The Past, Present and Future of Food Blogging

Let’s talk a bit about the history of recipes. Before the internet, giant corporations like Hearst, Meredith and Time Inc. dominated the food media space. They had incredible magazines with a massive number of readers that generated so much money. We’ve all heard stories about the swanky parties or lengthy, indulgent business lunches. That was back in traditional media’s golden days.

Then, with the rise of the Internet, we saw demand for recipes quickly shift to online. And not only did the internet take people online, but it democratized content creation. Cue: food blogs.

As the flood of consumers took to their computers, demand for recipes was high. And a few early adopters quickly realized that they could gain a following by throwing up a small site to post recipes. When they found that they had a lot of readers, naturally, advertisers were interested.

These early food bloggers made substantial money and when other food-lovers heard of this new platform to make money while writing about cooking...well, that’s when the wave of food bloggers hit. People, by the thousands, created blogs similar to the ones that were already making money in the hopes that they could grab some market share.

So what happens next? We can use simple economics. Think first about advertiser spend. Ten years ago, demand for bloggers was high and supply of bloggers was low, which meant that there was a lot of money to be had. And so bloggers flooded the market and increased supply. This increase in supply leads to a decrease in price, as advertisers realized that there were bloggers willing to accept less for a sponsored post or banner ads.

Supply and Demand for Food Blogs

In the current paradigm of advertising, making more money as a blogger means building more impressions on your site. But let's say that an advertiser is willing to pay for 100 ad impressions. Now, as we increase the number of bloggers, you can see that the average number of ad impressions also decreases until at some point you have so many bloggers that each blogger gets, on average, less than 1 impression.

Impressions per Blogger

Obviously this is a simplification, but if you combine the two figures, you see that this increase in supply of bloggers has led to a catch 22. A decrease in value occurred because there was an increase in supply, and this increase in supply led to a decrease in the average number of impressions a blogger can get. And when the only way to increase the value of your blog is to get more impressions, then there is a conundrum.

Now, here it is… it’s going to be hard to swallow, but I predict a major dropoff in the number of food bloggers. When people realize that food blogging isn’t just a “fun and easy way to make a living” there is going to be a great divide between those that can innovate and work through those challenges and those that can’t.

So how do you overcome these challenges and come out on the other side? Disruption.

Who was the first one that started their own food blog? Who designed the first blog layout? Who was the first to put banner ads on their blog? Who was the first to do a “sponsored post”?

These are all things that now ubiquitous in the blogger community, but they didn’t appear out of nowhere. Someone, somewhere decided to come up with a new way to differentiate and monetize his or her blog, and found that consumers and brands loved it. That is exactly what the blogger community needs.

Right now, bloggers follow the lead of the more influential bloggers. They are reading eBooks, and how-to guides on making their blog better, but that’s really just hurting the blogger community because it is making everyone’s blog the same, and commoditizing bloggers. That’s the last thing you want.

You want to stand out. You want to disrupt. You want to own your little corner of the food world so that you’re not on the same graph with everyone else, you’re on a graph of your own. Think less about how to be moe like successful bloggers; think more about how you can stand out or do something brand new.

The winds are shifting and there is going to be a major change in the blogging world. No one said that this was going to be easy. The question is, are you up for the challenge?

Photo via VentureBeat