Toast Talk

November 9, 2015

This blog has been happening for five years. The anniversary date just occurred to me because I've been thinking a lot about how much has changed in the "content creating world" since Sally and I started the blog in 2010. Five years doesn't seem like a tremendously long amount of time but picture this when you think back to November 2010: Pinterest was in its infancy and largely unused (it introduced as a closed beta site in March 2010 and gained around 10,000 members by Winter 2011), Instagram had just been invented but hadn't really taken off yet, and blogging was truly more about community and engagement than competition and comparison. November 2015 is tricky - not just for someone who has been blogging for five years and trying to maintain a presence as trends and ideals shift - but for everyone else being constantly bombarded by what the numbers of followers, fans, likes and comments represent.


Blogs, as I experienced them, really started for the sharing aspect, and the way to grow a successful blog was by communicating and connecting with others in online and real life communities. Sally and I wouldn’t have had our blog grow the way it did after our initial launch had it not been for the connections and friendships we made with other bloggers – both through posts comments and Tweets- and those initial connections have also led to meaningful longterm friendships we cherish.

As we grew into the blogging community, we began attendingconferences like Alt Summit where we learned that being a good blogger meant taking on the responsibly of creating content. The phrase “content is king” really stuck with me and led me to pursuing photography and leaning more on writing- two passions that I am proud to have grown my skill for through blogging. Even more than content, in those days blogging provided an inspirational platform for personal branding and a point of view that separated each great blog from the next and it was exciting to see how each site had a different look and feel. We had a community of friends, content we were proud of, and were growing our skills and identities online; and then we actually had the chance to have the blog support us financially.

As opportunities for monetization came our way, we prepared a media kit and included statistics with our social media following and fan numbers. I’d say that 2012 was when those numbers became more and more important – both to us (it was easy to see how our peers numbers were compared to ours, whereas before Instagram you could only really compare blog traffic through Alexa ratings) and the clients we worked with. As years passed, it became more obvious that while content was still important for the sake of posting, that content quality wasn’t the way we were being evaluated for financial opportunities and rather the higher the following, the more valuable the blog and blogger.

I’ll tell you something many other bloggers won’t: my blog’s traffic numbers are half (half!) of what they were a year ago. I’ve compared notes among other bloggers and the loss of traffic is happening across the board. No longer do I meet people and hear, “I read your blog!” – it’s now typically, “I follow you on Instagram.” Well, thanks for that follow – that is immensely flattering – but the A Piece of Instagram is really nothing compared to the content Sally and I work so hard to produce and post the the blog. I totally understand how easy it is to follow people on Instagram and do the scroll, but I selfishly wish that people were still inclined to take the time to visit and read blogs.

Having the mentality of content being king has always been a goal worth striving for with the blog because a post typically contains multiple images and writing that involves storytelling. But with all the time, love, and creativity I pour into the blog, I just never thought of Instagram being worthy of the same attention. For me, Instagram is fun and a freeing way to post something without the same stresses and time consuming nature that comes with blogging. I like that I can use VSCO to edit iPhone photos before uploading them, that shameless selfies are becoming more normal, and that I have a vehicle for positing way too many pictures of my handsome pup.

But for comparisons sake, A Piece of Toast is not winning the number of followers race on Instagram – at least compared to a lot of other bloggers. This didn’t bother me because I want people to visit the blog more than follow us on Instagram, but with a loss of blog traffic I wonder if I’ve been doing things wrong in not caring more about Instagram…or at least making an effort to post more often. What’s always held me back is that posting more would require me to share more of my personal life – or stage my personal life for public consumption – neither of which seemed like a good idea for me. But lately I feel lucky that I was able to make that choice for myself, even if it means to some advertisers A Piece of Toast is less valuable than my peers, because that doesn’t make me feel less valuable as a person.

I don’t really care about the realness or lack of it in the posts I see in Instagram. Realness or not, I came into using the app as an adult 20-something and can separate what I see from letting it affect me and the way I live my life. But what’s truly unsettling is how the younger generations are growing up along side Instagram and so many other social media channels and apps that they are literally being shaped by what they see and how they interpret it.

