Today’s Q-and-A is with Ben Dehan, the founder and CEO of Foodbuzz. Dehan has 18 years of operating experience with technology-based companies. Ben is also the founder and CEO of DinnerBroker, which in in 2000 was the first company to offer off-peak restaurant discounts online. He has also worked at Redwood Microsystems, Bain and Co. and the Federal Reserve. He has an MBA from Stanford and a bachelor of arts in economics from Dartmouth.
What was your inspiration for creating Foodbuzz?
Foodbuzz launched as a food-blog community in 2007. The concept emanated from trends we identified in connection with food content online. For example, there was significant interest in the category — in fact, we discovered that 1% of all online searches were food-related. At the same time, social networking was taking off and food blogging was becoming more popular, with the proliferation of inexpensive digital cameras, improvements in blogging platforms and the introduction of micro-blogging platforms like Twitter.
What’s described as the “long tail” of content creation turned out to be extremely long, indeed, as it related to food. The convergence of these issues created a tremendous opportunity for our platform, and it was at this time that I felt food could be a big enough category for its own passionate online community.
Why is food a good vertical for social networking and social media generally?
I grew up in Louisiana, where food is among the most popular topics of conversation. At breakfast, you’re talking about what’s for lunch, at lunch you’re talking about what’s for dinner, and you lose count of how many times you’ve debated who serves the best fried oyster po’ boy in New Orleans.
So whether it’s part of your daily dialogue or whether you’re passing on a great recipe to your neighbor or co-worker, food is a subject that people want to talk about and, most importantly, share — and the desire to share and connect are what’s at the core of social media. It’s an area in which people celebrate their differences (unlike politics or religion, for example) and seek out people who are “in the know.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the quality of the content in the food vertical is the highest quality available, since it is based on specific knowledge and singular focus.
Talk about what you’re seeing in terms of growth.
We now have over 13,000 food blogs providing content via RSS feeds to the Foodbuzz.com content platform, and I really think that’s the tip of the iceberg. Food will soon represent more blogs than any other category, and food is being increasingly covered by non-food-specific blogs, given that it is such an integral part of our daily lives.
What are the trends you are seeing in social-media advertising?
The most recent and significant trend that everyone in social media has witnessed over the past 12 months is the accelerated movement of [consumer packaged goods] companies into social-media advertising. It is no longer about click-through rates on display ads. CPG advertisers recognize the importance and value of a social-media presence and now have the reach in social media they need to launch large campaigns.
For example, Foodbuzz just reached 10 million unique users on Quantcast — that is just hitting the threshold for reach for the big CPG players in food. There are food websites with more reach than that and general social networks with more reach than that, but there is no dedicated food social-media outlet with more reach than Foodbuzz.
How does Foodbuzz partner with bloggers? How do you foster foodie camaraderie and community? Who are some of the top Foodbuzz bloggers?
Any blogger can connect with the Foodbuzz community and circulate their content throughout the community based on merit, by simply being a registered user on Foodbuzz.com. To be a “Featured Publisher” however, bloggers apply to be accepted into the program. Featured Publisher blogs are screened for content, posting frequency and quality, and we currently have 3,500 in the program. They also have exclusive advertising partnerships with Foodbuzz and provide Foodbuzz with a non-exclusive license to their content. That allows us to sell brand advertisers based on our extensive and exclusive reach across these blogs, and based on the ability to crowdsource content on behalf of the brands.
In the past month or so, here are some food blogs that I have spent time on and enjoyed:
What advice would you offer to a food blogger?
1) Find a specific topic that you are passionate about that can be your focus and area of expertise. Long-tail publishing is not about doing everything well, it is about being THE BEST at one thing. 2) Be active in the community, it is fun and it will drive traffic. 3) Get paid. It is fun and it will drive your spouse less crazy.
Image credit: sodafish, via iStockphoto