Posted by: ohmypuddin | March 20, 2011

Thoughts on TECHmunch

A prevailing topic that came up during the TECHmunch panels was “niche.” Find your niche. Play to your niche. Even if your niche is super-specific, just do that. Don’t be broad – just be as narrow as possible.

I know what they were trying to say – figure out what you’re good at, and just do that. Don’t do everything. You’re probably not good at all cooking, so focus at what you’re good at. I don’t try to cook everything. I don’t review every restaurant in the world. I focus on what I like to do and what I’m good at.

Here’s what sticks in my craw – the people who come to TECHmunch, and food bloggers in general, are from all skill levels. Some people hadn’t event started a blog yet. Some just started. Some had been blogging for years. For many of us, blogging is a hobby. It’s something that sprung out of a combined love of writing and food. It’s a way to talk to people all over the world. It’s not necessarily a way to make money. For many of us, we’d love to make money off of this, but we’d be cooking the same things, eating the same food, writing the same reviews, regardless of what we’re getting paid.

I don’t know how you started blogging, but I didn’t start out writing about food. I started out writing about everything and anything in my life. As I said in my BMPR presentation last year, I didn’t even know I was a food blogger until someone told me I was. That’s when I started calling myself that. That’s when I started writing more about food, and reorganizing my categories around food, and changing the photos to mostly food. That’s when I decided to refocus my blog.

All that happened about a year after I started this blog. It took me that long to figure out what my focus was. And I only figured it out because other people told me.

So. I started thinking about what would have happened if someone had told me in the beginning that I had to pick a focus. That I had to pick just one thing and write about it. That that’s the path to success.

How unrealistic is that? Is that how we learn? When you were learning how to write, did you just write fiction, or did you write prose, poetry, essays, papers, short stories? When you were learning how to cook, did you learn how to cook one good dish, and just stop learning after that?

My point is that if we all stopped exploring all aspects of our writing, our blogging, our cooking, if we stopped with the one thing we did well in the beginning, would we be where we are today? Would I even still be blogging? Would I even still be cooking?

I know that the message of TECHmunch isn’t to stop exploring, to stifle your creativity. But in this day and age when everyone has a blog and a niche and an audience and people are using the word “engagement” like we’re all in marketing, I just want us all to remember that most of us got into this because we like to do it. We’d do this regardless.

If you have a blog and you want to only focus on chicken, or organic food, or barbeque, go for it. Awesome. But I feel like everyone is pushing for bloggers to go niche these days, and while there’s merit to that line of thought from a business perspective, I can’t say I agree from a personal perspective. I find it constrictive. If I followed that, I probably wouldn’t have written about when I changed jobs, or running a half-marathon, or posted goofy cartoons about my dogs.

Those off-topic posts are (I like to think) part of the reason you’re here, reading this. Those are the posts that make me human, the posts that give you another slice of my life.

I like to think that my life is like a pie. If you follow me on Twitter, you get a slice. If we’re friends on Yelp, you’ll get another slice. Every one of these social media channels sheds a bit of light on who I am.

I try to do that with my blog too. I try to write about more than just food because I’m about more than just food. I’m a person.

I guess that’s what I’m trying to get at. We’re bloggers – we’re people. We’re not brands. It’s good to talk about niche and engagement and community as a brand. It’s important and necessary. But in this space, on my own blog, I write about what I want. I don’t answer to anyone. I don’t even answer to you. This is my home, not a brand.

I get why as bloggers we’d want to be more like brands, because we’re in a position to monetize our hobbies and turn our passions into careers. But I kind of resent the idea that I’d have to become more-brand like in order to get more people to read my blog.

Here is my advice to new bloggers: write about whatever the hell you want. Use whatever platform you want. Explore. Figure out why you want to blog, or tumblr, or posterous in the first place. Take your time. If you want monetize it, do it. If you want to get your own domain, do it. If you want to ditch your blog, and start over with a new focus, do it. But don’t be afraid to keep talking about what makes you happy, just because it’s too broad, or it’s only about your life. If you like doing it, do it. Blogging started out as a way for us to keep a diary and document our lives on the Internet. It can evolve into more. But it doesn’t have to.

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Responses

  1. Amen sistah!

  2. Nicely put, it was one of the few things that bugged me too.

    I don’t mean to make money off of my blog, I do it for fun, because I enjoy it, and I’m baking anyway so I might as well share it… I guess by general definition baking would be my “niche” but does that mean that it’s all I stick to? No! I’ll write about whatever I’m making and hope it interests my readers. 9 times out of 10 it will be baking anyway but I’m not going to not write about that chicken gumbo, or the time I made bangers just because they don’t fit in my “niche,” why do I need a niche anyway?

    I don’t think we got to meet during Techmunch, too many people to meet. So I’ll say hi now!

  3. Thanks for your thoughts! As one of the speakers who encouraged people to find their niche, I appreciate your viewpoint as well. Over the two years I’ve been writing specifically about food, my sweet spots have definitely expanded. But I also think that food bloggers are kind of a dime a dozen these days, so if one is doing it with a goal of having a bigger, engaged readership, it probably behooves him or her to focus on an aspect of food in a creative way rather than just writing about food broadly. I also keep a personal blog for my other writing, since Im passionate about other things as well. My two cents. Thanks again for sharing this.

  4. Lauren, thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate the idea that your blog is your diary of your life and your interests and that your media presence is somewhat different depending on the platform (twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.) I’ve been reflecting on this as well with my presence on social media as a real estate agent. All the talking heads talk about your brand and your niche and leveraging your channels to “drive traffic.” I’m not a marketing major, I’m just me. My blog is mostly a collection of articles I have read, agree with, and think others would enjoy. My personal Facebook is probably the truest version of me and my business Facebook page is my more “professional” side of me. I’m still exploring twitter and how I use that platform as an extension of me.
    All in all I think that if you use social media and all it’s channels to just be you others with find you, like you, and engage with you. Isn’t that what life is about?

  5. Lauren, I concur completely. Thanks.

  6. Great to hear a like minded perspective. Bottom line: love what you do, do it for yourself first and foremost, and if other people enjoy what you’re doing and you feel o.k. with capitalizing on that, then go for it. I’m totally for the kind of organic growth you speak of- screw that niche business and being so strategic. My blog started as a travel journal about a specific time in my life and evolved from that point. I had no idea where I would end up when I started but I’ve really enjoyed the ride. (And I think the people who’ve followed my blog for the whole journey have too.)

  7. […] Social Feasting, as well as posts on Sarafina’s Kitchen, Veggie Bytes, Curious Confections, Oh My Puddin and Austin Gastronomist. Rene Lynch also has a nice write-up over on the LA […]

  8. […] Social Feasting, as well as posts on Sarafina’s Kitchen, Veggie Bytes, Curious Confections, Oh My Puddin and Austin Gastronomist. Rene Lynch also has a nice write-up over on the LA […]

  9. […] Social Feasting, as well as posts on Sarafina’s Kitchen, Veggie Bytes, Curious Confections, Oh My Puddin and Austin Gastronomist. Rene Lynch also has a nice write-up over on the LA […]


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