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Do Foodgawker and Tastespotting Still Matter?

As we’ve discussed previously in these pages, Foodgawker and Tastespotting (and indeed, all of the so-called “food porn” sites) seem to be at a real crossroads. During their heyday, an approved submission to Foodgawker or Tastespotting would add thousands of visitors to your daily traffic stats, or even more if your photo was voted up into “favorite” status for the week.

Now, however, the numbers have changed. With so much competition among food bloggers and the general skill level of amateur food photographers sharply on the rise, getting a photo published on one of these sites can be a major challenge. And even if your submission is approved,  the major sites now bring mere hundreds, rather than thousands, of new visits to your site.

My suspicion is that much of the traffic enjoyed by these sites has moved to Pinterest.

Pinterest has emerged with guns blazing, quickly rising to become the top referrer of new traffic to many food blogs, traffic whose flow used to be controlled by the major food photo sharing websites. All Pinterest did was democratize the process; instead of a bunch of faceless editors judging each of the gorgeous sandwich photos you  submit by an increasingly puzzling set of criteria, a photo’s success or failure is determined solely by users of the service.

So now that it’s harder than ever to get a photo published on Foodgawker or Tastespotting, and now that even a published photo is generating fewer visits than ever before, the question becomes: Does taking the time to submit your photos to the major food porn sites still make sense?

The answer is yes, although perhaps for different reasons than were in place a year or two ago.

Though Foodgawker and Tastespotting may not be putting up the same numbers they once did, the quality of those visitors has improved. Now, it’s not just about the quantity of the referrals you are getting from these sites; it’s about the quality. Foodgawker and Tastespotting give you the opportunity to get your blog seen by the right people, even if it’s not getting seen by quite as many people.

As the overall quality of the photographs on these sites has gone up, the major food porn sites have become an easy-to-use resource that’s frequently tapped into by journalists, other big-time food bloggers, serial Pinners, publishers of cookbooks and major online portals such as The Daily Meal and Huffington Post. Any time a writer is looking for a source for quality ideas or photography, Foodgawker and Tastespotting are still one of the first places they turn. Any time they want to see a quick sampling of the best photographs of “Beef Stroganoff” from around the entire food blogosphere, they can use these sites. Any time a blogger has been tasked with writing a roundup of the “10 Best Margarita Recipes” or “20 New Approaches to Deviled Eggs,” these sites are a major starting point for that research.

If you maintain as large a footprint as you can in these sites, the chances are good that your photo and post will be included in a roundup of recipes by a major website, will be adapted for use on another website (with a link back to your original post, of course), or even for use in a cookbook or eBook. In short, the “tastemakers” that you want to see your content (that is, those that will share it, repurpose it, or otherwise help promote it) are still using Foodgawker and Tastespotting. And that means that you should, too.

About Malcolm Bedell

Malcolm is one-half of the blogging team at From Away, an Alexa-ranked top 100k most trafficked website about cooking, eating, and food culture in Maine. A social media marketing strategist by day, his food writing and photography has been featured in Bon Appetit, LA Weekly, Serious Eats, and the Huffington Post.

Comments

  1. Good read, Malcolm!

  2. How strange I just came across this post and have been contemplating foodgawker for a while. I’ve been so confused as to why my submissions keep being declined. Maybe it’s because I’m taking the photos from my iPhone? But being a part time blogger, blogging for fun I can’t justify buying the higher quality cameras.. as much as I dream of them!
    Do you think this could be a reason my photos aren’t up to scratch?
    Erica xo

    • Erica,

      I used to have the same problem with my submissions to Foodgawker, but have recently had a few accepted. I’m a part-time blogger as well, but upgrading to a Rebel T2i (or the newer versions) and a simple $100 F1.4 lens has made a HUGE difference in my photography. I think you can greatly improve your photos with a simple and affordable solution! Best of luck!

  3. Wow. What an insightful perspective on both forms of photography sites. Thanks for sharing this and I’m happy to have come upon your site.

  4. “My suspicion is that much of the traffic enjoyed by these sites has moved to Pinterest.”

