What makes an award winning food blog?

A While back Stewart White from the The Food Media Club, which is renaming itself Australian Association of Food Professionals, called me to talk about launching an award for food blogs as an addition to the Food Media Club Awards. And finally he’s made it happen with the sponsorship of Australian Pork, and I attended the last a few weeks back to a packed house of mostly Sydney bloggers.

Initially, I was skeptical. For as long as anyone can remember in food blogging there has been a rift between traditional media and the food bloggers, mainly traditional media knocking food blogs.

Usually a panel of peers judges journalism awards. The system is imperfect but the panels tend to know what they are talking about.

The difficulty with these food blog awards is in selecting the correct judges but also in establishing the correct criteria for judging and ensuring that they understand it. I think that food blog writing – and blog writing in general – may be completely different to what we consider good writing. Content presented on podcasts and vodcasts is often quite raw, which doesn’t mean it’s any less engaging than the ABC or SBS.

A good food blog is very different from a good food magazine. Usually, it is written by an amateur, one person who is writer, editor, stylist and photographer. And it’s usually a personal story rather than a sharp journalistic fabrication.

If you want to see the difference between the two style perhaps look at the difference between the style of this blog, which is often snarky (even negative) and perhaps a little threatening for some people to leave comments, and Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella. She  is embracing, writing to her “dear readers” and has developed a friendly nurturing place (rather than somewhere dark and misanthropic)  to inhabit and leave comments.

Most awards for food blogs are themselves massively flawed, skewed towards whoever can mobilise the most votes. I wonder can there be a happy medium perhaps?

Stewart’s own draft criteria are:

- Originality of content
– Engagement with the community (comments, Twitter)
– Quality of writing and photography
– Website design and its usability (content is easily searchable)

These seem pretty good and are on my list too.

I don’t know the answer but what do you think should be the criteria for winning a food blog award?

20 Responses to “What makes an award winning food blog?”

  1. Susan

    I have a new blog on the scene, does it live up to the “what makes a good food blog” standard?? lol

  2. Ally

    Honesty! Blogs should always disclose whether they received a freebie, discount, what have you.

  3. Sam W

    Some really interesting comments. I agree with Phil on his ‘best contribution’ idea. Although I think awards for photography and writing can be separate – each is a different merit. There are some great sites with little or no photography, and visa versa.

    And building on Steve’s comments – if we start Aus blog awards (especially within the context of Aust Food Media Awards) then are we aligning blogs with the food media ‘proper’? Does this raise questions of journalistic ethics that need to be discussed within the food blogging world? (Not that I’m suggesting the food media is always outrageously ethical). So, perhaps Phil has another point when he questions the viability of discounting paid contributors/professional writers from such awards. Although, I would consider long-established sites like Grab Your Fork (written by commecially-rewarded ‘amateurs’) to be in the former category?

  4. Simon Food Favourites

    Nice comment Steve. I understand what your saying. Perhaps we’re all winners in our own blogsphere anyway and having the freedom of saying what we want to say without needing the ‘high school styled popularity contest’. I find it’s a bit like that in the Graphic Design industry I’m in. I don’t really take notice of these awards and competitions. It sometimes seems to be a private club for boosting each others egos sometimes and the same companies seem to be the headliners each time. Very predictable outcomes.

  5. steve

    I dont think there should be any blog awards at all.
    I mean what for? If you enjoy posting, your blog has engaging content & finds an audience surely this should suffice.

    Competitions are usually more about the organizations/people/groups that conjour them in order represent themselves as the custodians or overseers as such.

    Then a ‘panel’ of experts are chosen to preside over the few that are deemed worthy of making the final cut. These experts will always be questioned as to their own credentials/track record/form & immediately divide opinion & thus lose some cred for the comp in the process.

    By having a bloggers award we are just falling into line like the old media wants us to & I reckon many bloggers still secretly crave the papal annointment of trad media to in some way legitimize their blogs.