Being an older sister to five siblings below the age of 18 (my youngest brother is 11) and friends with people with babies and children means that I give a considerable amount of thought to how technology is all too present. I love my iPhone, but I didn’t get a phone until I was 16 and driving, and I wasn’t allowed to text till my sophomore year of college. And okay fine, I can understand why a 7-year-old might need a phone for emergency situations – but even without social media accounts, how can he or she be protected from seeing what’s readily available online? Or live a life that isn’t constantly connected and makes for easy comparison? Bailey likes to point out that my/our generation is the last one to grow up where we didn’t have “everything” technology wise…we remember having second phone lines, dial up Internet, using libraries for school research projects, Nokia flip phones without texting, and fax machines. We love the new advances that make our life easier but it’s scarily apparent how much different things will be for our kids.

Essena O’Neill is a 19-year-old who is getting a lot of buzz for quitting social media. After being a very popular, beautiful, and envied star on Instagram (570,00+ followers), YouTube (250,000+ subscribes), tumblr (250,000+), and Snapchat (60,000+ average views), Essena has deleted her Snapchat and tumblr, left her YouTube channel’s videos about vegan education before removing the entire account, and was deleting many of her Instagram images or editing descriptions (to reveal if something was sponsored, or how even though she looked happy and beautiful she felt miserable and lonely) but now that account is also gone. I don’t know how people are largely receiving this teen’s message, but I for one am completely sympathetic and empathetic to much of what she is saying, feeling, and revealing. The visual nature of social media makes one feel like they have to constantly be posting, posting, posting. And not just posting a sunset, but a selfie that’s both envious and aspirational or a beautifully posed lifestyle shot. All the posting would be pointless without the visible number of followers, likes and contributed comments. Measuring a photo’s “worth” is easy when you can see whether or not people like it.

It’s certainly not unfathomable that Essena (and other teens, adults, brand, retailers, etc.) latched on the idea that success means those growing (or stagnant) numbers. But those important numbers can be bought (shocker!) and with all the macarons and coffee in the world, pretty photos can be staged (shocker!) and filters and apps can make anyone look magazine worthy (shocker!). “Social media is not real life,” is what Essena’s Instagram profile boasted before she deleted the account. I’m not sure if I totally agree that social media isn’t real life – loads of people post what’s real and use various channels to stay connected and archive their day-to-day lives – the thing is having the self awareness not to post something that portrays something not real for the sake of the approval of others.

I enjoy a scroll through Instagram more than anyone. It’s addictive. And I’m the first to admit that I don’t read many blogs outside of my close friends. The more I reflect on the past five years and take stock of the current situation (declined readership, social media importance, etc.) the more I realize that one of the parts I’ve enjoyed most about blogging is that it’s always been a “learn as I go” project and job. There’s no handbook for how to make money or stay relevant – or be authentic doing both – so I’ve been doing the best I can with what I know I’m willing to put out there. I try not to think to hard about what the next five years will look like both for blogging and social media. I do think a lot about what authenticity means for me and try to keep in mind what I like both about blogging and social posting and stay true to myself while doing both.

It might be too late for blogs – numbers may continue to go down as more people rely on Instagram and Facebook for visual content vs. reading lengthy posts like this one. Which, obviously is alarming for me and my job security, but more importantly seems to be shifting the balance away from sharing the words and stories that give context to the pretty picture.

It makes me sad that Essena felt suffocated because social media for her meant striving for, and projecting perfection when for me it has been more about meeting like-minded friends, and developing my passions into skills. For Essena, shutting down all her accounts was easier than starting over as her “true” self, and I don’t know how to feel about the fact that she couldn’t be her self all along.

I wonder if teenagers and younger groups of users need more of an education when it comes to documenting and sharing a life online and/or social media and what all that entails. For myself, I’ve been able to define a line of what I will and will not share on social media – it’s all still “me” but it’s not all of me. I think that most adults can probably understand that the images they see on social media are only a piece of a bigger picture, but it seems that kids are experiencing social media as the big picture, the end unto itself, and that is a scary and confusing thing to be a part of.

