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Table of Contents Food Blogging, a brief history

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The Old Blog: rovingtaster.blogspot.com

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Goal Setting: Addressing that which needs addressing

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Inspiration 9 - 10 Mock-up 11 - 12 Theme Selection 13 - 14 New Template Layout 15 - 16 In Progress 17 - 18 Sidebar Use and Modifications 19 - 20 Search Engine and Mobile Viewing Optimization Strategy

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Users 23 - 24 Appendix 25 Works Cited 26


Food Blogging, a brief history The term “blog” is derived from two words that were once used to describe one particular online journal; a place where the author could express himself and his opinions, as well as providing a forum from which to recount his own experiences and share them with others. The first blog was called Robot Wisdom Web Log, written by Jorn Barger in 1997. The word “blog” is actually a contraction – WebLog became blog because Barger thought that calling his writing site a “log” sounded strange. As Mary Cross writes in her recent book Bloggerati, Twitterati: How Blogs and Twitter Are Transforming Popular Culture, the concept of a blog being a place to link up other nodes from the World Wide Web has its origins in the work of thinkers like Ted Nelson and Tim Berners-Lee who developed the early framework of hypertext and the World Wide Web, respectively.

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“Bloggers say that personal expression is far and away the reason they’ve started a blog, the chance to describe their personal experiences and have an audience for it. And blog readers themselves say the connection with that same personal experience and the chance to comment and hold a conversation about it are what keeps them coming back.” - Mary Cross


Two years after Barger’s WebLog, Evan Williams, a programmer working at Pyra Labs in Silicon Valley, created Blogger, a free blog hosting site that had several templates for those without programming knowhow looking to publish their writing online. That is the genius of most blog platforms. They are pre-fabricated in a sense, so that anyone can input their information and come up with a title and be online in a matter of minutes. The ease of access and the apparent freedom embodied in the various template options made blogs available to anyone with internet access. 1999 Blogger became known as “ground zero for the blogging revolution.” It wasn’t until Google acquired Blogger in 2003 that mainstream media began to sit up and take notice of the rising phenomenon. An online editorial that appeared on the BBC News website February 18, 2003, cites Dan Gilmor, the reporter who first broke the story of Pyra’s sale to Google, stating, “With the advent of weblogging, the readers know more than the journalists. And the journalists had better remember that.” The great appeal of blogging, and perhaps the reason for their tremendous proliferation, is the power that it puts in the hands of ordinary people. No longer are members of the public restricted by the traditional one-to-many construction of mass media, but rather, the peer-to-peer model enabled by writing, visiting, and linking to other blogs, thus creating a free press of sorts, for all, by all.

“Self expression is in the new entertainment. People don’t want to just consume information, they want to participate. Recognizing that impulse is the future of journalism.” - Ariana Huffington

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The Old Blog rovingtaster.blogspot.com My blog, The Roving Taster’s Digest, was launched on August 10, 2009, using the Blogger tool offered at Blogspot. I chose this host because at the time, I was new to the technology and was concerned about what I perceived to be too much freedom and control associated with WordPress and TypePad blog hosts. My first post was a review of one of the food tents at The Edmonton Folk Music Festival. A local independent restaurant rented the tent for the festival weekend. I was especially interested in the use of bison and other ingredients inspired by traditional aboriginal cooking. At its earliest point, my blog was dabbling with the political, addressing issues of organic and sustainable food production and the preservation of traditional recipes and ingredients. The Roving Taster’s Digest was built using Blogger. I used the “Simple” template. Over time, the look of the blog has changed very little. In 2010, I worked with a graphic designer to develop a logo and some thematic images to use in the promotion of my blog. That is how the bicycle came into this design. The curb appeal of the blog is minimal at best. I am unhappy with the colours, the limited font choices, and the rigidity of the layout. Blogger has very few templates to choose from. The visual overhaul is one of the things I am most looking forward to in this transformation. The content will remain the same: personal stories, recipes, book and restaurant reviews, but the focus will be made more clear when everything is completed. 5


To date, Technorati’s Blog Directory lists over 16 600 food blogs. 6


Goal Setting: Addressing that which needs addressing

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I have several goals in the blog redesign. I want to become comfortable publishing with the WordPress interface. I would like the content of the blog to be sorted and categorized, made available in clearly labelled sections on the site, and then cross-referenced and linked to other related stories. I would like to create a more easily readable layout, and be able to build a site that can grow and change as my professional path progresses. Most importantly, I would like the new blog to showcase my work, which I do not feel is being accomplished in its current form. One of the major problems that would be a challange in the redesign was dealing with all my tags. After blogging for so long, my list of tags was very long. Though the plug-in I donwloaded was helpful in transferring over text and images, it did not carry over old tags. This meant that each story would have to be revisited and retagged. At the time this pilot study began, the audience reach of The Roving Taster’s Digest was quite small. All figures related to traffic monitoring come from a Google Analytics account that was set up for the blog. At its most active, the site was generating about 20 brand new page views daily, but over time, as activity on the blog began to atrophy and my time became focused elsewhere, readership essentially flat-lined. So it is my hope that with this structural overhaul, I can commit to maintaining a level of activity that will keep the blog relevant and engaged in dialogue in the various communities it relates to.

