The 2013 Lifestyle Blogging Report

August 6, 2013
In February and March of 2013, Zephyr Adventures (operator of two Beer Blogger Conferences, the Wine Bloggers Conference, the Fitness & Health Social Media Conference, and the International Food Blogger Conference -along with our partner Foodista) conducted a 32-question survey of bloggers in the beer, wine, food, and fitness industries. Over 1400 bloggers completed the survey. Below are the interesting results. 
 
Part I: Conclusions

For those of you who won't make it through the entire Lifestyle Blogging Report, we present here some of the conclusions we have drawn from this report, guided by our experiences working and interacting with lifestyle bloggers at the annual conferences we organize. (If you have trouble viewing some of the images below, click here to view in a larger format).

Beer Bloggers tend to be young males who are fully employed, with little professional experience, and writing as Citizen Beer Bloggers because they are passionate about the subject. They are the least likely to make money from their blogs but the most likely to judge their success on whether they are happy blogging. Probably because of the industry, they lag behind their peers in other niches in terms of site visitors and social media followers. They are the least likely to attend the Beer Bloggers Conference, in part perhaps because of finances, but perhaps the most likely group to benefit from doing so.

Wine Bloggers have the most experience in blogging, with one in five having been blogging for more than six years and 77% having been blogging more than two years. They are also older and the most likely to have attended a Wine Bloggers Conference. They are more likely to be self-employed and more likely to be "very successful" at making money from paid writing and outside consulting on social media or the wine industry. In short, wine bloggers are fairly mature and an accepted part of the wine industry.

Food Bloggers tend to be female and a greater portion are stay-at-home moms, students, or unemployed  - although the majority are still self-employed or employed full time. Food bloggers have the greatest proportion of new bloggers, which likely means the industry attracts new bloggers frequently. By a significant margin, they are most likely to be blogging to turn their blog into a job or a book. They are the most invested in social media and most successful at using both Facebook and Google Plus. A few food bloggers are wildly successful at gaining website visitors and social media followers.

Fitness & Health Bloggers tend to be young women. They are the most likely to be blogging to support their own entrepreneurial efforts and have more industry experience, possibly due to the large number of personal trainers, yoga instructors, dietitians, and others in the industry. Along with food bloggers, they do well in terms of site visitors and social media followers and are far more likely to be "very successful" making money by working with corporate partners. Despite all this, they are more likely to cite "writing is my passion" and "to have a voice" as motivating factors for blogging.

Lifestyle Bloggers in general tend to live in the United States, be married or living with a significant other, and blog as a Citizen Blogger because they are passionate about their chosen subject. More bloggers than not have some professional expertise related to their blog. Lifestyle bloggers are not out to make money and measure their success based first on their personal satisfaction and second on the number of site visitors and social media followers. They are fully engaged on social media, increasingly use photos, and have not yet adopted videos within their blogs. Most lifestyle bloggers do not attend industry blogging conferences but those that do are more successful and have greater impact than those who do not.

Part II: The Bloggers

Respondents were asked to classify themselves as a Citizen Blogger (their blog is not connected to any business), Entrepreneurial Blogger (promoting their own company), or Industry Blogger (connected to a business or other organization). The clear majority of bloggers are classified as Citizen Bloggers - up to 85% of respondents in the case of beer bloggers. Wine bloggers are most likely to be representing a business, which reflects the thousands of wineries in the world, many of which have their own blogs. Fitness bloggers are the most likely to be blogging to support their own entrepreneurial efforts, likely due to the thousands of fitness instructors who blog.

The vast majority of responding bloggers tend to be from the US, although the exact numbers reflect who responded to the survey. For example, since Zephyr Adventures runs a European Beer Bloggers Conference, more beer bloggers from Europe responded.

 
Gender varies dramatically among the different lifestyle blogging niches. Beer Bloggers are overwhelmingly male, wine bloggers are more mixed, and both food and fitness bloggers are predominately female.

Age also varies quite a bit. Fitness bloggers are the youngest group, with 58% under the age of 35. Wine bloggers are the oldest group, with a surprising 24% over the age of 55. Among all bloggers, most are married and roughly half are parents. In sum, most lifestyle bloggers have quite a bit of life experience already.

 

Over 85% of beer, wine, and fitness bloggers are employed full time, either with a company or self-employed. Only food bloggers had a good portion outside the employment world, with 8% stay-at-home parents (itself a job!), 5% unemployed, and 5% students. Only wine bloggers had any significant portion of retirees, at 6%.