    In 2010 when Pinterest exploded onto the scene, we were worried that Pinterest would take traffic away from foodgawker and our other sites and make them obsolete. Fortunately that wasn’t the case and while Pinterest traffic dwarfs our traffic numbers, we have been able to continue growing the sites. Like many other sites, Pinterest is also our top referring source.

    When we started in 2008, there was less competition in the food porn space and we only published ~ 48 posts/1 page per publishing round (two rounds per day). Over the years as submissions grew, we published more photos per round and currently are up to ~ 125 posts per round. Our acceptance rate has also gone down over the years as the number and quality of submissions increases.

    We have a tough balancing act to consider. Publish too many posts then photos aren’t on the first few pages long enough to generate a lot of views. Publish fewer posts by raising the quality bar, then bloggers get upset at being declined. Then add in the regular site visitors (non-submitters), who want to just browse and search for recipes. There’s a fine balance in trying to please all site visitors/users. We take all these things into consideration to determine how many posts and when to publish to maximize traffic back to our submitters.

    The bottom line is foodgawker can still drive a good amount of traffic to submitters, as seen here…

    http://foodgawker.com/popular/gawked/7-days/

    The page above only shows views on posts that were published in the last 7 days. With so many food porn sites competing for your clicks, the photos AND descriptions really need to stand out if you want big referral numbers from foodgawker.

    With that said, we have site redesign in development that will hopefully improve the user experience and increase the referral traffic for bloggers. We plan on releasing phase 1 of the redesign by the end of the month.

    • Thanks Chuck for such an insightful comment. I always wondered how you guys work in terms when to approve and how many submissions. To this day on my blog, there is a big difference in terms of traffic between the blog posts approved on Food Gawker and those that didn’t make it through. Yes, Pinterest has evolved as a good source of traffic but Food Gawker too plays a very important role. Thanks for all the good work.

      Looking forward for the re-design :-)

      Siri

    • Hi Chuck, this is totally irrelevant to the topic but I just want to share with everyone a positive (two actually) experience I had with Foodgawker. I think all food bloggers would appreciate feedbacks like these that you gave the photos I submitted.

      “please resubmit with more room around the bowl. composition too tight. thank you.”

      “please submit a wider crop, with more space under the pitcher, so it is not cut off.”

      My photos were declined but I appreciate that you gave a more personal feedback. I corrected the “pitcher” and it got accepted.

      I am now looking for the original of my “bowl” picture so I can widen my crop.

      Thanks so much.

      • Michael,
        I just had a look at FoodPinup.com and have found all the images distorted vertically. Now, that might just be a blip so I’ll check again later, but if it’s going to ruin folks’ shots, then I don’t think it’s up to much.

        Meanwhile, one month of posting to FoodGawker is shaping up nicely and I’ve now a clearly defined strategy (or two in fact): (1) how to get on to FG meeting their reqs; and (2) how Foodgawker has shaped my overall content strategy overall – and in less obvious ways – ie, not just related to photography.

        I’ll share those thoughts in another month, when I’ve put FG content plan B into action! Hope you keep this useful thread live.

  5. I’ve had photos declined by both of them for exposure and then looked at the front page and saw nothing different to my photo. They need to choose I suppose. That’s why we created fooderific.com that posts automatically when I hit publish.

  6. Great article. I still enjoy submitting to these sites. I have a relatively high approval rate compared to what I used to and I feel like the rejections pushed me to improve. If nothing else, these sites are a motivator.

  7. It was interesting reading about this from foodgawker’s perspective, so thank you, Chuck, for chiming in. I get great traffic from foodgawker and enjoy browsing it for inspiration.

    I call shenanigans on that list of “most gawked” in the last 7 days, though. On the front page there were 3 different pictures from one big-time blogger, and 2 different pictures from another big-time blogger. It seems like a big coincidence that out of all the submissions you publish, one person happened to get 3 of the most gawked? Is it possible their traffic is somehow driving these numbers up?

