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A Rebuttal, Of Sorts

Submitted by on May 16, 2012 – 11:44 pmNo Comment

Having spent the better part of my evening crafting a response to this sensationalistic account of how food bloggers are faking their way into the deep pockets of corporate America, I thought I would share that response with you here. You may be able to tell right away that this is actually meant to be a comment on the original post, but technology being what it is, some of today’s discussion around this post has been lost to the nether regions of the Interwebs. I hope to write an extended piece about the topic of bloggers (and why I advocate for brands to partner with them), but until then, the following will give you a taste of how I feel.

Without further ado, my rebuttal…

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I am writing to add my voice to this discussion, both as the moderator of the IACP panel in question and as an active advocate for food bloggers. While there are many inconsistencies in your post that I could address, in an effort to streamline a bit, I’ll jump right to the salient points.

The reason I proposed an IACP session focused on how and why brands can and should work with food bloggers is due to the misconceptions I discovered at last year’s IACP conference, many of which you’ve reiterated here. While it’s natural (though perhaps a bit lazy) to want to lump food bloggers into categories that already exist and feel comfortable to us (journalists, food writers, recipe developers, etc.), that doesn’t create an accurate picture.

Food bloggers are interesting to brands in large part because of the engaged communities they have carefully worked to build, stemming from their fluency with (and willingness to embrace) social media. While the work of a food blogger usually includes creating recipes, I personally have never approached a food blogger solely for recipe development. Rather, I partner with bloggers to have them create posts (and yes, recipes) that share their experience with a particular product or ingredient, just as they do on a regular basis on their blogs. The recipe is only one part of that journey. Imagine a prominent blogger recounting her first culinary adventure with goji berries, or another blogger who found a way to introduce her kids to endive by turning the leaves into the base for ham and cheese nachos. These are stories, connections–much more than you would expect from a recipe developer. And let’s not forget that in many cases the accompanying photographs are mouth-watering as well.

As for the issue of testing recipes, I feel that there is an apples-to-oranges comparison taking place. It is probably rare that a blogger seeks outside counsel to test a recipe before publishing it. However, bloggers who are interested in growing as professionals will take the necessary steps to ensure their recipes are quality products by testing those recipes in-house until they are satisfied. This is certainly the case with the bloggers on the IACP panel, and I for one feel comfortable with this paradigm when advocating that brands work with bloggers.

On a related note, to bluntly state that “the recipes aren’t tested (by bloggers)” is not only misleading, it totally misses the point. You arrived at this conclusion in your attempt to answer the following : “I (wondered) how, depending on the ingredients, you could possibly develop and test a recipe and still make enough money for the hours of work to be worthwhile for much less. …”

What should have occurred to you is that food bloggers, by and large, are woefully underpaid for the time, resources, labor and, yes, expertise they put into their blogs. As your cohort remarked, after hearing that some bloggers might earn $500 per sponsored post: “That’s not exactly a lot.” My sense is that if bloggers were valued more and compensated fairly across the board, rather than threaten your professional opportunities, their success would be reflected in your own. A rising tide floats all boats after all.

Finally, I’m wondering why you didn’t take the time to express your concerns during the panel itself. We had assembled a group of bright, engaging professionals who work with a multitude of food industry veterans every day, including, increasingly, food bloggers. You had the best “think tank” available to you, and you (from what I can recall) remained silent. We could have not only sifted through these issues and intelligently addressed any misgivings, but more importantly, we could have guided you on the journey that brought you to our panel in the first place: monetizing your well-established online magazine.

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