Archive for the 'writing' Category

Bloggers debate traffic, revenue, monetization, and love.

I participated in a panel discussion this evening hosted by Povo, the new wiki-meets-yelp site in town. I discovered Povo (Portuguese for people) when I was writing about the “Hello Greenway” event. Povo had a wiki on the Greenway.

Each of the panelists had different methods they’d used to increase revenue from their blogs, or try to. Each method had varying levels of success. Ultimately, the value of blogs seemed to be:

1. a place for us to hone our craft,

2. as a showcase for our work, and;

3. only sometimes, a source of revenue.

It seemed more common that panelists found indirect benefits of blogging, such as a way to sell freelance services, to get publishers’ review copies of books and product samples, and to use affiliate programs for some revenue stream.

Adam of Universal Hub lucked out with one of those serendipitous moments Rhea highlighted when something happens and you get a burst of traffic or a sponsor finds you.

I shared a couple of thoughts. Okay, more than a couple about the state of blogging:

– don’t do it for money, even a book deal will not make you rich, and blogging alone will make it hard to pay the bills;

– decide what your focus is, if you want to be a commercial site and drive traffic for ad clicks that’s a different animal than a creative outlet to showcase your unique voice to publishers and agents;

– there’s a vast area of opportunity no one has yet adequately captured. Many entities like Povo (in my observation) are trying to build enough traffic one way or another so that they have a marketable value. Syndicators and aggregators are trying to do the same thing. Big advertisers have not gotten nimble enough to drill down and tailor ads to relevant blogs and small local sponsors haven’t gotten savvy enough to learn how to take advantage of relevant blogs that would be good partners for them.

– That leaves us all wandering in the desert (Just Call me Moses) and cobbling together a bunch of different things to make a living at this thing we love called writing.

People also debated the micro-blogging platform such as Twitter.

Do we resist? Do we jump in and try it? Experiment? You will see that I have decided to try it. My assumption is that there is some overlap between people with the attention span of a gnat who only get their interaction and infotainment in 160 character bytes with those who read real books and appreciate a well crafted story. I probably have readers in both camps and I think we CAN all just get along. Anyway, it’s an experiment. I hope it brings my blog to the attention of a few Tweeters? (“Twits?” “Twitterers?”) who use it.

[Follow me on Twitter: LDGourmet!]

I look forward to what I’ll learn from them!

Sam Baltrusis Sam Baltrusis – the Loaded Gun publisher (in black sweater/white collar) leads a panel discussion of Boston area bloggers: (L to R)

Povo Blogging Panel Making a point, hope it was a good one.

Special thanks to Lauren Clark DrinkBoston.com for the photos!

Just call me Moses…

Wandering in the desert

Technorati released their “State of the Blogoshpere 2008” report and the discussion about its conclusions has begun.

Here are my comments on the initial conclusion drawn from, or highlighted by, Galley Cat:

“Only Two Percent of Bloggers Can Make a Living”

I have a healthy disbelief of many of the assertions of revenue at the top end of the reported scale. I also note two significant points:

1. Two bloggers cited as making over $1,000 per month had books already or launched their blogs and books around the same time. In other words, the PR machine was primed.

2. At the other end, “Among active bloggers that we surveyed, the average income was $75,000 for those who had 100,000 or more unique visitors per month (some of whom had more than one million visitors each month). The median annual income for this group is significantly lower — $22,000.” (emphasis supplied.)

I scanned the report and will probably write more about it as I analyze it, but for those of you who haven’t found your way to Galley Cat or Media Bistro yet, here’s my comment:

I think ad revenue potential is vastly over estimated by, surprise, those whose business is vested in selling traffic. Been blogging for two years and have seen lots of changes, most for the better. One thing remains constant, the refrain that “content is king” uttered by someone who is making profits selling their traffic with your content; usually uttered at the same time they say “we can’t pay you but just think of the great exposure.” The ones making money seem to be doing so by exploiting those willing to give their work away.

On the other hand, many small businesses are not prepared to take advantage of the opportunities focused sponsorship would offer them. For example, I find a product I might give up precious real estate on my blog for. I reach out. They love the idea, but they don’t know the first thing about widgets or code or how to do what they know in concept they ought to be doing. “I’m a small business and don’t really know how to do this kind of thing.”

Larger businesses who get it, don’t want to allow bloggers any control over what goes on their blogs. (Asian dating services? Oprah’s latest diet? Puh-lease.)

