Category Archives: Biz Savvy Blogger

Biz Savvy Blogger’s Peek-A-Blog: OneFoodGuy

Today on Alphabet City’s Peek-A-Blog: While on book tour, Jon Paul tweets up with @onefoodguy to find out the secret sauce for one of Boston’s most popular food bloggers.

OneFoodGuy likes to remain anonymous

Much has been made of Twitter as a virtual tool that can connect people in real life.  But I hadn’t experienced that until a new online friend @onefoodguy in Boston popped up at my Alphabet City Book Party event in Beantown.  A few months ago, I’d delved into the wonderful world of tweets to get a handle on how I could put cyberspace to use on tour, and began using a program called ReFollow— a “twitter relationship manager.”  Sounds like a title someone would have on The Office.

ReFollow allows you to see all the followers of a person or company and then you can choose ones to follow yourself.  Pretty genius way for me to see who is interested in my book tour sponsor Kimpton Hotels (@kimpton).  I figured if people were already fans of Kimpton, then they would be open to hearing about Kimpton’s support of my book.   That’s how I found @onefoodguy.  I could tell from the moment I linked to his blog from his Twitter account, that this was a guy who could be useful to know in Boston—he was heralding the Extra Funky Sandwich at the All Star Sandwich Bar.

A few 140 character messages later and we were tweet friends.  He even indulged me when I asked, “Where should I eat in Boston?”  Not the best open-ended question to ask a foodie.  It’s like when people ask me, a travelista, “Where should I go on vacation?”  If I don’t really know you, it’s hard to offer advice.  He managed to not let a smirk show through his reply, and I decided he’d be a great addition to the Peek-A-Blog series.

After Kimpton’s Nine Zero Hotel reception for Alphabet City, I was planning on grabbing some nibbles with @onefoodguy at the K.O. restaurant onsite.  Closed on Mondays.  That’s when my foodie hero had to jump into action.  Alas, the first three places he tried to take me were also closed.  What’s up with that Boston?  My Urbanspoon iPhone app road to the rescue—we headed to The Paramount in Beacon Hill. As we walked through Boston Commons, we got down to Peek-A-Blog business.

Your post today is about using a Vita-Mix for Strawberry Watermelon Juice.  My own Chef is obsessed with his.  What is it about you foodie’s and Vita-Mix?

It’s amazing, right?  I’m very lucky to have received it as a gift from parents.  They asked what they could purchase for me that was special—and I knew it had to be the Vita-Mix.

Well, I do love the fresh peanut butter he makes.

I need to try that.

On your blog, you work at maintaining your anonymity, unlike me who puts it all out there.  You call your wife “J” and you hide part of your face in your profile picture.  Why?

I never wanted to be in a situation where my passion and hobby got in the way of my professional life.  My time with my wife is special to me, and I didn’t want to intrude on that.

Have you always been a food guy?

I have always been an eater—I grew up in a kosher kitchen in Boston eating favorites like tuna noodle casserole.  My wife J and I would often spend anniversaries going to expensive, well-regarded restaurants together instead of buying expensive gifts for each other.  At one point, I was a consultant and traveled to New York City all the time for work. I lived at the Grand Hyatt and went to the same place in Hell’s Kitchen almost every week.  They started treating me like a regular and I thought, “I could get used to this.”  On my expense account, I went to many terrific New York spots—that’s when I realized I wanted to share my experience through a blog.

What was your goal when you started onefoodguy.blogspot.com?

In my very first post, I stated my goal very clearly—“I plan on recapping my New York dining experiences and reviewing my favorite restaurants here in Greater Boston. I’m also going to try to convince myself in writing that my career should be in the kitchen, not in a suburban office. We’ll see how successful I am.” Like many bloggers, I was hoping to be able to pay a mortgage with it.  But that didn’t happen, so it evolved into a hobby.  I still enjoy sharing with people my passion for food and cooking.

Has your content changed over time?

