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April 6, 2009

The Duluth Dish

By Donna O'Neill and Sara Hedberg

Duluth gets the scoop on local food from an upcoming blogger. Donna and Sara's Duluth Media Project about the Duluth Dish, an up and coming food blog for Duluth. According to the blog's about section, it was created because "Duluth needs some sort of food media to inspire, incent, infuriate and propel local professionals as well as market Duluth food and drink as a whole." Read more to hear about our visit with the blog's creator.

LET'S GO BACK TWO MONTHS AGO

With a culinary degree in his pocket, St. Cloud native Jacob Nelson got the idea to publish his own food blog: The Duluth Dish. He had seen other food blogs on the basic blogging forums like blogger.com and wordpress.com, but wanted to start a Web site that he could customize and play with the design more. After the blog was running for a while, Nelson thought the blog was good enough to start adding advertisements, which is where most of the income for Web sites come from.

Prior to starting Duluth Dish, Nelson had no previous writing experience, just a passion for the culinary arts. Nelson says that writing for a blog is very different than writing for a paper. "The key to blog writing is being passionate about what you're talking about," he said, "That's the biggest problem with the paper. No one is writing about their own domain. Writers are just handed assignments."


NOW...

According to Nelson, Duluth Dish gets an average of 200 views a day, which is pretty good for a blog that first started as a side hobby. A normal post on the blog that consists of only text takes only a couple of hours for Nelson to post, who works on the blog whenever he gets spare time. Larger posts, like his recent videos however, can take up more time.

Along with a woman from Napa who occasionally contributes the the posts, Nelson is the sole author on the blog. Usually he has a lot of material waiting to go up, but he may not have the extra time to sit and post everything up onto the blog. Most of the time Nelson spends on the blog is dealing with advertisements and advertisers.

Currently, Nelson uses social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to post short bursts of information about Duluth Dish. "Those are really only just a way to introduce yourself to someone," he said.

So far, Nelson takes most pride in his reviews that show the personality of the business he is reviewing, but also his pieces that start a conversation in the community and get the locals thinking.


FOR THE FUTURE

"The Duluth Dish is evolving constantly," Nelson said, but he hopes to keep the blog the way it is for while. "I see a lot of start-up web sites go wrong when they go national instead of staying local. They lose all focus," he said.

One thing he hopes to change is the restaurant directory on the blog, which lists all restaurants in the Duluth/Superior area. As of now, restaurants listed include chains like Pizza Hut; Nelson hopes to add an icon next to chains like Pizza Hut that leads the viewer to a "local alternative."

Another side project Nelson is starting to work on is the Duluth Citizen, a journalism project hoping to exceed and surpass the success of local newspapers.

The advice Nelson gives to future bloggers is easy to follow. He suggests learning everything about an already existing blogging domain, and then learning to customize things to achieve a desired design. He also feels that learning about existing tools is a better skill for modern journalists to know because at most places, a journalist will paired with a web developer. Learning to use tools like Dreamweaver or learning html will almost be unnecessary since in most cases, the journalist will rarely need to use those skills.

Here's a video of our interview with Jacob.