'm still a serious editor althoug online only now. I commission articles all the time. They are paid for at variously negotiated rates that are as little as free (in return for publicity) and as high as $1 per word. I expect the paid ones to be of a certain quality or I won't accept them. I don't expect much from the free ones and spend a fair amount of time whipping them into shape.

Having said all that, I have also worked at penniless publications that can't afford to pay.

It is common practice at both kinds places to expect to get a lot of assistance from the subject of an article. That might include photos - although even at very poor publications they tend to want to use their own photos. Photo rights are a very touchy subject.

It sounds to me like a great deal of the issue here is/was attitude. I would never demand things. I would ask for them. If the person said no then I would say OK - thank you - we won't be doing it after all and I would move on. Or I would think about paying.

On the second subject - stick to your guns Indira! Blog farms are eveil and immoral and they do NOT result in lots of traffic for anyone except themselves. If they persist after you ask nicely, look up their ISP and hit them with a DMC notice.

Indira said...

Thanks so much for your opinion and views about the ‘poor food blogger’ experience. I greatly appreciate your time and input. Thank you!

Cybele said...

I'm a little late to this conversation but here goes:

I was recently featured in an article in the National Post (Canada) and they used my photos ... and paid for them. I didn't actually expect payment, but it probably saved them a lot of trouble to just pick from my most recent set of shots.

I was also interviewed for a column in the NY Times which ran last weekend.

Neither of these items did much for my traffic ... maybe a 2 or 3% bump ... it's hard to tell because the online versions don't have hyperlinks.

I haven't run into too much snobbery with journalists ... but I have a lot of journalist friends who also blog, so maybe they're a little more democratic in my circles.

It is a very funny post though!

Garrett said...