  1. Hi Molly,

    I have to say this is one of my favorite toast talks you’ve posted.i will admit that since Instagram took off i rarely ever actually visit the blogs i used to read daily. EVEN LESS AFTER THE LIKETOKNOWIT APP CAME ALONG, having the links to the items bloggers ARE WEARING sent to my inbox instantly completely dissolves the need for me to visit blogs. IF ITS A LIFESTYLE BLOG I MIGHT VISIT OCASSIONALLY (ONCE A MONTH). the blog industry is so heavily saturated, quality content no longer exists. i see blogs as ads now.

  2. Molly, I loved reading this post. As a MILLENNIAL..i think, im 21 years old… I see the various view points on social media and the changes with technology. it is EXTREMELY tricky to figure out and understand what opinions to have about it all, but i think if we start by being CONSCIOUS of technology and the role it plays in our daily life, then we are on the right track.
    i for one, have read your blog for years, and the reason i keep coming back to it is your authenticity and honesty with your readers. at this point in the blogging world, that is almost unheard of. so thank you for your candor and for sharing. while i love instagram i get so much more inspiration and interesting thoughts after reading blog posts like this, so i for one will keep returning to your blog!
    hope you had a wonderful holiday! xoxo Nan

  3. I’m a long time reader and can say the frequency I visit your blog has gone way down. You were one of my favorite blogs to visit and i loved the toast talk (especially the honest ones- the break up post really helped one of my friends going through the same thing). i now occasionally visit to read the toast talk and i’m glad you wrote this one. It’s been hard to relate to most of the content you post as of late (mentioned in the other comments)- it feels so impersonal and generic. I read blogs because of the INTERESTING takes on life and the style that comes with it- you used to do such an amazing job of that. curating finds and opinions is what keeps blogs interesting. If i wanted generic content from target/old navy i would just go to the brand. i’m also in the middle of wedding planning and i was dying to hear more wedding stuff with sally got engaged/after the wedding.

    as for instagram, it’s another social platform that helps drive traffic to the blogs (I ADMITTEDLY always click through the links), so ideally if you have good blog content that should show through on instagram (i.e. gal meets glam). hope you find this helpful. and like the other comments said- keep on doing it if you still find it fun and inspirational for you as well.

  4. Molly – I loved this post. It’s so refreshing to hear a truthful and candid account of how you see the industry changing. I’ve been reading APOT (and many other blogs for four years or so now – CONGRATS on 5 years, that’s amazing!!).

    I love reading blogs, it’s one of my morning rituals and it’s the first thing I do when I get to work and am preparing for the day, eating breakfast. I’ll admit though, I’ve found it harder to keep up with the blogs I love as work gets busier and our attention is pulled in so many different directions. There is an EFFORTLESSNESS to Instagram that I think makes it so popular. And I DO love Instagram, but even I find it shocking how much weight is placed on the numbers. Having started my lifestyle blog a little under a year ago, it can be discouraging to see how many accounts have 10K+ followers.

    But I do think it’s important to not follow the crowd and do things that are true to your brand. I’ve always loved reading APOT. I have noticed the increase in sponsored posts, like other COMMENTERS, but that’s part of the game.

    Keep up the good work and continue to roll with the punches.


  5. Hi Molly,

    Wow, I really really enjoyed reading this post! It’s a topic which has been on my mind a lot lately, especially since starting my own blog earlier in this year, in May.

    I have been reading blogs for Years (including Apot) – I remember when aCupoFjo was single, and now she is married with two kids! Same with Smitten Kitchen! It’s nice to grow along with these bloggers. I love Blogs. I still love the sharing, the community, the sincere insights that you just can’t find on instagram.

    “the thing is having the self awareness not to post something that portrays something not real for the sake of the approval of others.”
    This really hit home for me. It’s what i keep in mind when I try to write my own blog. I post Personal style outfits, and write about my hometown of Toronto…and I want to be as authentic as possible. It makes me so sad When people say the golden age of blogging is coming to an end.

    keep doing your thing, Molly! It’s a pleasure to read along 🙂

    Jocelyn from

  6. What a lovely, honest post.

    I’ve been reading blogs, including yours, since 2012. I love them, probably because I love stories so much and blogs are fun platform for story-telling.

