You don’t see many kids smack dab in the middle of a controversy about free speech. But nine-year-old blogger, Martha Payne, has been through a lot in the last few days. The blog she started just six weeks ago was shut down, but people across the globe rallied around her and got it reinstated. What was such a hot topic that put this little girl’s name on the lips of millions online? School lunches.
Like any successful blogger, Martha writes about what she knows. In this case, she dedicated her blog to discussing the meals that her school serves each day. She posts photos of the food and then rates it on taste, nutrition, and other factors, such stray hairs. Her blog, NeverSeconds, started as a daily writing project to share with relatives. However, it quickly exploded, securing millions of page views and dozens of comments each day. That success quickly put school officials on edge.
Although Martha had gotten permission to take photographs of her food, those images quickly illuminated the fact that those lunches weren’t always of the best quality. Frequently, showcasing small portion sizes which left Martha hungry and unable to concentrate on her studies. After posting just a few short weeks, Martha was told that she would no longer be allowed to take photos of her school lunches and she posted her final blog entry, titled “Goodbye.”
Well, nothing like a blogger done wrong to make the web come to life (remember when a PR flack dissed Jenny Lawson?). That goodbye message garnered nearly 2,400 comments of support and her traffic grew by the millions (as I’m writing this, total pageviews are six million and counting and I can actually see the counter go up a visitor each second!). Public pressure quickly convinced local officials in her hometown of Lochgilphead in Argyll, Scotland to reverse their decision and allow NeverSeconds to continue.
We caught up with blogger phenom Martha Payne today to talk about the trials and tribulations of being a blogger:
Q: When you started your blog, you incorporated a charitable angle by helping to raise money for Mary’s Meals. Why did you do this? Do you think it’s important for bloggers to raise awareness about important issues and inspire others to help?
A: Dad showed me a comment on my blog saying I was lucky to get a dinner as many children don’t. I have raised money for Mary’s Meals before and I thought of them. I think it’s important to show people looking at my blog that I care because I do.
Q: What has surprised you the most about writing a blog?
A. It’s harder some days than others. The hard days are when I am tired after school and a club.
Q: What have you learned about putting your opinions out there?
A: People you don’t know will discuss them.
Q: What advice do you have for other bloggers who may not know what to write about?
A: I chose school dinners because I have them everyday and I wanted to write everyday. I think pictures and ratings are fun.
Q: Other students have sent you photos of their school lunches and you’ve shared many of them on your blog. You could have very easily made NeverSeconds all about you. Why did you decide to let the community be part of your blog?
A: When Dad showed me the first email sent in I liked it so I thought other people would too. I have learnt a lot and can find lots of countries on the globe.
Q: Fans of your blog came to your defense when NeverSeconds was shut down last week. How does that make you feel? What would you like to say to everyone who spoke up for you?
A: I’d like to say thank you to everyone that supported the blog and Mary’s Meals. I haven’t read all the messages as there are so many but it is great that I am allowed pics again.
Q: Do you see yourself being a professional blogger when you grow up?
A: I’d like to be a journalist when I grow up because it is easier to ask questions than answer them.
Q: Your school term is ending in a few weeks, what will happen to NeverSeconds during your break from school?
A: Dad would like schools from around the world to guest blog for a week at a time. He thinks schools may be interested.
Q: Many bloggers find it difficult to make the time to write blog posts every day. What are your tips for people who want to write daily, but make excuses about why they can’t?
A: It was hard but now it’s habit. I think you get used to it.
The uptick in exposure for NeverSeconds raised so much money for Mary’s Meals that a new kitchen is being built at the Lirangwe Primary School in Blantyre, Malawi and nearly 6,000 meals can now be given to other needy children. Martha was given the opportunity to name the new kitchen and, in recognition of the community that made it happen, she chose “Friends of NeverSeconds.”
The lunches at Martha’s school have also been improving. Students are now allowed to have unlimited salad, fruit, and bread and Martha was recently asked, “Is that enough for you?” when she was given her lunch. Think a blogger can’t change the world, or his or her corner of it? Think again.
As content creators, many of us struggle from time to time. We either lack the discipline to create regularly, or come up short when it comes to ideas. But, Martha can be an inspiration to us all and her story is a good reminder to bloggers of what it takes to be successful online:
- Write about what you know
- Don’t be afraid to share your opinions
- Allow your community to participate in the discussion
- A picture always tells a story
- Find a way to give back
- Acknowledge those you contribute to your success and accomplishments
Even at the age of nine, Martha gets it. So, the next time you feel as though you’ve hit a wall with your blog, podcast, or Web TV episode, channel your inner Martha. We suspect this young blogger has a bright future in store.