The Future of Naturally Ella
This post has been a long-time coming; it just took a pandemic, and my life being flipped upside down for me to get to the point of writing it.
The time has come to say good-bye to Naturally Ella (and hello to a new website: erinalderson.com).
This won’t be immediate- I still have content left to share this year and I want people to have time to grab recipes they might want to keep, which is why I’m announcing this now.
It’s been a hell of a run. Something that started as a side-project my senior year of college pushed me into a career I had no idea was even possible. The site helped me fall in love with food, vegetables, and inspiring others to have fun in the kitchen.
Over time, I’ve dug deep into my presence on the internet and how that aligns with things I believe. I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation, but I’m one for a bit of transparency (and I know quite a few of you have been around for many years). The truth is, I’ve been running some form of this website for 13 years, and it’s only been in the past months I’ve been able to slow down to consider the impact of all these years.
Here’s what you need to know
The important news: on January 1st, I’ll be stopping any new blog content on Naturally Ella, and on March 31st, the website will shut down. I still have some content to finish up over the next three months. In the next few months, I’d recommend saving the recipes you might want to keep. I’ll be moving the recipes I love most to the new site, but a good chunk of recipes won’t be making an appearance.
The new site, you ask? I’m keeping it simple and just being me: erinalderson.com.
If you’re ready to come on this journey with me, you can follow me on Instagram and/or sign-up for my new newsletter. I won’t be bringing any emails with me, so you won’t hear from me again as Naturally Ella if you’re currently subscribed once this site closes down in March.
I also started a Patreon to offset some costs. I’m keeping it simple, though: for $5 a month, I’ll be sharing my off-the-cuff dinner recipes with Patreon members. These will be rough recipes, at least once a week (but probably more) that I often get asked about on Instagram. Members will be able to ask me questions about the inspiration as well.
Why am I doing this?
For better or worse, this site has mostly been just me over the years. It’s never really felt like ‘a brand,’ and I’ve always been hesitant to call myself an ‘influencer.’ Of course, Naturally Ella is a brand, and I am an influencer (we technically all are, I just happen to be in this space).
However, the all-or-nothing business approach to blogging is exhausting, and not one I’ve been able to feel comfortable in for a long time. I started this site in 2007 to share recipes I was making (not creating) and other things I liked.
Eventually, blogging became something you could make money from, and in return, a push happened to ‘keep people on the site.’ Blogging became about money, SEO optimization, and a race I somehow found myself running without fully understanding why I was even running.
I’ve been fighting this for years. I’ve posted recipes that I wasn’t super proud of in the name of traffic. I fell into the comparison hole and frequently chatted with people about traffic, income, and best practices (not good content). I left my world of academia, and with it, I somehow lost my common sense about what it is to research and understand the world at large. I kept running without looking up.
But, I stopped running for a myriad of reasons and finally looked up to see many things I didn’t like.
For starters, sitting in a haze of wildfire smoke for weeks on end has continued to push me to examine my own life and the ways I contribute to climate change. Yes, corporations are responsible for a large part. Still, there are things in my day-to-day life that need to change: the excess, the reliance on cheap goods, and the sheer amount of plastic I still find myself surrounded by (even after a push away from single-use products).
I’ve asked myself questions like, what is life when there is a heavy push for consumerism and capitalism? What roles do influencers play in pushing these agendas? Influencers are a line-item in advertising budgets. Instead of billboards, it’s Instagram posts. It’s all a numbers game.
I should say, I don’t fault anyone who makes money this way- it’s just not for me anymore. Those companies often require non-competes, which means I’ve often left not able to talk about local businesses I support. It’s also felt wrong to be pushing #ad when so much in the world feels heavy. I’ve thought for a long time; there has to be a different way.
On top of that, I’ve been sitting with what happens when the web is overrun by recipes created for mostly one goal: SEO domination (ie: getting the top result in Google search). Not only do we end up with homogeneous recipes, but those recipes are also white-washing recipes deeply rooted in culture/history.
Food writing and recipes need to be decolonized. Yes, food is always adapting and changing based on migration, but when we work within an industry heavily dominated by white voices, we lose a lot. I’m not a voice that should be telling you how to make jollof rice or ramen, but I know there are many voices out there that should; they just haven’t had the opportunity or platform.
Yes, you can make recipes and ignore the food’s history, but you lose the richness behind what makes a dish that dish. This is something I feel that food bloggers miss the mark on time and again.
Why a new site?
To maybe help explain: I’m the type of person that I start fresh when I get a new phone/computer- never import a back-up. There’s something to be said for starting fresh, and I feel like that’s what I’m doing here. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge over the past decade, and this site no longer feels like me- I’m not Ella.
The new site won’t have ads and won’t have sponsored content. It will just be me, sharing the content I genuinely want to share. Yes, there will be an occasional recipe, but I’ll be focusing less on pushing out new recipes week after week and more highlighting content (recipes/writing) from others, with a large emphasis on BIPOC voices.
Some of this I’ve already started on Instagram, and I have to say, I’ve learned so much and have enjoyed reading a diverse amount of writing. I hope you will find that as well if you decide to follow me along this new path.
I appreciate everyone who has made my recipes over the years. It’s been the only reason I’ve kept going. Thanks to my husband. He was the one who originally helped me get the original site online and has been an incredible support system. I feel deeply lucky to have someone support me even when the ideas might seem extremely wild (and not money-making).
I also want to say thank you to Honey (the business). I’ll talk more about them once I’m fully up and running on the new site, but they’ve held my hand a lot through the years and, more recently, helped me take my existing studio brand and turn it into something that felt just like me. I’ve spent so many years feeling like I wasn’t Ella, it feels amazing to have something that does feel like me.
I have no clue what the next few years will hold, and it’s always nerve-racking to say good-bye to something. However, I’ve never been so sure that this is the right decision for me.