When I first started, the site was mainly recipes, but now it includes restaurant reviews.  My first post was about how to grill a steak well, not well done. Later, I did was a post about a dinner party for my wife’s work colleagues.  It was a really big deal with 6 people coming.  I decided to make a rack of lamb, tuna tartar, and angel food cake from scratch. I didn’t really know things like how to time it out correctly, so I reached out to a food blogger Chef Scott Youkilis, owner of Maverick in San Francisco. And Scott was very helpful and wrote a response to my question I figured I could help people out by sharing information like that as they followed me.  Over time, with work and wanting to spend more time with my wife, I just didn’t have time to do the cooking.  So I started weaving in restaurant reviews.

Do you pay attention to your statistics to see what drives traffic to your site?

I use Google Analytics to track my site, and about half of the way people find my blog is through Google searches.  My most popular posts are a recipe for Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes and a story about French Street Food when I was on layover at Charles de Gaulle and went in search of this banana Nutella crepe near Notre Dame.  Also popular, the second most active keywords landing users on my site are “homemade turkey burgers.”

Do you like getting feedback from readers?

I respond to everything.  I think it’s courtesy.  If someone has taken the time to come to your blog and spend time with you and leave a comment, it’s the right thing to respond.  Early on, I emailed Zesty Cook a question about a recipe, and I never heard back.  He could have missed it or been busy with other things, but still it affected me.  So I stopped reading his site.

That sounds a little tough.

But I got into this to be part of a community.  I got to know a lot of terrific food bloggers   like EatDrinkNBMerry and Oishiieats.  They took me on a tour of Mexican taco carts in LA’s Silverlake and Echo Park neighborhoods.  When they came to Boston earlier this year, I went down to Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury with them, and introduced them to Flour Bakery, Neptune Oyster, Myers and Chang, and Toro – four of my favorite places in Boston.  It’s cool to be part of that community.

That positive attitude definitely comes through on your blog.  Like other food blogs, do you get requests from PR people to cover products?

Many publicity people contact me, and whether I am interested in the product or not, I always respond.  My goal out of this is not to get free products.  So when I do take a product, and I don’t like it, I won’t write about it.  This is a hobby for me.  I’m not looking to destroy a business.  Similarly, if I go to a restaurant and have a bad experience, I won’t write about it.  I’ve worked in restaurants and know sometimes they are just having a bad night.  I’d rather focus on sharing good stuff with my readers, the things I want people to enjoy.

Sounds like maybe you had a bad experience at one point?

For Cinco de Mayo this year, J wanted to go to this restaurant she had been to several times.  It’s not a Mexican restaurant but they have what J said were very good fish tacos.  Unfortunately, I was terribly disappointed and shared my feedback with the restaurant manager and felt like it was well received.  Restaurants can not always please 100% of the people 100% of the time. I understand.

It impressed me how quickly you responded to me on Twitter.

Twitter is fun for me, but I don’t do it all the time.  Definitely not at work.  I have around 1300 followers and I follow 2000.  It’s so frustrating that I’ve hit the limit because of the ratio requirements right now.

How do you manage paying attention to all that?  I still haven’t figured it out.

I use UberTwitter on my BlackBerry.  On my computer, I use TweetDeck and have columns that include a general feed, mentions, 120-130 “friends” that I pay attention to, and a dozen or so private lists that I’m following.

I’m impressed that you’re working hard to not let the blog and Twitter overwhelm your life with your wife.  How do you manage your time?

I get up early in the morning and write.  Sunday morning I also sit on the couch and blog—mostly when my wife is away or busy doing other things.  I’m also kind of a DIY guy, so I often blog sitting in front of the TV watching HGTV’s Yard Crashers.  That’s my guilty pleasure.

What do you want to do more of in the blog?

I wish I could cook more using fancy ingredients, making them accessible to home cooks.  Writing more about technique.

