Tuesday, 16 February 2010

"Is blogging the new media?"

Whatever your opinion, we just want to share our passion for beauty.

So we were wandering along at IMATS, browsing and swatching away, when we were engaged in conversation by a woman we now know to be Sam Donald, who runs a website called Makeup Advice Forum. (No we're not bloody linking to her - there's a screencap below.)

She had clocked our press passes and wanted to know what publication we were with. She gave us her business card and chatted briefly, and she seemed nice enough, telling us "we've got a few bloggers on board at the site". We put the cards in our shopping bags and moved on, thinking nothing of it.

What we didn't realise however, was that beneath her civil exterior, Sam was positively fuming with resentment at the fact that MERE BLOGGERS had received IMATS press passes. How dare we? (How dare anyone, in fact, without due qualification or credentials, start up a Blogger account and make a success of it?)

Sam has written an impassioned article on her site, which apparently is "is qualified to sit as a [glossy] magazine" (which is why she had a press pass we suppose, although we've yet to speak to anyone today who has heard of it, or her.)

She has deleted our (very polite) comments from her site, so we will use our own (though apparently inferior) blog to respond to some of her points.

Sam believes that bloggers are not a legitimate part of what she calls "The Media" (capitalisation is hers). She's also had a good old read of our blog. She says our posts are too long and that we "talk for the sake of talking", amongst other things. Well, horses for courses, Sam. Your bitter screed about beauty bloggers and blogging was pretty long too.

Apparently we should adopt Sam's "journalistic style", which is summarised thus: "I talk about the good and bad points of a product and my articles have a start, a discussion, and a conclusion." Sounds a bit like my GCSE science write-ups, Sam. I think we'll stick with what we know.

On a factual note - Sam takes issue with this post about hygiene at department store makeup counters. She has got it into her head that the counter where Sarah nearly caught pink-eye was a Benefit counter. Though we allude to the fact that Benefit's hard-sell technique can be pretty OTT, it certainly wasn't stated or suggested in the post that Benefit have poor counter hygiene. The counter in question was NOT a Benefit counter, and we have no reason to believe that Benefit counters are in any way unsanitary. Sam has gotten the wrong end of the stick here and we apologise to Benefit on behalf of Sam, who has called their hygiene into doubt with her erroneous post.

She then expostulates about the fact that Sarah didn't march up to the management there and then and complain after the incident with the unsanitised pencil. Apparently this would have been better than "allowing them to be badmouthed across the internet." We didn't, though Sam. We deliberately left the company name out. It's you who is splashing the brand name "Benefit" around in association with poor hygiene. And it wasn't even a Benefit counter.

Additionally, Sam supposes that since Sarah went over to Clarins to borrow some remover to take the makeup off, she must have slagged off the brand to the Clarins staff too. Sam, not that it's any of your business, but actually no. The staff at Clarins were happy enough with the much more tactful explanation "I had a makeover that I don't really like."

A complaint was made later about counter hygiene, via the brand's website, after seeing comments on the blog and mulling it over a bit. It was explained in the article that Sarah did not want to get the sales girl in question scapegoated for what appeared to be a general problem. We hope that the complaint did result in some retraining at the counter, but we are not the makeup police. We're consumers.

Consumers. It says it in our About Us page, and it isn't something we're trying to hide. Unlike Sam, we don't want or expect to be classed alongside "glossy magazines", and we certainly don't wish to lay the law down about how our readers or other bloggers who stop by should think or behave. In fact, as with the example above, we get at least as much information and advice from our readers and the rest of the blogging community as we give out. Sam's antiquated model of teacher-pupil, decree-obey relationships between experts and lay people just doesn't hold any water in contemporary culture.

Sam appears to be worried that bloggers post irresponsibly, trashing products and swaying common opinion on things they know nothing about. Well Sam, that's quite flattering to us who write blogs, and quite insulting to those who read blogs, but it just doesn't work that way, at least not any more. People who write about beauty do not have guru-like respect automatically these days. They have to earn it by writing well, telling the truth, and giving readers content that they want to read.