    • Elizabeth, I have wondered this myself. I don’t think there is any sneaky, mysterious way in which big bloggers obtain an advantage, although of course I’m not in a position to rule that out. I think big bloggers get their advantage from these factors: 1). People clicking on the Foodgawker badge on their blog and then exploring all of their most photogenic recipes from there; 2). People recognizing their username on the FG homepage and being more likely to click on it because it’s familiar and they already know they like that blog; and 3). Big bloggers having good insight (based on extensive experience) into what kinds of recipes and photographs are most successful on recipe submission sites. Of course, the third factor is pretty nebulous, but I’ve tried putting some thought into it myself and I’m pretty sure it’s a real factor–there’s a reason most big bloggers have become so successful, and a big part of it is that they’re often super savvy.

  8. I would always look for Foodgawker and Tastespotting for the quality they maintain in posting food pictures.

  9. Interesting. I agree with the Pinterest theory…

  10. I’m so glad I read this. I was just thinking of the pros and cons of continuing to submit to Foodgawker, but now I know why I should continue. Thanks!

  11. How interesting! After my redshirt blogging year, I decided to step it up and try to make my pictures better. Since I’ve been trying to work on my picture quality, the feedback that I’ve received from both Foodgawker and Tastespotting when they’ve rejected my pictures has definitely helped me make my pictures better. So, those critiques have been extremely valuable to me. As far as traffic goes, Pinterest is still #1 for my blog, but I do see a nice bump in traffic when I have a picture published on Foodgawker or Tastespotting.

  12. Thank you for this article! So great to know this info. :-)

  13. “I call shenanigans on that list of “most gawked” in the last 7 days, though…. Is it possible their traffic is somehow driving these numbers up?”

    I’m not sure how a blogger’s site traffic (high or low) would influence what foodgawker site visitors click on as they are mutually exclusive. The number of gawks is what it is. Someone clicks over to the blog post, we track and report the click.

  14. Great post. I always strive to get my stuff up on foodgawker and tastespotting but if I don’t, I’m not heartbroken because like you mentioned, they do not bring the same traffic that they used to.

  15. I have to say that the traffic from foodgawker and tastespotting is far more valuable. Just looking at a recent day when I was fortunate enough to get a photo on both sites, plus pinned a few times…
    Foodgawker visitors: 1.53 pages and 00:57 on the site
    Tastespotting visitors: 1.23 pages, 1:29 on the site
    Pinterest: 1.05 pages. 00:02 on the site.

    A high number of pinterest clicks are a nice ego boost, but what I really want is for people to read my writing. The FG and TS visitors seem to be looking for food blogs rather than a quick image fix. With this n=1, I’d say that foodgawker visitors read faster.

    With regards to Elizabeth’s “shenanigans,” I’ve noticed something similar. The image by top bloggers seem to get more clicks regardless of the relative quality of the individual image. I’ve always suspected that it is people routinely checking out their gallery and then clicking other pages but I’d love to understand what’s really going on.

  16. I found this (and you’re overall blog which I’ve just discovered) to be an interesting read. For me personally, granted we’re new, we see more traffic from pinterest, but longer visits from tastespotting. It goes along the lines of what Suzanne said above. However, I do think that it’s about numbers, and maybe in time Pinterest can equal average time spent on sites and raise followers.

  17. Submitting to sites like Foodgawker and Tastespotting is great for building backlinks and overall exposure. But you do not get many loyal followers who are really interested in your food blog from these sites. I find much better results with organic search through proper SEO tactics. These readers are loyal and truly read your blog. My bounce rate and page views are horrible on the days my photos get accepted to FG and TS. BUt I always get featured on other big websites and blogs. So, overall, Malcolm is right. Keep your eggs in different baskets. And yes, it was frustrating to be declined at first but not anymore.:) I know my SEO.

  18. I continue to get good traffic from foodgawker because they only upload 3 pages at a time, so everyone has a chance to get some good traffic. On the flip side, I barely get any traffic from Tastespotting because I’m always shoved to page 7 and back on first upload, even though my photos are good. Maybe it’s just me, but I think there’s more favoritism given to the big-time bloggers by Tastespotting because you never see their photos past page 3, and the really popular or well-connected big bloggers always get front page, regardless of the quality of their photo when compared to those of us who get knocked into Siberia. What I’m basically saying is..I’m debating whether it’s worth going to the trouble of submitting to Tastespotting anymore. I’m surprised no one brings this up anywhere, since there are many who end up in Siberia with me.