All right, well the next time you’re in New York, you’ll have to come over and you and Chef can collaborate using the Vita-Mix!  If you’re lucky, he’ll make you some peanut butter.

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BizSavvyBlogger’s Peek-A-Blog: PerrinPost.truth.travel

Today on Alphabet City: Peek-A-Blog boards the Wendy Perrin express, uncovering “Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know“* about this influential blogger, including how her print job keeps her from blogging 24/7 and what that means for PR folks. (*the name of Wendy’s book!)

Wendy, Chef, Wendy's first born and me at an event in Dallas. Photo taken by Tim.

Returning from a quick trip to Hong Kong in February 2003—just days before SARS took the world hostage—my traveling companion Wendy Perrin and I were like foreign exchange students plopped down in the middle of Cathay Pacific’s First Class Cabin.  Despite the fact that we traveled the world for a luxury magazine—Wendy as the publication’s well-respected Consumer News Editor, me in the more cushy job as communications expert—we actually had never been exposed to the glamorous life at the front of a Trans-Pacific jet.  But the magazine thought it important for our jobs to understand how the top .01% live.

The last ones to board, we raced to learn the proper etiquette.  Why are the other few passengers dressed in matching brown colored warm-ups?  Are they in some weird club?  Oh, those are special traveling pajamas gifted to us for the long journey.  We changed in a bathroom suite the size of my NYC apartment.  And by the way, where’s my blanket?  What kind of rinky-dink operation is this?  Oh, the down duvet comes to me upon request.  Duh.

“Can I take these attendants home with me?” Wendy asked sadly upon arrival at JFK.  “They would change my life.”

That’s what I’ve always loved about Wendy—her sincerity and wide-eyed wonder at the world.  Despite growing up in New York City, attending a fancy prep school, and graduating from that famous university in Cambridge, Wendy doesn’t have a cynical bone in her body.  And for an optimistic kid from Texas like me, I find that refreshing.  Wendy is no-nonsense, constantly in motion, and always speaks the truth—like a travelista’s Suze Orman.  Unlike America’s favorite financial guru, Wendy has never been on my Spit List, if you disregard the time at DFW she refused to eat with me at Chili’s Too, and almost made us miss our flight arguing with the Au Bon Pain attendant over mayo on her sandwich.

Traveling the world with Wendy, I often laughed at how the woman to whom even the savviest travelers turn for advice, actually had the worst travel karma I had ever experienced.  From malfunctioning hotel alarm clocks to surly gate agents to lost baggage, I experienced it all with Wendy.  My suspicion was always that she enjoyed the incidents as they provided fodder for her column.

Over lunch at Marseille, blogger to blogger, she verified my hunch and gave me the inside scoop on the complications that come with straddling the print and online world as “the most trusted name in travel journalism” (a moniker I gave her).

What’s the difference between your blog posts and your monthly column in Condé Nast Traveler?

On the blog, which comes in two flavors—one on cntraveler.com and one on truth.travel—I can address issues that are timely, like what you need to do right now about the labor strike that has shut down your airline.  In print, the advice has to be more about trends that are happening—that labor strike is already over.

How do you judge if a post is successful?

I don’t look at traffic statistics—someone else does that.  But one way I measure it is if the post gets syndicated—if it shows up on MSNBC or ABCNews.com because it means that it was advice useful to a lot of people.  On a more personal level, I know a post is successful when I get a lot of smart comments.  I love having the back and forth with really savvy travelers—it gives me article ideas.

An example of a post that’s generating lots of smart responses?

Right now, the “Maximize Your Miles” contest.  This is a contest with a very high barrier to entry: You need to submit your best personal frequent-flier-mileage success story, as well as your best tip gleaned from it. So just imagine how well-traveled and savvy you have to be to participate in this. First, you must have traveled enough to accrue significant miles. Then you must have successfully used them. And then you have to come up with a little-known tip that will be useful to others. More than 240 people have submitted so far.  Those are readers that I learn from.

How do you handle being inundated with questions asking for travel advice?

