Welcome to episode 195 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork chats about a big and exciting change we’re making on Food Blogger Pro.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Sam Adler from Frosting and Fettuccine about the importance of creating quality content. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Some Exciting Updates Coming to Food Blogger Pro
Something very exciting has been happening behind the scenes here at Food Blogger Pro HQ for the past few months, and we’re finally spilling the beans: we’re moving to WordPress!
That’s right! We’re migrating Food Blogger Pro from a CMS called ExpressionEngine to our recommended CMS for food bloggers, WordPress.
There are many reasons why we’re switching over to WordPress, and that’s what Bjork is here to talk about today. He’ll share how Food Blogger Pro was initially set up, why we think WordPress will be a huge win for our membership site, strategies for starting something big, and more.
We’re so excited to share this new and improved version of Food Blogger Pro with you. 🙂
In this episode, Bjork shares:
- The story of how Food Blogger Pro started
- How Food Blogger Pro is currently set up
- Why we’re moving to WordPress
- His thoughts about starting something
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Bjork Ostrom: Ladies and jelly beans. Just want to make sure if there are any jelly beans listening, that we give a little shout out to them, and gentlemen as well. We today, have a very, very fun podcast episode. This is something that’s actually been a long time coming. We have been talking about this, thinking about this, hoping for this, for a really long time, with Food Blogger Pro, and we are finally at the point where, we are starting to talk about it, and share it not only with Food Blogger Pro members, but also with people that listen to the podcast like yourself, and the reason that we are sharing it on the podcast, number one, we have a lot of Food Blogger Pro members, who listen to this podcast, so we are talking to you. Number two, because I think there’s value in hearing a story, and hearing people talk about the current transitions that are happening, and we’re going to do that today.
Bjork Ostrom: Before we do that, I’m going to bury the lead, and I’m going to share a little bit about the story of Food Blogger Pro. I’ve shared about this before on the podcast. It’s something that I’ve talked about before, but I thought it would be good to rewind the tape on Food Blogger Pro, almost like I’m doing an interview with the membership site, and talk a little bit about our story for the business, or the story of the business of Food Blogger Pro.
Bjork Ostrom: So, I’m going to have to rewind the tape all the way back to 2012, which is crazy to think it was that long ago, but it’s almost seven years now, and Lindsay and I were actually living and working in the Philippines. Lindsay was teaching at a school, that is associated with an orphanage that we’re still connected with, called the Children’s Shelter of Cebu, and during the day, all the kids were in school, and there wasn’t a lot for me to do during the day. We had a lot going on in the nights. We had a lot going on on weekends, and there’s ways that I could get plugged in, but during the day, I found myself, one, working for the nonprofit that I was working with, before we left for the Philippines.
Bjork Ostrom: So, I stayed plugged in and worked remotely, and number two, I found myself kind of exploring and thinking about different things, that we could be doing, and we had been working on Pinch of Yum for about two years at that point, and started to kind of understand the ins and outs of the business side, of what it took to grow a food blog. Lindsay and I kind of started throwing around this idea of creating this community, for people that have a food blog, or publish recipes, and I was at a coffee shop.
Bjork Ostrom: I remember the coffee shop was Coffee Dream, in Cebu City. There’s multiple Coffee Dreams in Cebu City, and they had this acoustic pop cover playing, and there was this CD that played on loop. There was maybe like 12 songs, and it was acoustic pop covers. I remember sitting down and kind of brainstorming names, and thinking, okay, what is this that we want to be doing with this site? What is the intent of it? We knew that we wanted to focus on a certain niche, and so we knew that we wanted to have the content be around food blogs, and we knew that we wanted it to be for people who are interested in doing it at a pro level.
Bjork Ostrom: We didn’t know that was the word at the time, but the idea of being … these weren’t people that necessarily just wanted to have a hobby, or kind of do something just for fun. Not that that’s bad, but we said, “Hey, we want to work with people who are interested in growing and building something ,and going pro with it, and what does it mean to go pro? Well, if you think of, college athletes, when they go pro, they transitioned from college to maybe the NBA. If it’s basketball, the WNBA, and they start to get paid for the work that they’re doing. They start to get paid for their skills.
Bjork Ostrom: So, we wanted to create a community around people, that were creating food, or recipe sites, and wanted to transition to the point where, they were figuring out ways to take that pro, to get paid for their work, and looked up and saw that foodbloggerpro.com was available. So, we said, “Hey, this is kind of what we’re going for. People that are starting recipe sites that are starting food blogs, that want to go pro.” So, we launched Food Blogger Pro. Well, at that point we didn’t launch it. We registered the domain, and we actually went in to the launch process. The launch process is actually something that’s also really interesting, because a lot of us are thinking about launching something. What does that look like? I was going to share just a little bit, about what it looked like to launch Food Blogger Pro.