    • Jessica, I have noticed the same thing. If you monitor Tastespotting closely, you will notice that the first one or two posts are often by “sarah”, who is the owner of the site. Sometimes they appear to be from her own blog, but sometimes they are from other sources like the New York Times. I believe at least some of this content must be sponsored. Of course it is Sarah’s prerogative to run her site however she likes, but I wish she would be more transparent. I do prefer Foodgawker to Tastespotting, at least in part because it seems much more equitable, but also because I like the interface better.

  19. I still submit my photos to foodgawker and get a decent amount of traffic through their site, but don’t bother with tastespotting anymore. Maybe it has to do with the high volume of submissions, but tastespotting takes a long time to approve photos, and when they finally get approved, they sometimes end up as far back as page 20 within the first few hours. Nobody even sees them!

  20. I still continue to submit photos to both sites, and always will. I find Foodgawker brings me quality traffic and has also gotten me noticed by major food portals and large web presences. True, some days the numbers are better than others, but I take that in stride. I also credit Foodgawker with giving me the butt-kick to improve my photography. They are the only food porn site that actually gives you a clue as to how to improve that submission if it’s declined and I always point people to their FAQs where they list sites that will help you improve.

    The advice I’d give anyone who gets upset at being rejected is don’t take it personally! Listen to what these guys are telling you and remember, they want your pic up there as much as you do because each of us benefits.

  21. Great article. It’s true that these two sites are generating less and less traffic but, as others have said, it’s a great way to control the quality of photos. I have had more and more photos accepted as I’ve gained experience and I’m sure that they motivated me to attack the food photography learning curve more efficiently… As you say, quantity of traffic isn’t everything, quality of traffic is also important.

  22. I agree, these sites are still important to food bloggers. Tastespotting seems to be going through some growing pains (or perhaps an identity crisis, I don’t know) – photo reviews occur irregularly, and when they do, there’s a good chance of ending up on page 10, or worse (as others have mentioned). Sometimes my photos sit pending for weeks – not sure what’s up with that. Hopefully, it’s just a temporary workflow issue. Foodgawker, in comparison, has their act together, and having a photo accepted there means positives for my stats and seo positioning (despite the decreasing volume of referrers). As for folks who get emotionally distraught from rejections, take heart. Learn from the photos on both sites, but, ultimately, seek your own style. I think many of us have spent (too much) time trying to shoot that perfect FoodGawker photo, which only leads to upset when the photo is rejected (“but, it’s bright! it’s sharp! it’s rule of thirds compliant!). If you compose and shoot to please your own aesthetic, that acceptance from FG becomes a happy bonus, not an obsession.

    • I so totally agree with you. I too, studied the photos to see what the “feel” is that they want, and yep, I gave it to them, but after a while, your own style develops and I just tell anyone who asks, do it to please *yourself* because in the end that’s all that matters. I know some highly successful bloggers that still agonize over getting accepted there, and I seriously question them as to WHY? If your fans like it, they share it, and you’re getting very good hits, then exactly why are you agonizing over a FG acceptance? Not for nothing, I love those guys at FG because they forced me to learn how to “see” food. I have a high acceptance rate there, but I’ve noticed traffic has fallen off. With me now, it’s just force of habit. I’ve almost completely stopped submitting anything to TS for the reasons stated. She was looking for someone to hire as an associate editor, but I guess that’s been forgotten about as well, and that’s a shame really. I’ve seen that site really go downhill.

  23. I’ve had exactly one photo accepted by Foodgawker, with a decent ratio of accepted to declined pics on Tastespotting. So I don’t have enough data to make a definitive statement, but pic for pic, the one on Tastespotting seems to bring more traffic to my site even months later than the same pic on Foodgawker (and one post on Food Buzz did more for traffic on my blog than both combined). As an amateur, part time (or less) food blogger, I don’t have the resources or time to figure out exactly what FG is looking for during any given phase of the moon, so I rely on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and, to a lesser extent, Instagram to get my content out there, slowly working to build my “brand” as it were through making contact with readers. It’s slow going, but the feedback is gratifying.