"The Media" in its current incarnation, and these things called "WebLogs" that you've discovered Sam (apparently a discovery that in your book is something akin to finding maggots in your cold cream) are just not about that kind of prescriptivism. People read the blogs they like. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of blogs on beauty, written and read worldwide. People choose to read those they like and ignore those they don't. Brands and PR consultants recognise the power of blogging and are reaching out to bloggers all the time, creating relationships beneficial to both sides.

I think we should celebrate that variety and choice, and enjoy the richness of content available to us. Some of it may be poorly-written, biased, boring even, but there will always be something else to read if one or other blog doesn't float your boat. Blogging is democratic, in that readers choose. It's merit-based, in that the best blogs succeed. And it's open to everyone, in that anyone, professional or otherwise, can start a blog and make a go of it.

Whether snobs like Sam Donald like it or not.

Below is a screencap of Sam's article. We didn't include include all of the comments for space reasons - there are many, voicing different opinions. Almost like on a blog...


  1. I actually wrote a comment on the MAF article but it wasn't printed.

    Congratulations on a well writted, rounded article.

    The other article was badly researched and smacked of bitterness and envy.

    Keep writing your blogs and I'll keep enjoying them

  2. I love the name of the screenshot. Sniggering away over here.

    As a fellow lowly-blogger, I don't suppose I can add much else of worth to the subject.

    I will however point out, that this woman with all the writing creditions of a magazine journalist (apparently) managed to make three basic grammar errors in her first paragraph.

    But hey, I'm just the author of a poorly written blog, what do I know.

  3. There's nothing else to say other than good on your girls for addressing the post. Pity she had to take it there because she really didn't have to but I don't think sister soldier over there realised what she was saying. This could end up hurting her more than she realises...For her sake I hope it doesn't.

  4. The MAF article appears to have been written with an excess of spleen and bile. Who knew that a 'press' pass could be the cause of such apoplexy.

  5. Very well said! I'm so glad you wrote this up.

    In the end, blogs haven't become popular on their own, have they? Beauty blogs have become a place for consumers to drop in, read first-hand experiences with cosmetics and make informed decisions about their beauty purchases because those readers LIKE THEM. That is why we have influence, that is why companies want to talk to us and that is why we get invited to events like IMATS.

    Like I said in my post on the original piece, the consumer is what it's all about; so if the consumer likes to log on to a beauty blog and check out products that are being talked about, why shouldn't they? Really, it's not our fault that blogging has such sway on consumers now. Maybe, the forum will now start slagging off consumers because they aren't qualified to choose what they do and don't like - wait, essentially that is what they're saying, isn't it?

    I have huge respect for makeup artists, there are some talented and skillful artists out there. But when it comes to getting opinions, I would much rather hear them from someone who has the same level of experience as me. I want products that'll look good despite my slightly wobbly hand and poor blending technique.

    I could babble on for ages (and I have done!), so I better stop typing and try to calm down!

  6. I think it should also be added that many consumers value a product review from a blog, or series of blogs, over one from a 'journalistic approach'. People want to know what real people thought of the mascara, not the company blurb, or a magazine who doesn't want to be seen publicly trashing a product thinks.

    I don't read glossy magazines, or online magazines, but I read blogs. I find the 'journalistic approach' stale and dull, whereas I enjoy the quirky writing style and extra content blog posts give. My product reviews can sometimes be up to 3000 words, and plenty of people read them and enjoy that they're thorough.

    Her post wasn't even about bloggers or media, it was about her being put out that two specific girls got press passes when she thinks they don't deserve them.

  7. Very well said. Her post riled me. I actually posted on my blog about it, it annoyed me that much. And her targetting towards you girls in particular was especially bitchy.