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Inspiration “Media mobility subsumes discources of instantaneity, at least as this appears related to the speed and the range of consumer choice... It also subsumes discources of personalization and individual localization... Textual variability - or versioning - is another characteristic linked to mobile culture. It refers to textual transfer between media formats.� - Charles A. Acland

Some food blogs like The Smitten Kitchen have been creating fantastic content for years. I like Deb Perelman’s design sense and her narrative style. Last year, TIME magazine ranked her blog one of the top 25 blogs of 2011. The internet

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Food Bloggers of Canada is a food blog aggregator that promotes a slate of bloggers who’s sites are divided by region. As a member since October, 2011, I have been checking out other bloggers in Montreal and across the country that are lsited in the FBC Member Directory. Most appear to have some form of monetization. The majority are provided by Google AdSense, though some bloggers advertise through BlogHer ads.

Stephanie Eddy is an old friend from high school who’s blog, Clockwork Lemon, is now being featured in a coloumn Steph writes for The Globe and Mail. Recognizing that she seems to be doing a lot of things right with her blog, I asked Stephanie several questions about her blogging habits and observations. She reads 50 blogs on average daily and comments on most of them. Working a stable 9-5 job has allowed her to spend the evenings practicing recipes. Steph tries out the recipes several times so that when her weekend blogging time begins, she has lots of posts in various stages of completion.

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Mock-up

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The rough design was developed in InDesign. The mock-up for the banner was created in Adobe Illustrator. I searched for free buttons to simulate the placement of social media follow buttons and the RSS feed. I figured that those details stood to change considerably, so I did not wish to linger on their design within the overall scheme and layout. As you can see, three tabs indicate the three new categories that posts are sorted into: Roving (traveling, restaurant and cookbook reviews), Tasting (recipes, thoughts on local food experiences), and The Digest (commentary on current events, editorials). You may have noticed that the real rovingtaster.com does not have a “Friends� section. I am in the process of learning how to create static pages to link to from the blog. When I can do that, the site will be virtually complete.

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Theme Selection

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The process of selecting an appropriate Wordpress template required that I sketch out the new site according to column number, sidebar placement, and tab options. I narrowed down all the options to a list of top 6 themes. After rating their pros and cons, and asking the opinion of a friend who has a science blog and experience in conventional and e-publishing, video production, and blogging to see what suggestions she might have to help me make my decision. While she had excellent feedback about all the options, my friend wrote that she found the Grisaille theme to be “accessible.� This was a unique feature among those in question and I believe may have been what lead me to choose that template. Sonia of Nudge Design, Montreal, designed the theme. In general, I find it is really easy to use and manipulate. It is the first time I have used a Wordpress theme, so I cannot compare it to anything else. But I find it is a much cleaner, more professional layout, and people’s comments about the difference between the old and the new sites confirm this observation. I intend to contact the designer about having additional buttons created to match the three existing. However, to do so within the parameters of this project would have been beyond the scope of feasability.

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New Template Layout I had some difficulty figuring out how to place my own banner instead of the automatic header that comes programmed in. I still have a few of the earliest images I uploaded to the header space that don’t have the lettering in the image. I need to write to the theme author to find out how to get rid of them. Now, there are twenty variations that run randomly each time the page is refreshed. I looked through my library of images to create these alternate banners. The colour scheme is meant as a nod to older versions of the .blogspot days. I will continue to update these banner images from time to time.

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Several times during the final weekend of work on the website I sent links to friends to get them to test the site and look for bugs. That is how I caught glitches in the media-player plugins I downloaded to embed my sound feature from last semester’s production class and this semester’s Flash video. At times, I unknowingly clicked buttons in my own dashboard that disabled functions on the site. These were quickly detected and corrected. But sometimes not before the site was temporarily taken down.

Maintaining the bicycle motif from the old blog design was a consideration in layout decisions. 16


In Progress

Youtube videos and Wordpress forum threads are useful when troubleshooting and fixing glitches. Other tools that were helpful in getting the site up and running were the tech support staff at GoDaddy.com, and Lisa Sabin-Wilson’s Wordpress for Dummies.

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Modifications to the site are ongoing. As mentioned earlier, changes to the buttons will be made following consultation with the theme’s designer. Additionally, I would like to create static pages for recommended blogs and an extended bio. I still need to go into the header designer and remove those earliest images that were uploaded without titles.

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Sidebar Use and Modification Facebook’s purchase of the iPhone app Instagram for $1 billion on April 9, 2012, demonstrates the potential that exists in capitalizing on these forms of social-media sharing. Enabling ease-of-access to these various feeds becomes crucial in blog layout and design. The sidebar is an element of the blog’s design that I believe may be currently underutilized. However, I would consider that section of the site still under construction. The blog runs as it is now, but I think as I get used to publishing on this system, the sidebar widgets will be modified. I would also like to have matching buttons for my Instagram, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, and YouTube accounts. As yet, the only buttons available are the Twitter, Facebook, and RSS options that come with the theme. This may be a small bit of code I can insert myself. I would need to be guided through that stage, though.