I refuse to host soulja-dancing re-fi ads, diet ads, or Kraft Singles ads on my blog and Adsense never rose to a full dollar of revenue after one year.

Syndication is another concept that seems to be growing but it appears that most of those doing it, still struggle to find a business model that works. They are reaching out to established savvy bloggers providing quality content, but still very uneven in the “benefits” they can offer to the bloggers providing the content they’re selling. “just think of the clicks you’ll get!”

If advertisers could figure out how to eliminate middlemen like all these – and find bloggers like me, we would all be happy. At present it seems hard to find each other in the wilderness of the blogosphere. Just call me Moses…

Povo Mojo

I thought this name, Povo, was shorthand for Post Modern Viewpoint or something. Turns out it’s Portuguese for people. As in “by the people, for the people”. This is a wiki meets yelp sort of website. All about events, happening, opinions and sharing resouces.

Tomorrow, I am speaking on a panel of bloggers hosted by the new Povo website folks. The other panelists include:

I’m honored to be asked and looking forward to a lively discussion. When the host is a guy who’s blog is entitled “Loaded Gun” you know I’m doing my homework!

One final thought:

With more magazines going belly up each day, more magazines and newspapers laying off writers every day, why is “blog” still a four-letter word? People look down their noses if you’ve “only” published electronically.

They trumpet post-election day newspaper sales as a sign that print is not dead. If they looked closer they’d see people bought newspapers with the historic headlines to keep for posterity or sell on e-bay or both. Those lined up for the next day papers did not subscribe.

Tomorrow will be good. I’ll keep you posted. Click the event page here for more info.

Swimmingly

Swimming on Land

So I decided that was really what I was doing. Not walking, but swimming on land. Today – on my way to an appointment during one of those horizontal, steady, windy, rainstorms – I was SO wet, it was like I’d been swimming in my clothes. The good news is that my ultra lightweight Titanium umbrella held up just fine. The bad news is that it hardly mattered. You know you’re wet when the lining of your pants is plastered to your skin. When the clothes you peel off and hang, are dripping making a small puddle – you were wet. The pink wellies kept my feet dry though!

Swimming Against the Tide

I returned home to find a note from my new favorite ocean photographer, Ken Weiss. Take a look at Ken’s very beautifully done, but sad as hell documentation, Altered Oceans, of how we are destroying the ocean environments and the wildlife that inhabits them.

I chided Ken for his piece on the sustainable sushi news, it was all “doom and gloom”.  A couple of emails back and forth reminded me that tone of voice, irony and such, are too often lost in the medium. I took his first email back at face value. Incredulous that someone writing the LATimes Greenspace environmental blog could not be taking the state of the oceans seriously. It didn’t make sense.

Swimming in a School

Of course it didn’t make sense because the joke in Ken’s emails didn’t come through. Finally, he sent me this piece and it’s obvious, he DOES care about the state of the oceans. Good job Ken! Thanks for sticking with me and please do come by and join our blog event sharing your sustainable seafood (dare I suggest it? Sushi?) experience with our readers…

Here’s the wrap up from last year’s event: Teach a Man to Fish.

Reviewing Red Beans and Rice in Nola, Come to the Table in Nola and in San Francisco

The Storm after the Storm

New Orleanians are a proud people, and rightly so. A big part of their pride comes from their fantastic food, their “food culcha” and their devotion to sharing it with each other, and with the world.

My love and respect for the city is well known to readers here. It’s probably a good thing that the first reviews of restaurants begin again in New Orleans (See, Time to Revew Again). The Times-Picayune critic gives Mr. B’s Bistro 3 Beans. (You can read the review online here.)

My four beans and trinity.

Brett Anderson, The Times-Picayune critic, uses the iconic red beans to rate his restaurants, instead of the more common stars. Even The New York Times is taking note of the reinstatement of restaurant reviews in New Orleans, see, New Orleans is up for Review Again.

To get a good read on the general public, see the readers’ comments following the reinstatement announcement. You’ll see some anger, some rejoicing, some supportive comments aimed at other commenters. It says everything about the place that two readers who were going at each other, wind up circling back to reaffirm that they were each okay, hadn’t meant to offend, etc. You see that a lot down there. Everyone knows things like being civil matter, taking care of other people and seeing how they’re doing, matters.