I have two different public email addresses: one printed in the magazine that goes along with my column; and another one online that goes with the blog.  The questions that I get from the two groups are incredibly different.  I can tell from the questions from print readers that they are well-traveled, have more money and are older, with very specific requests like, “I want advice on renting a villa in Provence but would like a chef to be on call who knows the local markets.”  The people who have just happened to find me online tend to be younger, less savvy, don’t know exactly what they want, “Thinking about going to Europe.  Thoughts?”

How do your over 12,000 Twitter followers fit into that?

They are actually very smart. And, because Twitter users are so active online–they just love to click on articles and post comments on web sites–they come in very handy whenever I’d like to get a conversation going on my blog. Say I ask a question on my blog that I’d like a lot of people to weigh in on. If I go on Twitter, ask the question, and invite people to answer it on my blog, within 30 minutes, there’ll be 30 useful comments posted.

For so long you have been a print journalist, but I get the sense that you love blogging?

On the one hand, blogging is so freeing and so much fun.  On the other hand, it’s overwhelming.  There are far more questions from readers than I can ever possibly answer.  But I love it so much I would blog 24 hours a day because I love the immediate conversation.  Unfortunately, I can’t feed the blog as much as I would like because of my workload.

What do you mean?  It seems like you are such a powerful online presence that your blog would be a priority.

Actually, the priority is my print deadlines. I don’t get in trouble with my boss when I don’t post on my blog frequently. I do get in trouble with my boss when I don’t hand in my print column on time. I’m forced to neglect the blog so often, which is heartbreaking because I want to spend more time having online conversations with travelers.

So that explains why sometimes weeks go by and there’s no post.

And when I am blogging, it’s usually on weekends or at 3am.  When I finally have time to blog, there are at least 10 ideas in my head as to what I want to write.  There are hundreds of ideas a month that I don’t get to write.  It’s just happenstance what does get blogged—it’s a matter of timing.  The people who lose out on that the most are PR people.  They could send me something great, that’s timely, that I want readers to know about—but there’s no time for me to post it.

But I feel like I get tweets from you a lot.  You have time for that?

Basically, I Twitter when I’m in transit or stuck in an airport or at home at night, not when I’m at the office. Condé Nast doesn’t allow us to have TweetDeck on our computers at work–just one reason why it’s difficult for me to do any useful Twitter stuff at the office.  That means, it’s all about my commute.  That’s when I have time to go on Twitter and see if anyone has sent me a message. When I’m on a business trip, I love getting on Twitter and seeing what friends are up to.

Given how important your anonymity is to you when traveling on assignment, do you worry that Twittering and Blogging compromise that?

All the time!  Because of the magazine’s policy that we are not allowed to receive any special treatment, I have to be very careful when I am on assignment not to do anything in the social media world that would alert a hotel or airline about my presence.  So as immediate as blogging and twittering can be, I often can’t comment online about an issue or problem until after the incident.  I have to be very careful about Facebook updates, and that’s one of the reasons I can’t use FourSquare.  It’s different when I am traveling to give a speech to a group of hotel executives—they all know I’m coming and where I’m staying.  So I feel free to tweet about those trips.

After 21 years at the magazine, it seems like hotels, cruise lines, airlines would have pictures of you plastered everywhere—like restaurants do for New York Times critics!

You would think, right?  But at the moment, travel companies are still not that sophisticated.  I get treated like crap all the time.  But that’s okay, I always get a column or blog post out of it.

Knowing the immediate consequences your words can have on a travel company, do you wield your power wisely?  For good not evil?

Because my blog posts do not go through a censor or editor, I am very careful about what I write so as not to be inflammatory.  My readers want me to be helpful, not bitter.  The recent incident I had with Hawaiian Airlines charging me a checked baggage fee despite my having a Continental MasterCard that waives those fees is a perfect example.  I had the name of the customer service agent who was in the wrong, and when I posted the photo I had planned on naming that person.  But I calmed down and realized I didn’t need to pick that fight.  The point of my post was to educate my readers about what to do in that situation—call the credit card company after the fact and they will credit your account.