Bjork Ostrom: This was the quarter four of 2012, and this was October, November, kind of December range, and what had happened was, we knew that we wanted to launch this, but we didn’t know how to create a membership site. We didn’t know all the components that went into it, and I knew that if we are going to be creating the content, recording the videos, putting together all of the lessons, that I also couldn’t put in the time to learn how to get up and running, with the technical components of a membership site. So, what I did was, I went into research mode, to try and find other people who had done something similar.
Bjork Ostrom: I had reached out to a few different people, and one of the individuals that I reached out to, his name was Jon, he had a site called FortySeven Media, and his partner at the time was Nate, and they had recently been on a podcast, and I had listened to that podcast, and they had talked about launching their own membership site, and it was literally me going in to the podcast. It was actually iTunes at the time, and searching membership site, and then just listening to every single podcast that I could, that had to do with somebody launching, or starting a membership site. This podcast that I had listened to, it was Jon and Nate being interviewed about what it was like for them, to go through the process of building from the technical side of things, their membership site.
Bjork Ostrom: So I reached out, it was an email, it was late at night. I remember thinking, I should just go to bed and I thought, no, I’m going to send this one email to Jon, and connect with these guys, to see if they’d be interested in partnering, and working together. So, I sent an email. I recorded a quick video, a little screencast explaining my idea, and I said, “Hey, would it be possibility of essentially replicating what you’ve created with …” their site was called Kicktastic, which is such a great name, … “replicating what you’ve created with Kicktastic, except for this thing that we’re trying to create for food bloggers, called Food Blogger Pro?” They said, “Hey, love that idea. Love what you guys are doing. Love the potential of working together. Let’s have a conversation.”
Bjork Ostrom: So, we had that conversation, and the biggest thing for us at the time was, we needed funding in order to get this off the ground. It’s not free to work with somebody, to do all of these technical things, to put together the components of a website. As many of you know, who have worked with designers or developers, they appropriately should get paid. They should get paid appropriately, for the work that they do, which oftentimes, that’s an expensive relationship. So, we had to do some creative thinking. We didn’t have the funds for it, so we had to do some creative thinking around what that looked like, to raise that money that we then put in to the site, and what we decided to do was, what we called a presale, and that also helped us gauge interest for how many people would actually be interested in something like this, a membership site for food bloggers. We didn’t know if there was 10 people out there, a hundred people, or a thousand people.
Bjork Ostrom: So, what we did is, on Pinch of Yum, we did a post that kind of outlined what Food Blogger Pro is all about. It was called, Introducing Food Blogger Pro, and on that post we talked about what it was going to be. We talked about the things that we’re going to teach. We talked about the videos that were going to be available, and we also said, “Hey, for the next three months we’re going to do a presale and you can sign up for a discounted one year membership.” It was kind of like a Kickstarter, and those presales were structured in a way, where it was a deeply discounted price on what a normal membership would be, and we’d said, “Hey, a normal membership … ”, at the time it was $25.00 a month, or $250.00 a year. We said, “This is going to be the cost when we launch, but if you sign up now, you’re going to get a discount.” We actually did it tiered.
Bjork Ostrom: So we said, “If you sign up three months in advance, it will be $49.00 for one year.” So, it was a super discounted price. If you sign up two months in advance, so getting a little bit closer to the launch date, it’ll be $79.00 for a year, and if you sign up the month before we launch, it will be $129.00.
Bjork Ostrom: So, we still have some of those first time members, those early members that are part of Food Blogger Pro today, which is so cool, and those people signed up and they said, “Hey, we don’t know exactly what it’s going to be, what it’s gonna look like, but we’re interested in learning these things that you talked about.”
Bjork Ostrom: Then our job, my task, was to create that content. We put together those videos, we edited them, and it was a really difficult three months, because there was a ton of content that we were creating. Then John and his team, worked behind the scenes to create the site, and our goal was to launch on February 1st, and to have a library of content, and we had also, a pool of new members right off the bat, because of this presale, and the presale, I don’t remember the exact amount, but it ended up being about $10,000.00, that we were able to get from that presale period, and that’s what we used to fund, and to launch Food Blogger Pro.
Bjork Ostrom: The interesting thing, when you look at the technical side, we’ve talked about that a little bit, is what it was actually built on. What was Food Blogger Pro built on? The content management system that we used, is called ExpressionEngine. It’s still the site that Food Blogger Pro runs on today, and it’s kind of a competitor to WordPress. So both, both WordPress and ExpressionEngine, both of those are content management systems. They allow you to publish blog posts, they allow you to publish pages, they allow you to have an easy-to-use backend, where you can organize your content. That worked, because in those early stages, we said, “Hey, we like what you have with this site, replicate it, and then we will use that.” We didn’t have real specific things, that we said we need this, this, and this. We just said, “Hey, we want to do this as affordably as possible, so instead of making it super custom, can you just replicate it, and we will work within, kind of the, the, the parameters that we have for the replicated site, and we will kind of skin it, and put our information in it.”