    It has been interesting to see how blogs have changed. And I totally see how there’s a delicate balance to it- how much do you share vs. keeping parts of your life private, how can you put so much time and effort into it if you’re not getting paid vs. keeping content fresh and personal without making it feel like an ad, and blogging for yourself because it’s fun and you love it vs. blogging for more readers, who can end up acting like you owe them something (e.g. tell us more personal things! Why don’t you post more often?! we don’t want sponsored posts, we want personal posts that you put a lot of time and effort into but aren’t being compensated for!!!)

    Bottom line, i think when it stops being enjoyable for you two, the blog should stop. and the same goes for everyone. story-telling and community building will always exist, they’ll just take on different forms. for now, for you, it’s blogging, but maybe in the future it will be something else. you seem to be pretty self-aware. you’ll figure out the right direction(s) to go.

    all of that said- i still enjoy reading what you write and seeing what you shoot! best of luck to you both.

    xx- Lynn-holly from

  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the ever changing topic of blogging and social media. and for what it’s worth i still love reading blogs and yours is one i read daily. xo from PUERTO RICO

  8. I’m a long time Reader and I’m going to be Brutally Honest. Your Blog Number are way down Because your Content Has gone down…it has been Crap for a Couple of years now, basically since you went full time. Look we all get that the blog is a business for you, but other bloggers have found a balance between original and sponsored content and are doing it better than APOT. Again tough love here, all blogs have gone down hill…I’m so sick of everyone doing similar Target or Old Navy posts all in the same week, but APOT has taken the deepest dive of the blogs I follow.

    The issues I’ve noticed: Full time Bloggers post every Day and you don’t. Also Take an honest look at the blog over the last year and count the number of sponsored posts vs original posts. I think you will find that the sponsored posts significantly outnumber your original posts. You call it a lifestyle blog but other than a few outfit or dog related posts you don’t really share any lifestyle insights…ie: recipes home decor, parties, holidays, travel recs, restaurant recs. You are calling it a sister blog but Sally rarely posts.

    I am left with the impression that both of you have lost interest in the blog, but you are keeping it going for the money. I think you need to think long and hard IF and how you want to move forward with the blog. If you are not comfortable sharing more personal stuff there are ways of incorporating original conent without negatively impacting your privacy. Maybe you need to blow up the format. I’m afraid that if you don’t change things up readership will just continue to go down.

  9. Congrats on 5 years! I can’t remember how I originally found APOT but it’s been on my desk-lunch-break-reading-list for years!

    I know it’s probably so tough to strike a balance between creating authentic content and supporting yourself by accepting your blog as a business and taking on lucrative opportunities. I admire Molly for taking the leap to blog full-time and commit yourself to this profession. And I’m sorry to hear that your readership is down, but I encourage you to continue to focus on blogging! I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I really appreciate a long-form post with your thoughts + great visuals and those are things we just can’t get from Instagram!

    I’m hoping I can offer a bit of (unsolicited) advice from a long-time reader who finds herself skipping more and more posts in the past year/recent months. I don’t want to sound like a broken record and just reiterate what other commenters have said, but I think what stands out to me is not that your % of sponsored posts has increased (this is the nature of the game – If you’re a reader of an even remotely successful blog, you’re going to encounter sponsored posts), it’s the tone/content of the sponsored posts that is the turnoff.

    Try to always keep this in mind: your readers read APOT because we LIKE you ladies! We want to know what you’re up to, what’s going on in your lives, what your struggles and triumphs are, and of course what you’re wearing :)! So If you’re being compensated for writing a post about a certain dress from Old Navy, it’s the perfect opportunity to give us an even deeper peek into your lives/thoughts/etc. Maybe you wore the dress on an especially good (or bad) date/workday, etc. – tell us about it! Maybe you wore it to a new restaurant that you’re just dying to tell us about. Maybe you love it because it’s so easy to throw on after Pure Barre and BTW-I’m-still-doing-Pure-Barre-and-I-love-it-for-XYZ-reasons-etc. Maybe you love it because it fits in a certain way that highlights your best features and covers XYZ body part that you’ve always been insecure about…

    going a bit deeper/more personal in the copy is a great way to make the post less about the sponsored item and more about you (which is why we read in the first place!).