Wine bloggers are the most experienced group among our survey respondents, with 77% have been blogging at least two years and a full one in five having been blogging for more than six years. There are veteran wine bloggers out there with some great staying power. While food blogging is a veteran pastime as well, a full 21% of food blogger respondents indicated they have been writing for less than one year. This indicates food blogging is still drawing many new adherents each year.

 

In terms of work experience related to blogging, 50% of beer bloggers have none. Most wine, food, and fitness bloggers do have related experience in writing, editing, marketing, or - most commonly - in the specific industry. In other words, while no bloggers need qualifications to start a blog, many lifestyle bloggers do have related experience.

Types of Bloggers

 

Part III: The Motivation to Blog

When asked, “Why do you blog?”, at least 82% of respondents in all four niches replied “X is my passion”, where "X" is their subject matter (beer, wine, food, or fitness and health). Three additional answers that drew heavy response included:

  • To have a voice so I can say what I want to say
  • To create a name for myself in the industry
  • Writing is my passion

Interestingly, the similarities in answers were quite strong among the four niches. Passion for a subject matter is by far the strongest motivation to blog, regardless of the subject. Also interesting is that economic motivations, including trying to turn a blog into a job or a book and promoting a business are not common. Making money is well down on the list and is not a motivator for most lifestyle bloggers.


When asked how bloggers track the success of their blog, the primary answer was simply “personal satisfaction”, which makes sense given most bloggers are motivated by passion. Ultimately, a successful lifestyle blog is one that makes a blogger happy.

After personal satisfaction, success is based on whether people are paying attention: the number of visitors to the blog, sharing of their content via social media, the number of Twitter and Facebook followers, and the number of comments left on the blog. Google Plus does not yet score highly but probably will in the future as it is increasing in popularity. Revenue is not an indicator of satisfaction for the vast majority of bloggers and technical aspects such as incoming links and RSS subscribers are not important either.

It is interesting to note that food and fitness bloggers are more likely to be motivated by making money and more likely to judge their success by revenue.

 

Part IV: Social Media

Almost all bloggers engage in social media to promote their blogs and, as presented earlier, many indicate social media is an important indicator of how they judge success. In terms of engagement, Twitter leads with between 84% and 91% of lifestyle bloggers using it, depending on the industry niche. Facebook is next with a substantial majority of bloggers using it to promote their blogs. Pinterest presents a difference among lifestyle bloggers. It is understandable that food bloggers participate in Pinterest, since "food porn" (photos) are an excellent way to share. Interestingly, fitness bloggers have also picked up on Pinterest while beer and wine bloggers (who wants to share a picture of a beer?) lag behind. Based on our experience with bloggers we can say that Google Plus is coming on strong.


In terms of effectiveness, bloggers clearly consider Twitter and Facebook to be the most effective social media platforms in promoting their blog. It isn't clear why beer bloggers and wine bloggers prefer Twitter while food and fitness bloggers prefer Facebook, but they do. One explanation might be a gender preference, since more beer and wine bloggers are male.  Pinterest has shown itself to be effective for a substantial portion of food (28%) and fitness (12%) bloggers and smart beer and wine bloggers might check into how they might use Pinterest more themselves. Google Plus, YouTube, and LinkedIn all lag behind, although 4% of beer bloggers do cite Google Plus as the most effective social media platform.

With regard to Twitter and Facebook, the effectiveness of the platform correlates somewhat with the number of followers. The data below represents the average number of social media followers without outliers, because the number was wildly distorted by a few very successful bloggers. (One food blogger responded he or she had 1.3 million Google Plus followers.)

Beer, wine, and fitness bloggers had the most followers on Twitter and fewer on Facebook, while food bloggers had the most followers on Facebook and then Google Plus. The Google Plus numbers were distorted by a handful of very successful users, even after removing the outliers. Fitness bloggers are doing quite well on Pinterest, again thanks to a few successful Pinterest users. When looking at the median number, the number of Pinterest users is greater than the number of Google Plus users for all four niches.

Part V: Traffic and Profitability

Traffic

The disperson of answers as to the number of unique visitors to a person's blog per month is huge. Some bloggers claim very low numbers and others have huge numbers of visitors. Plus, each blogger might be getting numbers from different sources and with varying degrees of accuracy.