Life in Nola still remains hard. Harder for some, more than others. Restaurant job vacancies hover around four times the national average and workers have a hard time paying now higher rents. Some estimate rents are over 40% higher than pre-Katrina. Not enough public transportation has been restored to enable the familiar trade-off that lower-wage workers often make: longer commute-cheaper rent. Child care infrastructure lags, as well.

Still, it’s hard to have a bad meal in New Orleans. It can be done, but you have to really work at it. And the people, as well as the food, are reason enough to go back. Have a meal, talk to your bartender, your server.

Every restaurant owner, chef, server or bartender I spoke to on my last trip had a story to tell about heroic efforts of regular people after the levees failed. Everyone had a story about tragedy and about life-changing acts of kindness, often from strangers. Everyone was so glad to be back, be back at work.

Everyone said “Thanks for coming back to see us. Come back again soon.” When was the last time a server or shop clerk looked you in the eye, said that, and really meant it?

From Red Beans and Rice to Gumbo

After seeing Poppy Tooker in a Gumbo Throwdown with Bobby Flay, we just had to have a little taste of Nola. I’d been thinking of some red beans so red beans and rice it was.

Well my beans were a disaster, I’m embarrassed to say (9 is not the same as Off, but they’re awfully close when you’re running around doing too much at once!) But that force-of-nature Poppy Tooker won her throwdown, of course. Our little Nola-bubble was not completely burst, thanks to Poppy’s win.

And as for the restaurant reviews…to my way of thinking, their being restored is a step in the right direction. It’s a step toward normalcy. It doesn’t mean all the rebuilding is done (far from it), or that restaurants are more important than other things in life (they’re not.) But, in a place as food-centered as Nola, there may be few indicators of life returning to it pre-Katrina days as important than one that says “come to the table.”

Come to the Table – Slow Food Style

And if you want to celebrate authentic foods of various regions with the folks who grow it, catch it, produce it, pickle it, sell it, buy it, write about it, eat it….Come to the Table in San Francisco with Slow Food Nation’s huge Labor Day Event. I have it on good information that Poppy Tooker will be there, along with thousands more who celebrate American food cultures from all regions and all facets. There will be music headed up by Gnarls Barkley, Taste Pavillions welcome you to taste the nation. Everything from organic liquor, artisan cheeses and charcuterie, to chocolate, or Native food products, ice cream, pickles and chutneys will be represented. You will meet producers and growers and sample their products.

Food for Thought – panel discusssions with nationally renowned experts will cover topics from the world food crisis, and local food systems, to fair trade, education and films.

  • Other culinary events to mark on your calendar: click here.

Warning: if words offend you, don’t read this. George Carlin has passed. Shit!

That cocksucker went and died on us! After three non-fatal heart attacks, outliving his first wife, getting arrested with Lenny Bruce, battling addiction, and the Supreme Court, is dead.

I am now officially old. Fuck!

George Carlin is dead. He of the 7 dirty words. When we listened to the Class Clown album (those were the things before CDs…) we were titillated, not just because of the dirty words, but because he struck a nerve. We were teenagers then, and who more than teens feel the power of pushing limits? (Okay, maybe toddlers, but who the hell would let their toddlers listen to George Carlin?) Plus, he used the word “dirty.” Even grown ups’ ears perk up when they hear “dirty”.

Carlin once said “I think it is the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.” He often was too challenging for audiences, but I guess that’s the line he was looking for. He mostly railed at our collective stupidity and bemoaned how we are basically doomed by it. I’m okay with that. His wry challenge in the choice of seven was no doubt deliberate; intended to invoke the 7 deadly sins, just to wheedle the intolerant among us. It’s on us to miss it.

Looking at the words he challenged us with back in the 70’s is kind of funny. The case went to the Supreme Court, helping them to define “indecent” versus “obscene.” Most of the words certainly wouldn’t cause the controversy now that they did then. One of them was used so many times by KG in the minutes after the Celtics historic win, you have to go to original Tivo to make any sense of what his joyous gibberish actually was about…otherwise you pretty much just hear bleeps.

Whether you’re a fan of obscenity or not, a free speech friend or foe, at some point most of us have been moved by the power of words. Those who would ban some words, or burn books, or limit speech are afraid of something much larger than any one word, or any seven could incite.