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Search Engine and Mobile Viewing Optimization Strategy Following the suggetion of Lisa Sabin-Wilson, I installed two plug-ins to assist in maximizing the potential reach of the blog. Michael Torbert’s All in One SEO Pack “automatically creates optimized titles and generates HTML keywords for individual posts.” Brave New Code’s WPtouch iPhone Theme is not fancy. But it is a plugin that runs in the background. It doesn’t affect desktop views of the site, but when accessed via moble device, the blog is now optimized for viewing on smaller screens.

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“Search-engine spiders harvest tags when they crawl your site, so tags help other people find your site when they search for specific words.” - Lisa Sabin-Wilson

Charles Acland argues that according to Raymond Williams and Pierre Bourdieu, projects such as these conform to a “media culture [which] consists of a legible set of experiences about a shared contemporary moment, advanced and legitimized by a related class stratum of experts and connoisseurs - lay and professional - in the realm of technology, design, use, advocacy, and critique of that same media environment.” By undertaking to increase traffic, refocus blog content, optimize layout to create an enhanced mobile viewing encounter, amoung other changes, the research and creative work that went into launching the new blog are in some ways attempts to participate actively in that same “media culture.” 22


Users

Many visitors to my blog are friends that I refer over from Facebook using links to specific posts. I also generate traffic by updating a Facebook page with new posts. Since I started using smartphone apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, some readers are sent to my blog when I tweet or post images promoting the latest story. Other readers find me from my listing on Food Bloggers of Canada. When I updated the website, they needed to be informed of the change in URL to update their information.

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Interactivity is a key component of blogging, both for content creators and readers. Comments and track-backs play important roles within the blogging community, but also among the greater Internet as search engines, social media, and mobile apps become important tools for bloggers.

It is still early to begin critical analysis of the analytics for the site. The first post was April 14, 2012. Since then traffic has been mainly from Canadian cities, with Oxford and Berlin also among the location of readers. An analytics plug-in is running on the blog to allow monitering of basic statistics from the Wordpress dashboard.

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Appendix

B-2-C Build brand Attract prospects Aid sales Support fans Help CEO

B-2-B Build brand Generate leads Aid sales Provide thought Leadership Help CEO

Target Audience

Prospective buyers Fans Public Media

Prospective buyers Public Media

Content Focus

Broad appeal

Small targeted appeal

Metrics

Visitors Branding Reach Sales Expenses Change in SEO position Media pickup

Marketing Support

Promote via third party, internal media & social media Marketing PR Product development Senior executive Ghost writer Depends on size of company & importance of blog

Leads Branding Reach Time to purchase Expenses Change in SEO position Media pickup Promote via third party, internal media & social media Marketing PR Product development Senior executive Ghost writer Depends on size of company & importance of blog

Goals

There are many different ways that people use their blogs. To better understand these relationships, this chart shows how strategic marketing elements compare across the major blog types: business-to-consumer, business-to-business, not-for-profit (NFP) and individual. The author, Heidi Cohen, operates a blog that addresses digital and direct marketing strategies.

Blogger

Budget

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NFP Build brand Attract clients &volunteers Distribute info Attract donations Provide thought Leadership Help SEO Clients Volunteers Donors Board of Directors Public Media Educational, political, advocacy or informational Clients &/or volunteers Brandings Reach Donations Expenses Change in SEO position Media pickup Promote via internal media & social media

Individual Build personal brand Aid sales or job search Provide thought Leadership

Personal circle Shared interest

Depends on topic – special interest Leads, interviews or sales Branding Media pickup

Promote social media

Marketing Self PR Friends Client Services Organizational director Board member Ghost writer Limited to none None


Works Cited Acland, Charles A. 2009. Curtains, Carts and the Mobile Screen. Screen, 50(1), 149-166. Cohen, Heidi. “What’s In Your Blog? [Chart]”. Sept. 28, 2012. Accessed March 17, 2012. http://heidicohen.com/whats-in-your-blog/. Cross, Mary. 2011. Bloggerati, twitterati: How blogs and twitter are transforming popular culture. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger. Eddy, Stephanie. March 2, 2012. Interview. McCracken, Harry. June 06, 2011. TIME magazine, The Best Blogs of 2011, a list of the top 25 blogs, Accessed April 22, 2012. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2075431_2075447_2075603,00.html Pole, Antoinette. 2010. Blogging the political: Politics and participation in a networked society. New York: Routledge. Sabin-Wilson, Lisa. 2011. WordPress for Dummies. 4th Ed. Hobboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Technorati Blog Directory. Accessed March 17, 2012. http://technorati.com/blogs/directory/living/food/. Trogen, Brittany. April 9, 2012. E-mail. Turnbull, Giles. “Fame or misfortune beckons for weblogs?” BBC News online. Tuesday, February 18, 2003. Accessed March 17, 2012. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2775249.stm.

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April 2012

Click to Stir: Examining the Past, Present, and Future of Food Blogging  

A Pilot Project for COMS 506, Concordia University

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