    In my opinion I’d prefer to keep my blog as free from the clutches of any sort of control as I can. My blog is personal & in a world where every aspect of your life is dominated by the powers that be, its nice to know you can have a small enclave in which to express yourself freely, well at least to a degree.

    If this means less readers because I dont want to be involved in a high school styled popularity contest, then I’m Ok with that.

  6. Johanna

    I would like to see criteria that is specific to food for these food bloggers awards – best tasting blog – most lickable blog – most calorific blog etc etc :-)

    I also agree with Cindy about looking for content that you don’t get in mainstream media and with phil about contributing to the blogosphere

  7. Simon Food Favourites

    Tasmania? Where’s that? Just kidding Maggie! :-) Ed, I didn’t realise you were at the launch night at La Mint? Would have been good to meet you. I like your snarky versus embracing style of blogging comment. Now, that’s just being snarky isn’t it hehe. It will be interesting to see how the blogging awards panes out. Anyway, should I start writing my acceptance speech now or should I at least give other bloggers the feeling that they actually do have a chance to win as well?! ;-) BTW what’s the best way to include a search engine in my blogspot, anyone?

  8. Maggie

    Would it be fair to assume that these awards will be “national” – meaning individualised for mainland states only and leaving out Tasmania? Or are they an “all in” kind of appraoch?

    You know that Tasmania is left off the map fairly frequently when it comes to media/awards/general acnowledgement. Not an acusation, just out of interest.

  9. lisa

    Originality, voice/writing and consistency would be on my list. Someone who goes beyond the formulaic and really develops and becomes known for their own style.

    I think a successful blog award would have to be given by a panel of experts (actual blogging experts – people who understand the medium), otherwise, as you point out, it just becomes a popularity contest, which might not correlate with ‘the best’.

  10. Lachlan Moss

    Quality of content should be at the top of the list, and it should be the next 9 items on the list.

    The draft criteria can be found in abundance. What really sets food blogs apart is new information and insight.

  11. Cindy

    It’d be nice to have a criterion about how well a site’s content suits the medium of blogging in particular. I’m thinking of features such as topical posts within hours/days of events occurring, humorous writing, casual writing, (incisive foul-mouthed writing!), thoughtful editorials, a series of posts (or an entire blog) devoted to a theme that isn’t ‘mainstream’… you get the idea – stuff that amateur bloggers can do well that traditional food media can’t or won’t.

    I dig Phil’s suggestion of a ‘best contribution, not best blog’ approach.

  12. Phil Lees

    I tend to be against blog awards because the winner is always whomever is holding the awards. It’s a cheap way to build incoming links from a large number of credible sites to an awards site.

    However, as for other criteria, I’d eliminate sites that source content from paid contributors. This will eliminate the likes of Taste.com.au and the SBS food site but will keep the focus on individual bloggers. Should group blogs count or only individuals? Blogs from full-time or part-time journalists?

    Maybe a way of getting around this would be a “best contribution to food blogging” award rather than “best blog” which can integrate multiple blogs, community building, whatever social media. This would allow you (theoretically) to compare a community-building twitter fiend to the most misanthropic but talented food photographer in the same category.

  13. sawks

    @Matt since it’s a wordpress blog, you could just whack a search term after /?s= in the url, like so

    forage works pretty well for me but they could really do with some advanced options

  14. barbara

    Well put. In the main they are usually just a popularity contest with bloggers clogging up Twitter with tweets asking for votes.

    Awards don’t make me visit a blog any more than gold medals make me buy a wine.

    I’ve been around long enough to see how monetizing blogs has resulted in a change to the caring, supportive community it once was. Theres some bitchiness out there nowdays.

  15. Matt

    Ed, Can you make your own site easily searchable? Maybe I’m just blind but I can’t find a search box and so trying to find anything older seems to be a matter of just trawling the archives. Am I wrong? (searching forage, doesn’t seem helpful, at least for me)