    She wrote an ill-informed article and seems to be so far up her own bum. Many will see that I'm sure :)

  8. Well, seeing as she's apparently NOT 'heavily moderating'... yet my comment still isn't up there. I hope you ladies don't mind if I post it here instead. I don't want it to go to waste... took me ages! And after all that, I do of course expect a round of applause ;)


    I don't want to read your opinion on cosmetics, your needs as a MUA are different to mine. Despite what you obviously think (as an expert), I absolutely do want to hear about the 'latest and greatest' products on the market and I want to know what cosmetics are kicking up a storm in the beauty world. The beauty world of my peers, and one that I find infinitely more accessible.

    If granting bloggers the privilege of unrestricted access to events such as IMATS brings them under the umbrella of "Media" then so be it. Their opinions (and mine) are frankly hugely valid regardless of how journalistic their style of writing may or may not be. And as for their approach, far purer than any journalist. You mention 'blogging for freebies' - any blogger that values their freebies more than their readers are pretty easy to spot. When they realise how much effort is needed to maintain the quality required to keep their readers returning day after day, their blogs tend to fall by the wayside pretty quickly. It's fairly self-regulating in my experience!

    And to the commenter who likened this 'new media' to TV being piped into our brains. How foolish. Responding to blogs and commenting on posts such as this one is incredibly interactive, quite the opposite of the passive media consumption you describe.

    Plenty of blogs talk about 'core' products and neutral eye shadows. Perhaps you've mostly discovered blogs that are aimed at a younger audience who would (of course) be more interested in reading about the latest bright/garish shades of shadows on the market. Beauty blogging is fluid, ever-changing and yes, fickle... and by that very nature couldn't represent the 'people' more effectively if it tried.

    You keep emphasising that your 'point' is being missed, To be blunt, I'm struggling to see it through the vitriol that you've unleashed on a couple of well-respected female bloggers.


    As you can see, totally deserved censorship.

  9. Ladies, your response is more dignified, balanced and well-written than I'd manage if such an attack were launched at my blog. (it's a bit long though) :D

    Honestly, I don't understand Sam's motives for her article. It's a shame that she has such an outdated and mean-spirited attitude to bloggers and their readers who obviously can't think for themselves.

    I respect the hard work she's obviously put into creating her forum and 'online magazine', it's sad that she can't afford the same respect to other people's hard work also.

    Her personal and quite frankly nasty comments on what amounts to your hard work and passions are, I think what have riled most. It was just so unnecessary to belittle what you guys have achieved as a way to get her point across.

  10. Fantastic reply ladies. I for one am pleased that this happened today because on a purely selfish note, without it I'd never have discovered you!

  11. Take a look at her AMAZING portfolio! (click on "fashion/photographic" to see the best work!)
    Clearly, she's much better at EVERYTHING makeup than the rest of us... Uhm. No?

    She does have a bit of a point thought. There *are* a lot of badly done reviews on different blogs, but as readers we know when a review is good and when it's bad. Usually, we're also smart enough to research a product and not just go by one single review! (which would be stupid even if a "real" makeup artist had written the review!) How cool is that?! We can actually share information and opinions with each other without anyone acting superior like they know it all! Wow! ;)

    Thank you so much for writing this!

    As a self taught makeup artist working at a makeup counter (as well as a fellow blogger + blog reader!) I know what it's like when someone acts like they're better than you because "they've been working with makeup longer" or "they just paid a huge amount of money for the education" when I did it all in front of my mirror and computer screen!

    And I should stop rambling. Thanks again though! I really enjoyed reading this blog post and I like the way you wrote it! ;)

  12. I've not heard of her 'magazine' or her before, neither does her name sound familiar. That was very horrible for her to write about you's indirectly. Good on you that you wrote this post. I hope she's reading this feeling a bit guilty. xx

  13. I smiled all the way through reading this. Fantastic response Ladies. I feel proud to be a beauty blogger and feel privileged to know you two lovely Ladies.

    Oh and Ive got to give Char AKA Lipglossiping her round of applause, because you too deserve it my lovely.

