Since Jillian and I started From Away, way back in those hazy, lazy days of 2010, an awful lot has changed. Back then, it felt like people were first starting to talk about the emerging food scene in Portland, looking around and noticing the incredibly high number of restaurants per capita, and noticing the things that Joe was doing with his Deathmatch battles, or that Anestes was doing with his encyclopedic Portland Food Map.
Things were different in our personal lives, as well. We were somewhat newly married, childless, and with an income earned entirely from working at home. We had nearly endless resources, it seems by comparison, looking back, both in terms of time and money.
That first year, we dove headfirst into Portland’s incredible food scene, cataloging as many of the “of the moment” restaurants as we could, posting photos and reviews, and trying to shine a spotlight on some of the lesser-known places that we thought deserved some attention. We covered over 100 restaurants and sandwich spots in that first year, including road trips across the state, chasing the top food finds recommended by our readers.
A lot has changed, in the seven years since we started this site. Jillian and I have two incredible little girls, aged five and two, that absorb 100% of the attention and time we used to have for personal pursuits. I’ve started working full time as a cook, first as the owner of my own food truck, ‘Wich, Please, and now also as Kitchen Manager at Mussel Ridge Market, the kind of village store that I’ve been obsessed with since the early days of this site.
The food blogging world, in general, has also changed. Now, hundreds of thousands of people are (probably) earning a living as “professional food bloggers,” and the overall level of quality and production values of these websites has risen astronomically. When we started the site, it seemed like taking an extremely close-up photo of a roast beef sandwich from the corner store was enough to drive traffic to your site. Now, unless you are shooting perfectly lit step-by-step photos of a salt-encrusted catfish with a $4,000 camera and promoting it relentlessly and strategically on Pinterest, it’s almost impossible to gain a foothold in the food blogging world.
It’s with all of this in mind, that we thought it was time to reevaluate what we wanted from our website, what we wanted to present to you, our readers, and to restate our intentions for From Away.
Advertising and Trust
One of the slippery slopes we have gone slip-sliding down over the last few years is made of sponsored posts. These types of posts are often vital for a food blog’s financial structure, and can be okay, as long as they are clearly identified as sponsored in a way your readers can understand.
Unfortunately, they can also raise some questions of credibility, and we’ve decided that the tradeoff simply isn’t worth it. From this point on, From Away will not feature sponsored content disguised as blog posts, and we will be combing through our post archives to either remove sponsored content completely, or rework the posts to omit the sponsored elements.
Banner advertising will continue to be a necessary evil (both on our website and in the world!), but we will work hard to insure that our advertising is as unobtrusive as possible, and detracts as little as possible from the experience of using the site.
Design and Simplicity
For years, we’ve vacillated between trying to make From Away a full-blown magazine-style food site with the widest possible appeal, and a more simple, clean blog-style personal website. Our emphasis has always been on indexability of existing content, republishing existing pieces that deserve attention even years after they’ve been written, driving book sales, and preserving an encyclopedia of recipes, to varying degrees of success.
Philosophically, we’re taking a step back from trying to make this site be all things to all people. The new, more personal site design (which you’re looking at right now) takes us back to our simpler roots; just two people talking to you about the food they like. Which brings us to…
Content & Stories
Chances are, there are plenty of places where you already go online to find trusted recipes. And frankly, recipe writing isn’t our strongest suit. While we’ll continue to publish some of our favorite cooking projects, we also want to work to expand the reach of the subject material on this site. We want to talk to people. Interview interesting purveyors and owners. Take road trips to the interior of the state to chase down under-publicized local favorites. Take more pictures. Show the side of food in Maine that can’t be illustrated by republishing a fish chowder recipe for the 100th time (though, our fish chowder recipe is very, very good; maybe a little too much wine).
To that end, we’re focusing a little bit more. I still love writing about tacos, and writing about the forgotten back alleyways of the national food scene, both of which I’m thoroughly covering in two new websites: Eat More Tacos, and Spork & Barrel, respectively.
Content on From Away will be more focused on the things that people who love Maine will want to read. We don’t want a national audience, and we don’t want to try to be all things to all people. We just want to be the best niche resource we can, in a state we love.
We also want to be consistent; when we started the site back in 2010, we had a self-imposed rule of updating on every single weekday. Life filled with 60-hour workweeks and two toddlers doesn’t make that realistic, anymore…but we are re-committing to updating the site at least weekly (probably on Mondays or Tuesdays), so that there’s fresh new content to read all the time.
We feel very, very lucky to live here, in a state that can be as fraught with challenge as it is beautiful. Sharing our lives here with you has lent a focus to our exploration of this place, and we are pleased to reaffirm our commitment to both it, and to you, our readers.
Join us. Things are only bound to get more interesting, in the NEXT seven years.