Bjork Ostrom: There’s some other components that were a part of it. You have to manage your billing, so that was a piece of it. You have to make sure that membership components for the site are updated, and there’s things called paywall, so members can only access certain parts of the site, and in ExpressionEngine, those are called add-ons. So, there is these add-ons that we had, that helped us to manage that.
Bjork Ostrom: Now, as you know, if you use WordPress, which a lot of people that listen to this podcast use WordPress, one of the really important things, is making sure that everything that you’re using, from your content management system, to your plug-ins, to the theme that you use, all of those things are updated appropriately. What happened over time, was that the different components that we had for ExpressionEngine, and the pieces of the puzzle that made up the Food Blogger Pro membership site, those stopped being supported at least on an organizational level. So, we had to hire individuals to help us support, and to help us keep these different parts of the site updated, because the actual add-on, or the plug-in, was no longer updated.
Bjork Ostrom: We individually, kind of became the people that had to support and update the plug-in. We know from WP Tasty, which is the site that we have for WordPlus plug-ins, that the great thing about what we do is, we put a lot of time, energy, and money in to maintaining, and updating plug-ins that we use on Pinch of Yum, and then other people can sign up and use those, for a not huge dollar amount. So, when you compare $29.00, or $49.00, or $79.00 a year, to the actual thousands of dollars that go in ,to maintaining it, that’s a great relationship for people who want to have some of the same functionality.
Bjork Ostrom: But what happened for Food Blogger Pro was, because those companies were no longer active, we had to then pay the hundreds, or sometimes thousands of dollars, to maintain those add-ons, because nobody else was doing it, and we wanted to make sure they were up-to-date, and we wanted to make sure that everything was running well, but we had to be the ones doing it. Not only that, but we started to go really deep into WordPress. Pinch of Yum runs on WordPress. WP Tasty, the site runs on WordPress. We’re also creating plug-ins for WordPress, that are great plug-ins, that we want to be using, but we can’t, because we’re using this other content management system.
Bjork Ostrom: Essentially, we’re going deep on WordPress, and really understand it, and know what an awesome content management system it is, and so there’s this disconnect, where we understand WordPress, we know WordPress, we support WordPress, but Food Blogger Pro as a site where we talk about WordPress, encourage people to use WordPress, it’s not running on WordPress. For a long, long time we’ve thought, we really need to make this change, and switch Food Blogger Pro over, to be a WordPress site, and that’s what we’re doing.
Bjork Ostrom: We’re going through the process of updating Food Blogger Pro, so it’s no longer running on a content management system, that it’s a good content management system, but not one that we know and understand. We’re switching that over to WordPress, and that’s going to be happening here. If you are a Food Blogger Pro member, you’re going to be getting updates on this switch to WordPress, and you’re going to be getting notifications, as it happens. The great thing is, that moving forward, this will allow us to add some awesome functionality, and some really incredible features that we’ve been wanting to add, but we’ve been a little bit restricted, because of our understanding, and the amount that we’re willing to invest, in to ExpressionEngine, as a content management system.
Bjork Ostrom: We are super excited, about making this change. Again, Food Blogger Pro members, you’ll get some notifications along the way, but what we wanted to let you know about is, a little bit of the backstory, why that happened, what the process was like, how we got started. The big takeaway, that I want to encourage, for anybody thinking of starting something is that, the most important thing isn’t to get every tiny little detail right.
Bjork Ostrom: I think sometimes we can get in to analysis paralysis of saying, I need this to be right, and this to be exact, and I need to understand every single component that goes in to it. That’s important. It’s important to understand. It’s important to have knowledge, of the thing that you’re investing in to, but one of the most important things, is to start, and then to continue along the way and that’s what we did with Food Blogger Pro. We said, hey, this is where we want to be going, in general, what we want to be doing. Let’s start, and then we can evolve from there.
Bjork Ostrom: ExpressionEngine has served as well, but now it’s time to switch over to WordPress. So, if you are in the early stages of thinking about, hey, what is the thing that I want to, and you feel like you’re being weighed down a little bit, by getting everything perfect before you launch that thing. My encouragement for you, and the story of Food Blogger Pro, can be a testament to this, is that it’s most important to start, and then as you are building, you can start to put the pieces together as you get a better understanding of what that is, but don’t get too bogged down, with all of the decisions, and all of the little pieces, and all of the little things that go in to it.
Bjork Ostrom: Find that person. Maybe reach out. Maybe it’s a simple email, and say, “Hey, can you partner with me, and help me start this thing?” Or maybe it’s as simple as, if you’re thinking of starting your site and you haven’t done that yet, it’s writing your first blogpost, instead of researching the best theme to use. Those are the things that are going to be really important, to get you kickstarted, with moving forward on a really significant project.