  14. "I talk about the good and bad points of a product and my articles have a start, a discussion, and a conclusion." - That really got me - like thats some secret known only to journalists. Don't they teach that in primary schools now.....

    I'm Sorry Sam, but I saw these girls in action at the IMATS, and what struck me immeadiately was the professional and journalistic way they were approaching things.


  15. On the plus side, I'm really glad Sam took the time to explain what these new-fangled "web logs" are all about! Apparently they're just like "diaries", you know, like we "all" had when we were children? "Online magazines", on the other hand, are "relatively new" (I must have imagined the ones I've been reading all these years! Sam knows best, though!) and not AT ALL like blogs because they are super-special and written with a "journalistic approach". Speaking of which, I take it Sam contacted you before publishing her rant to let you know she was intending on trashing you publicly (I know she didn't name names, but she dropped enough hints to make it fairly obvious) and give you the opportunity to respond? That's what I was taught to do when I trained as a journalist, but obviously I'm just a mere blogger now, so what would I know?

    Seriously, though, I've never understood why some people seem so threatened by bloggers. If a blog sucks, people won't read it, period. It's pretty easy to tell when someone doesn't know what they're talking about (see above), and if there's no value to the reader, they're not going to stick around. It's clear Sam doesn't credit her readers with much intelligence (hence the whole patronising "what is a web log?" intro), but come on! Why would you feel threatened by a group of people you have no respect for? What relevance could they possibly have to your life? Why waste time writing (long!) rants about them and worrying about whether they're being invited to the same events as special YOU? If they're THAT bad, people won't read them and they’ll eventually die a natural death through lack of interest. On the other hand, if a blog has a decent following, then there's a good chance its readers are getting SOMETHING out of it. It may not be professional make-up advice, true, but maybe that's not what everyone's looking for?

    Anyway. Because I am a blogger, I appear to have rambled on, but I just wanted to say I think your rebuttal is very well put, and, dare I say it, shows a much more "jorunalistic" approach than Sam's bitter-sounding rant. Chins up :)

  16. Oh wow, that was REALLY long! Sorry! Maybe she does have a point after all :)

  17. What a pretentious twat >=| I'm struggling to articulate how much this irritates me, so bare with me here:

    She has her own website for Christ's sake, how can she have such an ass backwards approach to the internet? As technology evolves, media will evolve too, and PR firms and companies are certainly taking advantage of that.

    She's clearly never read or seen Temptalia's blog, because if she had she would understand that blogs aren't just start-up affairs with someone blindly talking into a void, they're media powerhouses. I can't even imagine how many sales have occurred as a result of Temptalia's blog alone.

    Consumers identify better with other consumers, not pretentious makeup artists who can't empathise with their readers. I know I'd rather hear from the everyday woman on how a product worked for HER, rather than how it applied for a photoshoot where the makeup isn't exactly practical, nor wearable.

    I want to know how a product applies on someone like ME, and how it lasts throughout the day. A makeup artist can't always give me that. It's all well and good to know that Maybelline Great Lash mascara is amazing for layering for photoshoots, but this mascara is abhorred by the masses for being probably the worst mascara in existence.

    Also: MAC and Bobbi Brown DO recognise how powerful blogging is, though they may not have blogger accounts and their youtube channels are quite scarce. I do believe that MAC has just started sending out press samples to bloggers, and Bobbi Brown has been doing so for quite some time.

    Sorry if that was really long and incoherent and just proved that we all talk too much, but dude, that's what blogging is for. Communicating.

    I commend you girls on your much more professional approach - she clearly has no inkling about journalistic integrity or approach, or she would never have posted that hate-filled drivel on what is essentially, her ~blog.

  18. Like I've said all over Twitter yesterday, she's clearly jealous that people listen to bloggers WHO ACTUALLY TEST ITEMS OUT and report back, unlike her who just says things are good because she wants the kudos of makeup artists. What really got me was the fact that she moderated the comments so that only a few got through, talk about stripping us of our human rights! (Ok, that's a bit strong but it's basically theat!). Anotehr thing that wound me up was how confused she was, how is her website a glossy mag? I had never even heard of her site until Jo posted that link up yesterday so I don't know why she thinks she is Vogue or something.

