Norway is relatively a small country but Internet is very well penetrated throughout the country, Norway was the first non-English speaking country on Internet back in 1970’s and the statistics show 97.2% of the population is using Internet, it is the second highest rate in the world. Many young people have been active as successful bloggers, they write about fashions, lifestyle, interior and more. For a person like me who enjoy writing about food on blogs there is a very well organized and functioning group for specifically food bloggers, it is called “Matsentralen”, and I also became one of its members in May this year. Thanks to the hard-working group leaders, we get invited to many interesting and exciting cooking workshops. I must say I have been very impressed by the good coordination and prosecution. There is always something new happening in this group. We often get 1 food ingredient as a subject to cook and we present a dish in our own blog. It is not a competition but more like a challenge which you put on yourself to see how well you can compose and cook. You can imagine how learning it is and I love it. Most of us so called bloggers operate alone. It is a free and individual world but I often miss a sense of belonging in a community. If you are also a blogger, have you ever felt the same way? 3 months ago I got an offer to write a bento book from a publisher in London. While I was seriously considering the bento book offer, there came a lot of questions and issues that I needed to consult someone who had been in the same spot. I really missed having some fellow food bloggers nearby, someone who loves writing about food as much as I do, someone I can invite for a cup of coffee and talk together. Where are they? I felt myself standing very alone. To make a long story short, I turned down the offer and no bento book is coming in 2015. But turning down the offer from UK made me realize the importance of making my position clear in the Norwegian food bloggers’ society and when “Matsentralen” announced a seminar for its members I did not hesitate to sign up. On Saturday September 20 I got up early and took a train from Oslo to a place called Hamar which is about 130 km north of Oslo.
The train was comfortable, I had a good book and a bottle of hot Japanese tea, too. It is a beautiful route that runs along the largest lake in Norway. I was very busy at work during the week and this peaceful train ride was such a treat, I totally enjoyed the trip.
The seminar was held in conjunction with an agriculture and local food exhibition, the site was huge, it was originally built as the speed skating rink for the Winter Olympics in 1994 and there were many visitors enjoying the event.
The seminar was held upstairs in the conference room. First session was given by a food photographer and a food stylist, both pros from a specialized media company in Oslo. The session had 2 parts; food photography and food styling. I already knew most of the things told in the food photography part but it was fun to see with my own eyes how he takes photos with his cameras, lenses, light equipment which were of course high-end gears for professionals. His working move was swift and light, the gears are heavy but if you know the equipment so well you can work very light, it was just like that. He knew many technical things and practical tips. I was specially happy when we could all talk about the same problem, low natural light in the coming season in Norway and, the photographer kindly shared his ideas that were very helpful.
The food styling part was really really interesting, He did a live food styling in front of us and I had never seen anything like that before. He chose Sashimi of Norwegian salmon as the styling object and it was fun for me to see how a typical Japanese dish could be styled so differently by a Norwegian stylist and it was very educating. He used a black board as a background, a round plate, a set of very decorative chopsticks and a small plate of soy sauce.. well later he confessed it was not soy sauce, he prefered to use Balsamico vinegar as it looked lighter and nicer. To me it looked like the style was more fit for a magazine cover or a book but it was a good lesson to get creative ideas, designs, balance and composition, colors and textures all combined into a photo… I felt you really have to “know” and “love” food in order to become a good food stylist. You may be tempted to use a nice table cloth, a beautiful wine glass around your food but the main focus always has to go to the food on the plate and that is the way it should be. It is said good photos are like good jokes. If you have to explain it, it just isn’t that good. A good food photo will speak to the audience for itself.
After a lunch and coffee break a new session started. It was about collaboration between food bloggers and industry. I think it is probably because of the high penetration of internet in Norway, blogging in Norway has a very unique role and a higher status than in other countries. Like in Japan most bloggers write blog posts as hobby while there are many professional bloggers in Norway who have become very famous and appear on TV like stars. When they have built such a strong and large community, of course their popularity endorsed by the big audience and followers is very attractive to private companies as a marketplace. It looks like collaborating with private companies is not a new thing in Scandinavia, a lecturer was a market research analyst and she had an interesting presentation.
How does a private company choose a suitable blogger as an ad-partner?
What kind of blogger do companies want to work with?
How should a blogger approach a company?
What can you do to your blog to be more attractive for industry?
Do you know the answers?
Do you know how things are done in your own country?
There were several bloggers in the room who had worked with industry before and the discussions went on. A lawyer from the Consumer Council of Norway came and gave us lecture about writing lawful ads and reviews on blogs, I was surprised to hear that this public-service Council is checking blogs in Norway and other SNS like Instagram to see if there are any law violations (Consumer Law).
It was a long day of study and I was tired when I finally came home, but I was so happy I went to the seminar. Really I realized I am living in a country where bloggers are blessed with opportunities and guidance. I now feel less alone and happy to have found some fellows who love food and cooking, food bloggers in Norway.