The median provides a good idea of visitation for the average blogger and the median number increases quite regularly from beer (1000 visitors per month) to wine (1,500), food (2,000), and fitness (2,500). These differences certainly reflect the market size (there are more people interested in reading about fitness and food than there are about beer and wine) but also probably reflect the success of bloggers in these niches.

Looking at averages, food blogs have a very high number, thanks in part to a few extremely successful blogs (one million, three million, and eight million visitors per month within the survey responses) but also due to a substantial number of very successful blogs (six percent of food blogger resondents have over 100,000 unique visitors per month).

These average numbers provide a tale of collective clout. For example, there are 1,930 active beer blogs, according to the Complete List of Beer Blogs. (See also the Complete List of Wine Blogs and Complete List of Fitness & Health Blogs.) Multiplied by the 5,536 unique visitors per month gives you a grand total of 128 million visitors to beer blogs each year. The number of visitors to food and fitness blogs is exponentially higher.

Profitability

Monetization varies widely depending on the lifestyle niche. 73% of beer bloggers do not make any money at all from their blog as compared to only 51% of fitness bloggers who make no money. However, when considering "almost" no money (less than $200 per month), a full 83% of fitness bloggers and higher percentages in other niches make little or no money from their blogs. As we already know, most bloggers are not blogging to make money - and most bloggers do not make money from their blogs.

There are exceptions. Three percent of food bloggers make over $2,000 per month, which amounts to an annual salary. It is possible to monetize lifestyle blogs.

 

Of those who do make some money from their blogs, the most successful method for beer, wine, and food writers is obtaining paid writing gigs. Consulting on social media or within the industry is also somewhat successful, especially for wine bloggers. Fitness bloggers have been successful at monetizing through sponsored posts/reviews and through brand promotion - i.e. working directly with companies. Other traditional ways to monetize a blog such direct ad sales, ad servers (Google AdSense), ad networks, affiliate programs, and selling e-books do not have great rates of success.

This shows that often the most successful way to monetize a blog is to leverage a blog’s credibility and a blogger's newfound skills to create off-blog sources of revenue (like writing or consulting); to work directly with companies to get paid to promote them; or, as indicated earlier, to move from blog to industry job. For you new bloggers out there: work hard, write well, cooperate with your industry, and establish a great reputation. It can pay off.

Part VI: What Has Changed in Lifestyle Blogging
We asked a general question: What has changed since you first started blogging?

  • Almost all bloggers are spending more time on social media. Even in wine blogging, where only 65% are engaging more often on social media, only 13% said they are engaging less.
  • Many are reading more blogs, using more photos in their blogs, writing longer posts, and updating their blog more often. Again, wine bloggers are more likely than other niches to reader fewer other wine blogs (25%), write shorter posts (30%), and update their blog less often (39%). This might reflect the greater length of time they have been blogging.
  • A substantial portion of bloggers (from 28-39%, depending on the niche - not shown on the chart below) are updating their blogs less often.
  • While not that many bloggers have increased their use of video, almost none have decreased their use of video - it simply hasn't taken off in blogs yet

Part VII: Beer Blogger Conferences

Zephyr Adventures runs two Beer Blogger Conferences conferences annually (one in North America and one in Europe), the Wine Bloggers Conference, the Fitness & Health Social Media Conference (for bloggers and industry folks engaged in social media), and the International Food Blogger Conference (with our partners Foodista). There are several other fitness conferences and a dozen other food blogger conferences each year.

Most survey respondents have never attended an industry bloggers conference. Wine bloggers are most likely to have attended a conference while beer bloggers are the least likely. When asked what is most important in determining whether a blogger would attend a conference, the most important factors were cost, whether the timing fits into a blogger’s schedule, and the quality of the speakers and content.


Also of interest is that bloggers who attend an industry blogger conference have greater impact and have experienced greater success than those who don’t. Just taking food bloggers as an example (but this applies across the board), bloggers who have attended a food blogger conference cite:

  • 10X more unique website visitors per month
  • 93% more likely to be making money from their blog
  • 172% more likely to have been blogging for over four years
  • 704% more fans on Pinterest, 668% more on Google +, 281% more on Facebook, and 155% more people on Twitter

It is not clear whether more successful bloggers attend conferences, whether conferences produce successful bloggers, or both but we do believe any blogger who wishes to improve his or her blog, learn how to gain more readers and social media followers, or convert a blog into an industry job should plan to attend an industry blogger conference.

 




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