    I think Cupcakes and Cashmere does a great job at this – here’s an example: This post is obviously sponsored by Nespresso, but it still gives a deeper peek into her life/day than the average post – it introduces a new C&C team member, includes links to other (non-sponsored) products that are also a part of her day, includes photos of the office and some of her favorite LA spots, etc. There’s no hiding the fact that she was paid for this post, but the content is less jarringly promotional because we’re getting plenty of authentic insight and commentary that is on-brand with the blog as a whole.

    Apologies for the marathon comment, and please feel free to disregard – I’m by no means a social media/branding/marketing expert, just a fond reader who wanks you guys to succeed and keep writing!

    Best of luck!


  10. Thanks for your post! I, for one, still love your blog! I am a 45 year old mom of 2 young girls and don’t make a lot of time for social media. But… there is nothing I like better than starting my day with a cup of coffee and 15 minutes of blog time. I know your blog has evolved in different ways but I still enjoy it- – your perspective and the various product tips/recs! I have a bunch of things I love that I found through your blog. Please continue your blog- – I will be reading!! 🙂

  11. Thank you so much for this candid and honest post. I have read similar content on social and other blogs lately and was eager to read your take on things (even if the post was long – which was great!).

    I will kindly echo the other commenters sentiments when i say that lately the content has not been as fresh and intriguing as in past years (i have followed since 2012) – some of the things that i know are important to you two (blue moon beam, sally’s wedding, moving to sf, moving apartments, molly working with bailey mccarthy & biscuit,, etc) have barely been mentioned, or if they have been mentioned, its with sponsored content or links included. i remember being slightly off put by a post where you were choosing bridesmaid dresses and it was sponsored, which saddened me because it seemed like such a personal and exciting time, and it had to be monetized to be included in the blog.

    and with regards to social media, i see instagram as an extension of the blogs i read daily on my bloglovin’ feed – they remind me to go back to the blogs to read the full post if i didn’t catch it earlier in the day and that part i appreciate. but lately i just have noticed overall from almost all of the blogs i read, that content is almost always sponsored – even if the post does a good job of incorporating real life, it still feels cheap to me.

    i think there are other ways to get your voice heard (through great content) without always having to do sponsored posts. i read other blogs where the author is featured on other brand sites as a guest writer, and typically appreciate that type of cross promotion more than just jamming in a random sponsored post (hate to bring it up, but the tide pod post was so painful).

  12. I still read a ton of blogs, some of which I also follow on Instagram. As another ready commented, I know you both have a LOT going on, but the amount and quality of content have been lacking in recent months. I started following this blog because of the great posts, but recently posts seem farther apart, and are largely sponsored. This does make me less likely to come back to see what’s new on APOT. If there was more original (non-sponsored) material, I think you’d see those numbers going back up.

  13. Hi There Molly!

    Thanks for being so candid! This is one of the reasons why I read your blog on a daily basis. Despite the pretty pictures, it has a sense of realness with the writing style and I feel that your social Media account is an extension of the blog and not vice versa. A lot of blogs (including the more “popular Ones”/more insta followers) have become the same with little in the verbiage department and as a result, I’ve stopped reading them. I don’t mean it in a rude way toward others, but yours is just so genuine – it’s seriously a rarity.

    Speaking of sincerity, your instagram account is pure perfection – I feel like y’all don’t overshare, but give perfect peeks into your lives without overexposure.

    Any time I see a blog photo on your instagram, I scramble to your blog not only to see more images of outfits, etc. but also I look forward to the voices behind the blog, you and Sally. Please don’t get discouraged … Keep doing what you gals are doing!!!