Any concerns about putting your kids in your posts with pictures?

Blogs are really an emotional connection between you and your readers.  I put the kids in because people want to know me personally.  They want to know the real Wendy Perrin.  For some reason, they want to know about my travails as a parent and traveler.  The photos of the kids and me are in there because, frankly, those are the photos that it’s easiest for me to obtain quickly and download into my laptop. And that’s because my husband Tim is a photographer, he’s always right there traveling with us, and he’s always shooting pictures of the kids—I just happen to be in them!

Speaking of Tim, I’ve been lucky enough to travel with him on shoots to South Africa and Guatemala.  You two strike me as completely different types of travelers.  How does that work out for you?

Tim said the other day that, if we were ever on the same team on The Amazing Race or Competitours, we’d be divorced by the time we got to the first airport. That’s because we travel so differently. While I’m always on guard for anything that could possibly go wrong, Tim is very laid back.  I’m always eavesdropping, listening to what the gate agent or flight attendant is telling frustrated customers, and I’m always distracted because I’m busy counting the number of empty seats on the plane or recording the pilot’s announcement about a delay.  I can’t ever turn it off. Tim, on the other hand, is always saying, “Relax, why do you need to go pester the gate agent again.”  Is he kidding?!

All right, I have to ask.  Your first book, Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know, was turned into an Off-Broadway musical.  Are the rumors true about your blog becoming a stage show?

You must be starting those rumors!  Trust me, as my former publicist and traveling companion, you’ll be the first to know.

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BizSavvyBlogger’s Peek-A-Blog: From Me To You

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul peeks behind the lens of photography blogger (and fellow Texan) Jamie of FromMe-ToYou.tumblr.com

Howdy, and welcome to launch of this occasional series I’m calling “Peek-A- Blog.”

First, a little background.  My Texas roots run deep, and I’ve learned you never know where they might surface under the Big Apple tree.  Case in point: a little over a week ago, Chef sent me a link to a photography blog called From Me To You, excited that it featured pictures of some chili based made from a recipe he distributed at Whole Foods on the Upper West Side.  Frankly, I wasn’t too enthusiastic—how great can some beans and beef look?  But Chef seemed excited, so I thought I should try and be supportive.

When I clicked the link, I was blown away.

Not your typical food blog picture--From Me To You immediately intrigued me

The beautifully saturated and styled photo shoot was not the work of a Julie Powell home cook wannabe.  It was the highly artistic endeavor of a talented photographer.

Jamie makes pouring a can of Whole Foods 365 tomatoes look beautiful!

As I tooled around the captivating site, I discovered it was the work of a fellow Texan, and that meant one thing—we simply had to meet.

A fellow Rose from Texas...who I am dying to meet!

A few days earlier at lunch, my friend Adrianna who writes the hilarious dating blog Techromance had encouraged me to reach out to fellow bloggers that I admire, interview them about their path and development.  As a journalist, I liked the sound of that—a way to keep my interview skills fresh.  But I didn’t know where to begin, until I tumblr-d upon FromMeToYou—a fellow ex-pat Texan is just what the blogger ordered.  A few emails later and we were bonded like sorority sisters with a date to dish over margaritas at our favorite Lone Star spot in NYC—Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Enjoy the peek!

JPB: The weather was so gross today that I couldn’t risk ruining my cowboy boots. Jamie: That’s fine.  Look at these!  My mom got them for me.  She called one day from Texas and said, “I’m in Dillard’s and these boots are 50% off with an extra 25% off.  They are NEW.  YORK.  BOOTS!”

Macy’s just can’t compete with a good Dillard’s sale, right?  Makes me kind of home sick.  All right, I’m having the Chicken Fried Steak Fingers basket because that was my Grandma Tommie’s favorite thing to order at Dairy Queen.  How about you? The Cornmeal Fried Catfish Fingers.  And a frozen margarita, naturally.