Those who would ban words are afraid of critical thought. They fear what might be unleashed if we were left to our own devices, without their “protection.” Why should our ability to decide for ourselves which words are good and which are bad be so threatening? It’s not the word, it’s the power we have to decide how to use them, who to wield them against, to analyze who benefits from how things are allowed or proscribed, who gains the most from setting a definition…the reaction to George Carlin was equal in proportion to the fear he provoked by forcing us to acknowledge the power.

Four of the seven words are included in this post: the ones I left out: Tits, Piss, and Cunt. Behold the power of words: I wrote them, you just read them, neither of us imploded, became homicidal, or turned seditious.

And, bonus round here: you can tell me if this offended you! I can tell you to go piss off! Or, we might have a dialog about it! We might come to understand each other better at the end of it, even if we don’t agree. That, my friend, is the power the censors try to suppress. It will never work. Never has.

Rest in Peace, George. It was a long, sometimes hard road you chose, but we’re a better bunch of motherfuckers for it. Thank you.

Back in the Saddle, Writing, Catching Up, Prospecting, Not Necessarily Grooming

This very intriguing blog post from Reuter’s caught my eye. Has Video Killed the Blogging Star? explores the rise of video journalism, and I believe the reference is to something more than YouTube rants or lip-sync karaoke clips made by bored teens with technology.

[ed. note: Here is where I would have inserted a photo from the the Reuter’s blog post about the conference panel on video-blogging and whether it’s replacing blogging. Couldn’t get photo to upload. A photo of people discussing video versus print and technology advances enabling the new trend. Ironic, isn’t it?]

As I write this post, it is after 1 AM EST here in Boston. As usual, the husband and cats are sleeping. We had a very full day of recuperating from last night’s Celtics-Lakers game, followed by an incredibly disappointing Sox game today. (The Sox game last night was wild, too.) Thrown into the mix was some Indian food (delivered) and some catching up on emails and deadlines. No time for niceties of grooming, although I did brush my teeth at least once today, dragged a brush through my hair, not the same brush.

Life has been good to us lately, weddings to celebrate (Vancouver), conference invitations (Monterey, New Orleans), family get-togethers (Nantucket) and more. It’s also meant less than regular writing and prospecting. This is death for a freelancer.

I’ll get back to that now, but I thought I’d share the response I posted on the Reuter’s site here in case you don’t care to read the article.

Comment added to Reuters Article: Has Video Killed the Blogging Star?
[Begin comment excerpt]

As I fill in the anti-spam script answer and ponder what my readers might think of my current outfit and hair…I realize I have tons of notes to integrate into some coherent content, gathered from recent conferences and travel.

These notes are dispersed over a paper notebook (and my handwriting is now, officially, atrocious), some notes I entered into my Tungsten (which technically could be Wi-Fi compatible but the company is going under and no longer makes the card.) I think there might be a reminder recorded on a little digital recorder thingee my husband bought me in a sweet attempt to help bridge the platform gaps.

I carried the Tungsten and folding keyboard to travel light and left the laptop at home, comforted by the promise of a business center.

I also have some notes in in emails I sent to myself from various “24/7” hotel business centers, where connectivity was patchy and many guests awaited use of the one or two terminals…rather than hog the one terminal that was working, slowly, I thought I’d send a note and that would remind me later, at home, of what I wanted to write.

Well, you get the picture. Or, not.

As the current example may help illuminate, I hold the following truths to be self-evident:

1. wi-fi, web 2.0, bluetooth and other promises are still largely unfulfilled (my phone, PDA and computer are all sold as “capable” or “enabled” but…)

2. potential does not equal reality

3. writing in PJs is still the M.O. most often deployed by me and many other freelancers I know;

4. this is not a visual that would entertain or titillate any of you – I guarantee it.

Of course, in print I could tell you I’m a 19 y.o. blonde in something very slinky. Do you really want the truth? I’m in mismatched sweats with an orange tabby on my lap. I’m far north of 19 though I wash up pretty well on a good day. That day is not today.

No dear reader, I spare you the truth. You can’t handle the truth. For now I give you the gift of text (only).

[end excerpt]

It’s now after 2 AM, several attempts at uploading the photo have failed, but I have managed to properly link. The cat has given up on me. Must answer more emails.

On Stilettos, Golf, and Genghis Khan Feminism

Call me Genghis.

Has a ring to it. The Mongol invader took no prisoners, and possibly invented shabu shabu. Now people are using his name to deride feminists. Golf, shoes and food; so often at the center of these debates. Interesting, isn’t?

