Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Are Long Recipe Intro's Turning Your Readers Away?

When I first started my food blog, I followed the tried and true format that most beginning food bloggers follow: First, a picture of the finished dish followed by a written intro to the recipe, and finally the recipe.

By and large this is the most prominent food blogging format and almost all recipe based food blogs follow it. But is it really the best format? Are lengthy written intros adding value to my posts, or am I just blindly following the format?

More on long recipe intros in second part of post...

More Of The Same

I've recently been thinking about changing this format for my food blog, Over The Hill And On A Roll, because frankly, I get bored of the same thing over and over. With so many food blogs out there, I find it difficult to distinguish myself from all of the other food blogs using the same format. I recently found myself thinking, "where's the originality?"

Recipes, Not Novels

Besides, I find that when I'm searching blogs for recipes I rarely take the time to read the written intros. If I'm hungry and looking for something fun and yummy to make, the last thing I want to do is scroll down to the very bottom of the page to find the recipe. For me, doing all of that reading takes time, and I don't know about you, but when I visit a new food blog, I generally scroll down to the bottom of the page and instantly decide whether to leave or stay. Readers make instant decisions like this all of the time. If I see recipe after recipe of long written intros I generally leave. Sad but true.

What Value Is Added?

In thinking about changing my blog's format, the inevitable question of value comes up. What value are written intro's adding to my blog posts?

I think many people like reading about people's lives. Written intros act as window's into the lives of the blogger. I get that. I totally get it. I'm thinking out loud here so forgive me, but I guess I'm just wondering if there is a way to still do that, yet NOT follow the standard format?

Is there a way to break free of the monotonous recipe intro, and still connect with your readers?

Why do you write recipe intros? What value do they add to your blog?

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this.

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  1. I hear you on this topic. I have been wondering the same thing. But, when I am browsing blogs, I usually do read the intro (unless it is really long or run-on) because not only does it tell me who is giving me this recipe, but many times there are comments in there that help you decide if this is really the recipe you want.

    Having said that, I definitely wonder if there's another or better way to do it. Sometimes I just don't have much to say about a recipe I want to share. Maybe we should run a poll of readers to see what THEY think about the intros or lack thereof?

  2. Personally, I like to read just a sentence or two before seeing the pictures and recipe. I'd like to know a bit about how the recipe worked for the writer and about any substitutions they tried. Having said that, I've seen some well done blogs in which short anecdotes are peppered among the pictures and I find that entertaining, too.

    Good luck re-designing!

  3. You bring up a good point. Rambling narratives with no relevant point, which are poorly written and have multiple grammar and spelling errors do turn me off. However, well written introductions with engaging anecdotes or interesting personal stories are what keep me coming back to a particular blog. It could be long or short, as long as it's entertaining. I rarely revisit a blog that only has recipes and a photo or two, unless I'm specifically looking for a certain recipe. How boring!

    To me, blogging is a personal expression of who someone is. In order for me to connect with a blogger, I need to know that they are not just a bot churning out recipes. That, to me, is monotonous. I like to know where a recipe comes from and what inspired the blogger to post about it.

    Bloggers are real people with real lives - not just an editorial team. If all I wanted was recipes, I'd go to a site like the Food Network or Epicurious. I'm just saying.....

  4. I agree with Susan. The length of the intro isn't as much of an issue as how interesting it is. I was looking through a few of my favorite food blogs, and some of them have long intros, while others only have two sentences. I think if you feel comfortable writing, and notice that people comment on your stories, then go for it.

    But, if it's a struggle to come up with something for every recipe you want to post, it'll be obvious in your writing, and maybe you should find a different approach.

  5. Thanks for the great responses!

    Digigirl, I love the idea of running a poll! I'm going to research that.

    Elizabeth, I totally agree with you...I love the idea of short anecdotes peppered amongst the pictures...that's a great alternative because it doesn't overload the post with text.

    Susan, I never thought about it like that but it makes perfect sense...just pictures and a recipe is totally monotonous also! I wonder if I had a few posts with longer intros and some without, whether that would make my blog seem inconsistent?

    Does every blog post have to follow the same format?

    Allison, Excellent's not about the length but about how interesting the anecdote is...I'll keep that one in mind.

    Thanks for the great comments! One of the reasons I started this blog is to be able to have conversations like these! Keep it up!

  6. Danny- On my own blog, I try to mix things up a little. What and how much I write depends on which recipe I'm sharing and whether I have an interesting story to go along with it. Sometimes, I'll share a little "memoir" about my family or childhood, and sometimes I'll write about a crazy experience I've had. Sometimes serious or sometimes funny. Many times, readers will tell me that they had a similar experience and can relate. When that happens, I really feel like I've connected with them.

    It also depends on how many nice photos I was able to get of the food! If I get several great shots, I'll write less narrative and highlight the pictures more. If not, I'll try to fill in with more words. Sometimes, I also pose questions to my readers or ask for their input. That tends to generate some good dialogue.

    I know that there will always be "drive by" readers (those that don't actually read the posts at all, and leave a generic comment anyway), but I do believe that the majority actually do enjoy my ramblings. At least I hope so, as they keep on coming back!

    Thanks for creating this helpful resource for the food blog world! You have a lot of great information here - esp. the photography tips.

    Not sure if you already have done this, but I'd love to see a post about commenting ettiquette and how to keep up with all of it. For those of us with jobs and families to take care of, it is very difficult to keep up. I know that I feel overwhelmed because I don't have time to do it all! I often feel I have to choose between maintaining my own blog and visiting all of the others.

  7. Great topic for discussion Danny. I think it all depends. When I started my blog it was therapy. I had no idea if anyone would ever see it or read it. I probably rambled more than I should have. But part of the writing process for someone who is new to blogging is discovering their voice. And with anything, it takes time and refinement.

  8. I suppose it depends on whether you're just wanting recipes or whether you're really interested in food (thus a "foodie"). I've found if I just need a recipe I'll hop over to one of those jumbled recipe sites and grab one.

    If, however, I'm actually interested in learning something about what I'm cooking then I tend to go to blogs that talk about food history and social aspects of the dish including regional traditions. To me, it's always more interesting to learn something about what I'm cooking.

    But, I suppose that's the difference between soccer moms looking for a quick meal shortcut and those who see food as an experience.