One On One With Beirutista

I was recently featured on the front page of online journal MediaSource, as part of its Blog Spotlight series on prominent bloggers across the MENA region. The interview is reproduced below. I'd love to know what you think! 


Blog Spotlight: Beirutista




Beirut-based food and lifestyle blogger Danielle Issa spoke with MediaSource about the origins of her Beirutista blog, for which she writes, and the impact of blogs on Lebanon's dining scene.

What inspired you to start your blog?
I’d recently settled in Lebanon, having been born and raised in the US and knowing Lebanon strictly in the capacity of a summer destination. I sought a channel where I could document my trials and observations in my new home, a sort of virtual diary to preserve memories and analyses through the written word. I also wanted to provide a window through which friends abroad could peer in and see how starkly different my life had become. Beirutista was a tabula rasa, an empty slate I could populate with the fragments of my mind. Where categorization is necessary, it is a lifestyle blog with an emphasis on the gourmet.

What subjects do you cover on the blog?
Beirutista is a treatment of the cultural and lifestyle nuances in Lebanon as seen through my multicultural lens. Topics range from analysis and humor pieces to restaurant reviews, foodie discoveries, rants and raves, travel guides, general news, views, and memoirs.

Who is your blog aimed at?
Beirutista is not a mainstream blog. My readers are rather sophisticated, intellectual, and on the hunt for informative recreational reading. I’ve tried to create a forum that’s insightful and refreshing all at once, a place where literary fluency reigns on high. I can’t tell you how much of what I come across in the blogosphere is bland, redundant, and recycled garbage, with the same rehashed expressions over and over again and constant misuse of vocabulary.
38% of my audience is based in the US, 37% is in Lebanon, and the remainder is split between Russia, Ukraine, France, the UK, Germany, Canada, and UAE.

What makes your blog different?
As a blogger, I hold myself to the highest standards of journalism and critical writing. I do my research, cite sources appropriately, and have established my authority with the test of time. I’ve never really focused on the number of followers subscribing to my Facebook page or listed in my Google circles. To me, what really matters is the quality of my readership and the level of engagement with my posts. I care about the interaction, the oft-quoted ‘quality over quantity’.

Are you happy to be contacted by PR and marketing professionals?
Being contacted by PR and marketers means I’m considered an ‘influencer’, or an early mover who can impact her readers through her thoughtfully written reviews. That in turn means I must be doing something right through Beirutista! I’d expect agencies who reach out to me to be knowledgeable of my writing style, the topics I treat on the blog, and my general interests. Somehow, however, I still get the odd invitation to a furniture store opening or the launch of a new car dealership!

What kind of events are you likely to attend?
What I appreciate most is a private invitation to visit a restaurant or hospitality outlet which is a tailored experience aimed at me. It reflects highly on how seriously the venue takes itself, and the feel of the experience tends to be authentic. Group invitations targeting a melange of bloggers, Instagrammers, and media people aren’t very clever, even though they are popular. Sure, it’s more economical and easy to organize one event and witness social media flooded with photos all at once. But it’s wholly inorganic and superficial, for both attendees and viewers monitoring the digital feeds. Rarely do I enjoy these types of gatherings.

You blog quite a bit on the state of the F&B industry in Lebanon – what impact is online media having on the dining scene?
Online input from customers, blog reviews and ratings actually go a long way in creating a virtual restaurant visit even before the real one transpires. And trust me, restaurants are paying attention vigilantly. These days, a large volume of people will scout blogs and restaurant directories for reviews, photos, menus and more before trying out a venue. Knowledge is power, and many guests like to feel in control even before they enter the restaurant. Restaurants are savvy, so they’re upping their game. They can’t afford to lose would-be customers who haven’t even stepped past the threshold.

What’s your review policy?
I don’t like to be coaxed into writing restaurant reviews in return for an invitation. That’s petty, unprofessional and a waste of my time. I review places that dazzle me, and there’s almost always a human element to it. I love to weave stories about the artists behind the food, or the brilliant minds who conceived the culinary concepts. That’s what Beirutista is all about: paying homage to exceptional human achievement, particularly in F&B. An experience that leaves me either indifferent or disgusted doesn’t merit a post and is a poor use of my resources.

What advice would you give to new bloggers?
Be real, be you. Do it because it’s fun, not because it might land you freebies and invitations. Don’t be an advertising platform, or a news aggregator, or a collection of sensational headlines but zilch in the way of content. We don’t want to read regurgitated news or press releases. Oh, and most importantly: put some effort in proofreading your prose. I’m not demanding the eloquence of Oscar Wilde or J.K. Rowling, though admittedly I’d love to read that caliber of writing on blogs. I’m talking about general mastery of the English language, from basic spelling, to diction, to syntax, and perhaps even decent storytelling. What will your story be about?


Comments

  1. Well deserved!! I think you did your blog justice too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow Wow Wow! You really nailed that interview! I can't even count the number of times we've discussed the above topics about the Lebanese Blogosphere and flooded instagram feeds of the same event! It's awesome to finally see these thoughts out in the public! Kudos!

    ReplyDelete

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