“In Her Shoes” just went live this morning in a blog called, The Glass Hammer. My article was prompted by the comments on feminism, Hillary and an interesting conversation with a friend who’s a young associate at a law firm about golf. I find it fascinating that choice of footwear and hobbies both figure prominently in so many of these discussions. (see the sensible shoes comments in Ms.JD, linked on Glass Hammer’s home page.) Golf and shoe keep coming up.

In New York Magazine’s article “Hillary and the Feminist Reawakening”, one of the comments linked to The Glass Hammer, leading me to their (earlier) article on Hillary and the spillover effect.

Follow all that? Hard to do in stilettos, I know. Sorry. Remember, Ginger did it all in heels and backwards but Fred got most of the credit.

The NYMag and The Glass Hammer comments show that sexism is alive and well. As if the question were open. Well, I had hoped we were entering the “post” era of feminism, that our work was someday going to be done. I knew better, but a girl can hope.

When Eric Cartman said “Get in the Kitchen and make me some pie!” we laughed because we think this little turd is playing tough, posturing with his outdated sexist crowing. Then we learn about thousands, multiple thousands, of men who signed on to a website about Hillary and sandwiches. Then you realize we only hoped Cartman was a throwback. Ouch.

Do pop over to TGM or NYMagazine, take a look; wade into the debate. Already the dialog has included some blame-the-victim thinking, some denial, some good stuff. Some younger women want to forget those who opened doors for them, to the golf club, to the board room. Dismiss them as “Genghis Khan Feminists.” Others want to take the “if I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist” tack. Good luck, it doesn’t work, but knock yourself out.

I just hope these young professional women aren’t surprised when they protest exclusion from the big deals because they can’t hang at the strip club with the boys. Or, if they’re dismissed with a “Whatever Hillary” comment by a male co-worker and don’t like it. Just don’t look for us older girls, the Genghis Khan Feminists, to get your back. We might be too busy baking or buffing our sensible shoes. Or, we might be out dancing in our stilettos. Just give us a little credit, most of us are still fighting the good fight. For all of us.


A window into what I’m thinking and writing about.

Whether it's Food & Cooking, Sports, Film, Travel or the Business of Writing itself...you can find it all through this page. Use this sidebar and the links below to go directly to whatever strikes your fancy. Jacqueline Church's Facebook profile

Where I’ve been seen, published, cited, syndicated…

  • - Tuesday November 11 @6 PM Povo Blogging Panel. Come to 660 Washington Street in Chinatown at the Archstone Building to see what a panel of bloggers have to say about the state of blogging.
  • - Interviewed by Sarah Turner of Suite101 about Using Blogs to Raise Social Awareness
  • - Reuters, Chicago Sun-Times, Austin American Statesman, BBQ Report, Computer Shopper. See clips here.

For Real on the Virtual Gourmet!

Noted food and wine author John Mariani ran my article Salmon and the Sustainability Zeitgest. Click here to read it!

Books make great gifts, for yourself or others.

Click here to see what's on my Powell's Bookshelf.
Powell's Books

Mark Your Calendars

August 22 - Courtney Hunt's acclaimed film Frozen River at the Coolidge Corner. See Diversions for more.

Caught my eye…

  • The Audubon Insectarium opens in New Orleans. See Getting Down with All that Skitters.
  • Copper River Salmon is so hot, even E!online is commenting on the stars who eat it. Taye Diggs was digging it.
  • Vertical farms? Colbert meets Ethicureans...heaven is for those with humor and ethics, yes? Interesting food for thought here....

On Women and Work

Read my contributions to The Glass Hammer a new blog for executive women.

Diversions

  1. Tales of the Cocktail may be over but the fun continues. Check the blogs and podcasts for all the news that fit to drink!
  2. The Maori art of facial tatooing is called moko. It is a powerful expression of tribal identity which has only recently enjoyed a resurgence as the colonial Christian prohibitions against it have lessened. Go to the Peabody Essex Museum for this rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of this amazing cultural tradition. The documentary I saw at Sundance years ago on moko, was one of the most powerful films I have ever seen.
  3. The Audubon Insectarium is a new and top-notch attraction in New Orleans. We passed by it and wondered why we'd missed it before. Turns out it's just now opening. No time this last trip, but it's on the list for the next time. Check here for info.

What's on my del.iciou.us list?

BlogBurst.com