Bjork Ostrom: The other thing that we wanted to talk about, that’s going to be really important is that Food Blogger Pro is now going to be running on WordPress, and because of that, we’re going to be able to talk about the tools,, that we are using to build Food Blogger Pro. It’s kind of like eating our own dog food, where you use that phrase. Essentially, it means the things that you are creating and promoting, you are also then using. We haven’t been able to do that with Food Blogger Pro.
Bjork Ostrom: So, we’re going to talk about things, like even for Food Blogger Pro, what are the components that go together, to run this membership site? We get a lot of people that reach out, Food Blogger Pro members, people that listen to the podcast, and that say, “Hey, how do I start a membership site on WordPress?” We have to say, “Well, Food Blogger Pro doesn’t run on WordPress, but now it does.” We can talk about the marketing tools that we use. We can talk about the plug-ins, that we use. We can talk about all the different components, that go in to running a membership site, as well as, the things that go in to running a successful food blog, because we’re going to be running all of those across the board on WordPress.
Bjork Ostrom: So, when will this change be happening? We haven’t set a date yet. There’s not a date on the calendar. Well, I should say this, we’ve set a couple dates. We have a ambitious date, and then we have a fallback date, but the important thing is for Food Blogger Pro members, you will be getting notified of that along the way. The other thing that’s important to know is, there will be some things that will be different about Food Blogger Pro, and those are things that we are actually really excited about.
Bjork Ostrom: An example, a super small thing, that I’m really excited about, is we’re going to have free use of Emoji on the forums. For those of you that are Food Blogger Pro members, you know that we have Emoji, but they’re not like the actual Emoji that you’d use with your phone, or if you’re sending messages to people, or interacting on social media. These are gonna be those actual Emoji, that we’re going to be able to use in the forum, which is a super small thing, but I’m really excited about the actual look, and feel of Food Blogger Pro will be pretty similar, so you’re not going to notice this drastic, drastic difference when you get in, and see like, hey, everything looks completely different. The design of it, is going to be pretty similar.
Bjork Ostrom: Some of the functionality might be a tiny bit different, but again, to use the forum as an example, those are going to be enhancements. The ability to post to the forum, the way that you can craft your messages, the styling that you can use, when responding to people, all of that stuff is going to be an enhancement, because of the features, and capabilities that we have with WordPress.
Bjork Ostrom: Now, for those of you that who are members, if you do get in, once the change happens, once the switch happens, if you do get in and notice something, say, Hey, this looks a little bit off. It looks like it should be working this way, and it doesn’t work that way. There will be a period, where we’ll be kind of squashing bugs, and making small tweaks and enhancements, to make sure that we are not only where we were before with the site, but a little bit better. Then, the great thing is, because of the flexibility in our understanding of WordPress, longterm, we’ll be able to really scale, and build, and enhance the site.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s something that we’ve been talking about, I would say for years, our team, and in 2019, we’re finally making it happen, and we are so excited for the community, and for the members of Food Blogger Pro, for what this means, and for us as a team, for what it allows us to do moving forward, to create more value, to continue to create an incredible sight, and to continue to find ways, that we can do whatever we can, to help you go pro with your food or recipe site, which was the intent as we scale, or rewind the tape back. It was the intent all those years ago, when we said, “Hey, we want to create a community, for people who are doing similar things to us, where we can talk about the things that we’re doing, but also as a community, learn from each other, and this will be a change and an upgrade, that will allow us to continue to do that, and to do that even better moving forward, and we are really excited about it.
Bjork Ostrom: So, Food Blogger Pro members, keep an eye out for that communication. If you have any questions leading up to it, just let us know. Once that switch happens, we would love to hear from you any feedback that you have, any things that you’re especially loving, any areas where you say, hey, maybe this looks a little bit off, and could use a tweak or enhancement. Any of those things, we would love to hear, and we could not be more excited for this change.
Bjork Ostrom: Thank you Food Blogger Pro members, for being a part of this community, and it is one of the great joys of what we do, is being able to serve, and be a part of this community. Thank you podcast listeners, who follow along. Maybe you have a food blog, maybe you don’t, and you’re just interested in the podcast, and following along with what we do.
Bjork Ostrom: If you do have a food blog, I would really encourage you to sign up for the waiting list for Food Blogger Pro, so you can sign up, and become a member, and join this incredible community, and you can do that just by going to foodbloggerpro.com, and signing up there. That is the update from Minnesota. Wherever you are, whether you are in the Philippines, like we were when we launched Food Blogger Pro, or just next door, or miles, and miles away, we really appreciate you, and are so thankful that you listen and follow along with this podcast, and are part of this greater community. That’s it. Signing off. Thanks a lot.