    • Mama B your way is the way to go. I understand Instagram can bring in plenty of hits and really Pinterest is the place to be anyway. Worrying about acceptance on these juried sharing sites is just sweating a small detail.

      • Good luck getting seen on Pinterest if you don’t have followers. Followers are hard to come by! Same issue on Instagram. Your friends will see your recipes, but that’s about it.

  24. Thanks to discovering ProFoodBlogger only recently, and beaming into this particular post last night, I decided to try an experiment and trial out submitting to FoodGawker. I’ve had a food blog since last autumn and traffic needs some upping. I’ve seen traffic from Pinterest, which I’ve used since the start of the blog, but often time spent on my site by users from that source can be 0.2 seconds!

    I’ve just spent this morning submitting to FG and Tastespotting; of the three to FG, I’ve had one acceptance already, which I am chuffed about. Others are ‘pending’ still. I think I can see what style they’re aiming for. My only problem is that my blog is more an editorial style with lifestyle shots about the food and I like to shoot outdoors capturing the Mediterranean feel I need for my food. FG seems to require almost studio (or home studio replicas) for shots. What I don’t want to do is change style for FG or TS etc. Once I get a few up on those sites, and check (quality) traffic is coming in, then I’ll adjust my style to ensure every 3rd or 4th post is shot with FG sites in mind. I don’t have enough experience of their role yet to judge, but I think that your assessment is spot on though Olena’s comment seems a fair point too. Jury’s out, but I think submitting will at least hone my photo skills.

    • FG happens to be an excellent resource to hone your skills. If you check their FAQ, they give a few sites which are good, but even those sites have linked sites so it’s a wealth of information.

      I wouldn’t change my style either to be honest, and what you describe you do would actually draw me more into your blog. I’ve struck a happy balance though–I usually post at least 2 shots on each post, often more. One is to please the food sharing sites, another is to please the FB audience (who seem to love “composition too tight” LOL) and one that pleases ME.

  25. There is a great new site that just went up called FoodPinup.com. Please check it out and let us know what you think. It was created for food enthusiasts and has some very attractive food ideas.

  26. I always feel sites like FG and TS have been instrumental to improve the skills of numerous food photographers around the world. I’ve learnt a lot from these two websites.

  27. Hello all, I am the owner of FoodPinup.com. I appreciate that it was mentioned in these comments. We are still in our infancy state and the site is growing fast. I will plug everyone who lists on my site and feature you on the first page for one week. Register and post your food. Share a link to your site, you can even post it in the photo if you like. We are open to new ideas and new partnerships.

    Thank you and I look forward to your post.

  28. This is a great post. Both Foodgawker and Tastespotting continue to remain good sources of traffic for my blog. They do provide valuable feedback when photos are rejected and I’ve used that feedback over time to learn and improve my camera skills. I do agree that Tastespotting moves a bit slower on updating their daily feed. Pinterest is a great resource too but part of it involves pinning to as many different boards as possible which can be cumbersome.

  29. I was about ready to give up on foodgawker and tastespotting but your article made sense in why someone may actually want to submit a photo. Having quality viewers/followers is always important to retain. As an amateur photographer, I’ll just have to keep practicing. Thanks for the info!

  30. I’ve never had a photo accepted on Foodgawker and have only had 2, by no means my best, accepted on Tastespotting.

    At times this can be very frustrating however on the whole I appreciate that it must be hard to handpick just a few photos that really stand out each day. The examples above where some really useful feedback as to why a photo was rejected are great. I wish that more of the feedback was this good. Generally it’s quite vague. I had a photo rejected once because the composition was too wide, but when I resubmitted with a closer crop it was rejected for the composition being too tight!

    For me, it’s looking at those photos that other users do have accepted and trying to get up to that skill level that is a challenge, but ultimately it’s a positive for my photography in the long run.

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