Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Interview With Clay and Zach of The Bitten Word

One of my favorite food blogs is Clay and Zach's, The Bitten Word. This blog has a very simple concept: Clay and Zach pick a recipe from one of a number of food magazines they subscribe to. They then cook, photograph, and blog about the recipe.

It's a simple formula that yields numerous entertaining and informative posts. Clay and Zach agreed to do this interview in which we learn some insight into what helped to make The Bitten Word a food blogging sensation.

And if you haven't already visited their site, be ready to waste an entire afternoon reading their posts!

Tell us about how The Bitten Word came to be? One of the things that I like most about your food blog is the unique concept. How was it developed?

For a few years, we'd been subscribing to food magazines because we love to cook. But it had come to the point where we were hardly ever actually using the magazines. We'd leaf through them but wouldn't actually use them in our day-to-day cooking. So we decided that we either needed to stop subscribing or to start using them. We made a New Year's resolution for 2008 to start cooking one thing from every magazine. And then after we started, we thought it might be fun to blog about our experiences -- and that's how The Bitten Word came about!

Interview continued in second part of post...

What were some of your goals when you first started blogging? Were you blogging just for fun, or did you have longer term goals in mind?

Our main goal was really just to use our food magazines, and maybe to expand our cooking repertoire in the process. In starting the blog, we didn't have a lot of expectations in terms of how the blog would be received. We've been overwhelmed by how many readers come to us each week, and how many wonderful emails and comments we receive. It has been a really positive experience and we've both had a lot of fun doing it.

It sounds like you weren't necessarily concerned with success or failure when starting the blog. Do you think this is why your blog has been so successful? That is was more a labor of love rather than a business plan?

I absolutely think our more casual approach to blogging has helped us. For one, it's kept our expectations in check: We never really imagined The Bitten Word would be read by anyone other than our friends and family. We thought we'd just put our posts out there, and we didn't really care too much about success.

It's also helped to keep the blog a fun hobby, rather than something we feel required to do.

If there's anything we've learned, it's that blog traffic builds slowly. At least, that's been the case for us. We were thrilled the first time we got 500 visitors in a day. Then, we hit 1,000. Then -- much later -- we had our first 2,000-visitor day. We celebrated with martinis the first time we had 4,000 visitors.

If we'd been approaching this as a business venture -- constantly trying to drive traffic or whatever -- I think we could easily have gotten discouraged by the initial slow growth. As it is, though, each milestone has been an almost unexpected success.

Could you talk about how you define a successful post? On my blog, there are certain posts that I feel are more successful than others and I'm wondering how other bloggers measure a successful post?

A successful post, to us, is one that elicits reactions. We love hearing from readers, and the number of people who comment on a given post is definitely one of the metrics by which we define success.

The funny thing is, the posts that are ultimately the most successful or the most popular are rarely the ones we predict. Last summer, for example, we wrote about this barbecue-basted grilled chicken. It was delicious, but we didn't consider it, you know, the best thing we'd ever eaten.

But for some reason that really seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people. That post got picked up by several other food bloggers, and we got some great feedback from it.

People also really seem to like the fact that we post our mistakes right alongside our successes. Our most infamous mistake so far has been a Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting and Peanut Butter Brittle that we made a couple months ago. The whole thing completely fell apart -- seriously, like, disintegrated -- before we could even eat it. Maybe it's schadenfreude, or maybe people just like knowing that they're not the only ones who sometimes make mistakes in the kitchen.

If you could start all over again, is there anything you would do differently when starting your blog?

Honestly? Not really. The Bitten Word is very much a hobby for us both, and one that we really enjoying doing. We feel like we started the blog with a very specific goal in mind -- to use our food magazines -- and that the blog has been successful in helping us to do that.

What are some mistakes you see beginning food bloggers make? Any pet peeves?

No, not really.

What is the one piece of advice you'd give to a beginning food blogger?

Read up on what other food bloggers suggest in terms of how to do photography for your site. Quality photographs can really add so much to your site. There's a lot of advice out there -- take them up on it!

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks to this interview, I've discovered another great food blog that I'll deinitely be following!