Interview with David Lebovitz, American Food Blogger in Paris

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David LebovitzTell me about your blog: how did it start? A personal project, or professional ambitions from the start? How has it developed?

I started my website in 1999, writing about recipes and other things I was doing. I had also released my first cookbook, Room for Dessert, and wanted a site to work in conjunction with my book, since I could offer a lot more information on the site than a book allows. When blog platforms were introduced, which made updating things much easier, my site officially became a personal blog.

Who is your target audience?

I don’t know. Interestingly, 30% of my readers live outside the United States, which is all I know about them. Judging from the comments, they’re very interested in baking and cooking, and Paris (of course). I don’t really target my writing on my blog to any particular group or person, but most of my readers that leave comments are pretty astute, and some are downright hilarious, so I write as if I’m having a conversation with them all.

What do you think the “blogosphere” has brought to communications? To everyday relations?

I think it’s great to share information, and I’ve learned a lot about French culture by writing about it. I get a lot of comments from French folks who point things out, agree, and sometimes disagree. But that’s okay. Everyone has their own experience of where they live and no two viewpoints will be the same.

I’ve met some amazing people through my blog, especially through the network of other food bloggers. Many of us have traveled together and become close friends. We’re all bound by the same interests (namely food and travel), and it’s great.

Companies and organizations are increasingly adopting new web 2.0 media such as blogs. Do you think this is a good idea, and is it easy to spot a company blog in disguise (such as reviewing their own products under the name of someone else)?

I think it’s great when companies become engaged with the public, but they have to realize it’s a commitment when you put yourself out there. For example, the French consulate recently asked on Twitter if anyone out there had any questions about visas, so I wrote that I had pressing a question that no one at the préfécture could (or would) answer. They did respond…telling me to go back to the préfécture. Um, thanks…

I’ve had a few good customer service experiences and that’s how companies can do well jumping into social media: by providing a good experience that users pass along. But I don’t like when companies just start spewing out marketing pitches. It’s boring and turns users off.

How do you grow a blog from a project to a revenue-producing machine? Is there something more than Google AdSense? Is there a way to make money from programs like WordPress, which blocks Google ads?

I have a few ad networks on my site that automatically feed ads on to my site, which I like for two reasons; one is that I don’t have to think about it or do anything, and the other is editorial: I don’t pick and choose what ads run, which would put me in a position of deciding which ads (or products) should be featured. It’s ‘cleaner’ for me, like newspapers and magazines do, to keep a “hands off” policy on the advertising on my site, and I never let it influence the content of the blog, ever.

My blog is on Movable Type so I can’t answer questions about WordPress, but I do use AdSense (Google) although it’s not a big deal on my site. I know folks that do really well financially with it. But to me, I make enough to buy a few bottles of rosé each month. And that’s it.

I’d love to have one sponsor, a company that I like, but that presents other problems as then you’re beholden to them. Still, there’s a number of products and services that I like and use and I’d be happy to support, and would appreciate their support as well.

What are your plans for the future?

I wish I could predict the future. If so, I’d be buying lottery tickets!

What advice would you give to aspiring bloggers, especially those who would like to make money?

Don’t do it for the money. There are very few bloggers who make a lot of money and for the amount of time it takes, for many people, it’s not going to be worth it. Even the people I know who make money from their sites started them because they loved what they were doing. Fortunately, the money came, which has allowed them to continue to spend the time (and often money) that it takes to maintain a widely read blog and a web presence.
The best advice I can give is for people to make your posts interesting and useful. Making people laugh, or share a great recipe or travel tale. Those are places to start. Have a clean design–few readers want to wade through tons of information, flash animation, and click-throughs, just to read your content. And most of all, have fun. If enjoy your blog, and so will your readers!

Starting reading David’s yummy blog here and enjoy his unique talent to write about foods and take amazing pictures.

David is the author of several cooking books. I especially like to recommend The Sweet Life in Paris : Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City. It is a great read for yourself or can be a thoughtful gift.

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About the author

Michael Barrett

Website

Michael Barrett is a talented American man with roots in Chicago and Washington D.C. He recently moved back to Chicago to work at advertising agency Leo Burnett after 5 years in France. He lived in Lyon, Grenoble and Paris as an English teacher, graduate student and communications professional both with AmCham Rhone-Alpes and ad agency New BBDO Paris. He got his Masters degree in "communication d’entreprise et management à l’international” at the University of Grenoble. He has also studied abroad in Angers, interned at Sciences Po Paris and taught English in Lyon. Very active within the American community of France, he is a communication consultant, freelance translator, and English teacher. He writes a must-read blog for expats called American Expat In France. From his location in the US, he will still advise expats and potential expats regarding life in France. You can take the man out of France, but not the France out of the man. Michael can be reached at: MichaelBarrett1984@gmail.com

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