In what first started out as an attempt to understand business consulting in the F&B industry, top blogger Seth Lui serendipitously stumbled upon his strong suit in food blogging. Having owned a F&B business previously, his insightful knowledge about food has also contributed to his rising popularity as a food blogger.
As Seth from Sethlui.com delves into the credibility issue surrounding food bloggers and the dynamic food blogging scene we see today, he helps us to see it in an entirely new light today – and for it, we’re wiser.
Was blogging more of a hobby or did you intend to pursue it as a full-time job initially? Why so?
Food blogging for me was initially meant as a platform for my F&B consultation services, as a form of marketing and gaining exposure to restaurants so as to better understand and decipher what type of marketing techniques work in Singapore.
Eventually the blog editorials took off and I found it more interesting to review restaurants versus giving consultation to restaurants. I still do give consultation on and off for a fee, but blogging has brought me to explore and try much more interesting venues and places around the world.
How was it like starting out as a food blogger?
I didn’t really have much expectations, really. The difficulty was mostly about writing sufficient content on a regular basis. I’d try different restaurants on my own and write about my experiences in an honest manner.
Getting to know how the industry works was also crucial to growth, as it’s not as simple as taking photos and posting your blog online.
Did you know from the start that you were going to blog about food mainly and why?
I knew it was going to be something related to food definitely, since that was my profession and interest.
I’ve always worked in the F&B industry, having been a bartender and starting up and marketing my own food business as well (which is now defunct).
Food blogging keeps me in touch with the industry.
Could you also share with us about the journey of you finding your niche in blogging?
I believe finding a niche is based on what you are naturally curious and interested in your everyday life. If you play a lot of different games for example, you could write about gaming reviews. But do you have to be a game developer to understand what users like? Probably not.
The credibility debate for food blogging has always centred around culinary background. There’s a side that believe that hey, you’re not a chef, what do you know about food?
Definitely, being a chef does give you that edge in writing about food versus a non-chef. But let’s say someone who has cooked chicken rice for years and someone who has eaten a hundred different chicken rice stalls, it’s a different angle of experience that is still relevant for blogging. Then again, most chefs are more interested in cooking than writing.
And it’s not purely about language and grammar as well, if not all language majors would be great bloggers. There’s a spectrum of skill sets like photography and social media combined with understanding the topic to be able to find your blogging niche. As long as you continuously build your technical experience around these skill sets, anyone can be a great blogger.
How has the transition been in moving from a food-centric publication to one that is more lifestyle now?
It’s still mostly food-centric for our main site actually, although food-based lifestyle is something we write about to have a more well-rounded article. Catering to the reader is something to take note too, and being purely food-driven would not have as big an audience.
We understand that Sethlui.com is more of a hybrid online publication with a very personal voice. What prompted the site to go for this particular style of writing?
Blogging itself to be successful, has to have that personal voice.
This approach is also different from mainstream publications which are limited in a way to certain styles of writing that’s a bit rigid in language. We serve as an alternative to the mainstream, but it’s also fundamental to scale effectively with different writers hence this hybrid approach.
Were there any obstacles that you’ve faced in the blogging industry initially?
Obstacles are always present, like credibility. Gaining the media networks and traction is also something not easily done for new bloggers.
The media landscape is also constantly evolving, like video formats, which have risen in popularity recently.
How did you overcome the challenges and what teachable moments were there?
Keep writing and don’t stop. Many potentially great blogs die off because the blogger stops writing after one or two years.
The objective of blogging is different for everyone, and it’s important not to focus too much on getting media invites or making money off it until you truly have value to give.
Keep improving your skill sets according to the media evolution and don’t be scared to jump onto a different format if it’s growing.
Do you find the food blogging scene in Singapore saturated? Is there still potential for the industry to grow and why?
Yes, food blogging in Singapore is incredibly saturated because the barrier of entry is pretty low for food. Anyone can write about food.
In terms of food blogs, unless there is a new set of views/style (unique proposition), it’s hard to see another big food blog emerging given the pretty high standards in Singapore. If there are 10 blogs writing about the same restaurant opening, how is yours different?
It’s also easy for the bigger blogs to switch styles or delivery strategy to mimic what works, so you’d have to have some skill set that the other blogs can’t imitate.
Photo courtesy of Seth Lui.
Many of our readers are keen to know about the tips that you would give to budding food bloggers. What are some of the key advice you would offer them?
Some basics would be taking great photos, and widening your exposure to different restaurants. The more you eat and write, the better you get.
It’s important to learn from the bigger blogs on how they create content. Straight up asking for advice isn’t going to work though, as there are so many requests, interviews, invites that we as a publication receive daily – we simply do not have time to reply every enquiry unless it’s important.
One way to learn is through internships; our food site for example offers such food writing internships, which teaches many practical hands-on skills that our blog uses.
Be open to learning. Just because your photos are insta-worthy or your writing is fluent isn’t enough to make a great blog. There’s so much more to a successful blog than just focusing on one dimension.
If this whets your appetite in knowing more about the top bloggers in Singapore, keep an eye out for more interviews to come in our Top Blog series. Next up, we cast the spotlight on Melissa Celestine Koh.
Also, you may want to check out the interview we had with Daniel Ang, as he talks about the road to internet fame and the increasingly saturated food blogging scene.