  14. I love the honesty expressed in this post. Just as you don’t know where you’ll be in five years, you didn’t know five years prior to launching your blog that it could be a career. Trust in your talent and opportunities always will come. What holds you back is hanging on too tightly to what you think ‘should’ happen or you ‘should’ be doing.

  15. I have been following apot for a few years now. i have a sister and we are really close in age too, so i always could relate to the relationship of you and sally. i loved the content when i first started reading. i found you both down to earth and honest. over the last year or so i feel like the content and the tone of the blog has changed. it feels like most of the posts are driven by SPONSORSHIPs. you hardly share personal stories anymore (except for today, thank you!) you and sally both have had big life changes (moved AND marriage), and we have seen nothing about it either! what’s it like to live in your new city? apartment tour? where do you like to hang out? how are you adjusting? it would add much more rich content. i miss the old blog! I continue to read because i enjoyed it from the beginning, but I find myself checking apot less and less each month. I PERSONALLY don’t follow your instagram and only the blog. the blog is/was way better!

  16. This post really struck a chord with me. I guess i’m in the minority when I say i love the experience of going to a blog and checking out new content. yes, i love instagram, but I love going to an actual webpage to read actual content. There’s so much that you can’t do on instagram that you can do on a blog!

    I will continue to visit your site and just enjoy instagram on the side!


  18. Molly I’ve been a reader of yours and Sally’s for 4 years now! It was one of the first blogs I stumbled upon when bloggers put their favorite blogs on their sidebars. You inspired me to a start a personal blog that I had for two fun years, and like you I absolutely loved the people that I met through blogging. I loved going to meet-ups, having drinks with strangers that became friends and entering as many giveaways as possible. Those were such fun times, and for me, images are one thing, but I’m a content person and I love reading what bloggers have to say, because for many it is so much more than just one image. And you do spend a lot of time compiling and creating content for your readers. Keep up the amazing work that you and Sally Do, all while having other jobs of your own. As an elementary school teacher, I also have seen the effects of social media on kids. I was just discussing with coworkers today how hard it is to be a kid these days. These distractions just weren’t with us when we were little.
    Anyway!! Blogs are the first thing I read in the morning with my breakfast, a habit I don’t intend to stop anytime soon. Keep up the fantastic work!

  19. I dont get why people would move away from blogs! I love instagram too, but when i see a post that says link in bio i usually click it or make a Point tO visit tHe site later to see more photos and hear what each person had to say. Reading the views and opinions of others is what makes content great! Keep It up! You have a great blog that i look forward to reading 🙂 also, have you considered readers (like feedly) might take away some of your traffic? I read so many that i find feedly immensely helpful, but i do make a point to actually open the lInks and visit. Could That account for some drops in “hits”?


  21. Congrats on five years! I have been following you two since 2012-ish and have loved reading ever since.

    I recently saw a comment from a social media exec about essena’s story saying that social media is only untrue if that’s the way you choose to use it, as she did for so long. However, i agree that young kids today may need some guidance about life outside of social media and the fact that it isn’t the beginning and end of everything.

    i’m currently 20, but my family used dial-up internet until i was almost in high school and the kids didn’t get phones until around 13 with limited texting PRIVILEGES and no internet access. as much as i resented the fact that other kids had phones before me, i’m glad i can easily live without my phone glued to my hand like so many people my age now. quite frankly, i find the obsession and reliance on social media, iphones, etc., really EMBARRASSING.

    anyway, keep doing what you’re doing. I still read a fair number of blogs, enjoy it immensely, and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!

  22. I only found A Piece of toast blog this past spring and I adore it. I like the mix of personal/images/product reviews/musings. I have started looking towards blogs myself as a move away from facebook and pinterest (i am not on instagram or twitter, etc. – just too many things to keep up with at once!).the INUNDATION of information on social media stresses me out and sometimes I just do not realize it until i have felt grumpy and disconnected for several days. i really enjoy reading something meaningful and looking at a selection of photos rather than a flood of Opinions, one-liners and images. i think you could curate some beautiful books! that could be another avenue. 😉

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