Yummy fried catfish pic courtesy of Jamie/FromMeToYou

Livin' it up in Blogaritaville. Pic courtesy of Jamie/FromMeToYou

How’d you wind up in New York?   Were you like me and wanted to move here since you were a kid? I dreamed of working at Vogue.  Honestly, I would lie in my bed just dreaming of working at Vogue—picture myself walking down the hallways.  I don’t know why because my mother wouldn’t buy any Vogues.  But I just saw myself working there.  I was in love with fashion photography.  The first time I was in New York was when I was 14, and I remember thinking, “I want my pictures up on those billboards!”

Were your parents supportive of your decision to live in Manhattan after studying photography at FIT? They wanted me to move home.  They’d call and say things like, “Why don’t you come back and shoot weddings?”  They didn’t get what I was doing.  With the blog, though, they really are starting to understand.

Do you find that your blog has developed and changed over time? When I started it last May, I used to post just a single image.  But then I decided I want to do longer postings.  I wanted to wake up and do whatever I was into or obsessing about.  And it just seemed like people really started connecting with my work.  My best traffic is usually Tuesday through Thursday—I guess people are bored at work.

You get a lot of reader responses.  Do you enjoy those? The comments are the best part!  They are so motivating.  Sometimes I get “your picture reminds me of childhood,” or “your photographs made me so nostalgic.”  One of my favorite comments is “you’ve inspired me to try photography again.”  I also answer tons of camera questions.  What kind of film.  What kind of exposure.  I really try to respond to each one.

That’s a lot of work! It is.  You know that blogging can take a lot of work.  I spend about 30% of my day working on that day’s blog post.  50% emailing back and forth either comments or questions.  And the rest of the time marketing my blog in different ways.  I twitter a lot to specific markets.  That’s how we connected.  I twittered about my photos from a Whole Foods recipe, and then the company sent along the link to others.  Before I go to bed, I obsess over Google analytics.  New York and California are my biggest states, then Texas, I think because of my family.  Right now, I want more readers in Paris!  I’m obsessed with Paris.

Reading your blog, I realize that unlike me, you don’t expose much of your personal life. For a very good reason.  I would like people to focus on my personal work, not my personal life.  My work is up for discussion, not my life.  But my work is very personal, it reveals a lot about my passion and obsessions and my life.

Like a novelty t-shirt, I put my life out there for all to see; Jamie prefers discretion

How do you come up with the categories on your blog? They all come out of my own life.  “Dinner and a Movie” developed from what was really date night.  I was trying to save money, and cook at home, and watch movies, and at the same time I was interested in photographing food.  So I just decided to marry the two together.  Based upon that, I started reaching out to food stylists and chefs and really working on food photography.

Any new additions coming up? Well, a new feature called “Flavor of the Month” comes out of my obsessions.  Sometimes I get obsessed with something for a while—like grapefruits—and I crave them and eat them everyday.  Then I wake up one day and it’s passed, and I’m on to the next thing.  I thought documenting that would be a great ongoing feature.  Because I only do original content, I was having a hard time finding a way to tell people about all the amazing blogs I am obsessed with.  But if I have a regular feature about my obsessions—I can take those things, photograph them, and make them mine.  That’s what I’m going to do with your book.

Will you promise to make me look as good as those grapefruits you shot? I’m going to surprise you with a real Texas twist.

Jamie took one of the best photos of me in a long time; can't wait to see what she does with the book!

Anything you miss about Texas? The Mexican food, of course.  I will eat it breakfast, lunch and dinner when I’m home.  And I really miss the thrift stores and antique stores.  I’ve gotten some bargains that are so amazing that I won’t tell people where the stores are.  I’m talking a full-length fur coat for $10!

You would fit right in at Vogue.  Will you wear it to our next lunch? No, but maybe to your book launch party!

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