    Also, she said that we only test on one skin and then put a review up..that's better than something landing on our doorsteps and us immediately writing up a glowing review for a shit product.

  19. As somebody who works in PR we are always telling our clients of the power that bloggers have especially in comparison to more traditional media. Ultimately people tend to trust people who are like themselves and therefore bloggers tend to be much more trusted than journalists. I love this blog for its honest and insightful view about the products than ordinary people may want to try and use. Keep doing what you're doing! Sam, try not to be so bitter about something you clearly don't understand..

  20. I'm really sorry that the response to that article descended into such a flame war, as I do genuinely think that there were some good points to be made.

    Generally though, I think that consumer-led blogging is a force for good, if it means that brands will now sit up and listen to what the average (as opposed to the professional) users are saying about how their goods are used, and what people think about using them, then how bad a thing can it be, really?

    As BritishBeautyBlogger is always saying, blogs provide the purest form of feedback a cosmetic brand can have - and any brand that is scared that a bad review will "kill" a product has something to hide.

    Bloggers, in my experience, *want* products to work, they want the claims on the packaging to be borne out this time, and that's why we're fickle, we're always searching for that elusive product that WORKS in the way we want it to, and in the way we've been told it will.

    There's nothing worse than getting a product (however you came by it) that's utter rubbish, and fun though it may be to slate something, upon occasion, in my experience they're the hardest reviews to write ...

    ... unless whatever it is makes your housemate smell of prawns.

    There is room for both pro and consumer opinion. It's just a shame that the increasing attention that's now being given to *consumers* is causing such resentment. Consumers are the majority, consumer bloggers are the ones who are roaring out loud on behalf of the people who buy, and never get heard.

    That is all.

  21. Ooh, that was a bit wanky. And long. I'm really sorry.

  22. It's 2010 - why does she feel the need to explain what blogging is? Or is she confusing you with Livejournal?

    I much prefer blogs to magazines - magazines are led by advertisers, and it#s difficult to find a critical review. she seems very jealous to me and I'm not sure why - if she is a respected 'journalist', what difference does this make to her whether mere bloggers can visit the trade shows? Also, I appreciate what make-up artists say but I want to know how something might work on my face, with my features/colouring, than someone else.

  23. Yowser. Was moved to leave a little comment over there myself. As a school teacher, this is classic high school behaviour - the person writing considers herself to be 'a journalist' and therefore part of some special elite which has given her an odd sense of entitlement. However, she hasn't had the intelligence to grasp the importance of user generated content on the web in the 21st century (hello - Twitter, Facebook??!!). She seems to have spectacularly missed the point that she is, essentially just a blogger herself.

    I've pretty much abandoned most of the magazines for blogs now. The immediacy and lack of advertising makes it easier to home in on that which interests me and I also don't have to wade through endless pages of speculation about AshleyNCheryl or BradNAngelina/Jen.

    Keep up the good work, by the way.

  24. Well said!! I read her post too and was fuming so much so that I vented about this last night too. Enough of her elitist attitude and not getting what blogging is all about.


  25. I also commented on the other blog, sorry but it is a blog. Like someone else pointed out, she ain't no vogue.

    And my comment was not printed either. I copied her comments then responded to each point concisely and clearly. Couldn't see why it wasn't approved.

  26. Well said. In fact, there have been some good articles and responses to come out of this.

    It wasn't so much the original article that riled me (petty and patronising as it was) but some of the comments and bitchy rudeness it encouraged. If you don't like a particular blog, don't read it. Just because a blogger might not have paid her dues as a journalist/MUA doesn't mean they aren't equipped to have a valid opinion.

    By the way, I had an IMATS press pass and I didn't get a single freebie cosmetic on the day, nor did I ask for one. Where were all these bloggers hanging out comparing goodie bags then? I must have missed that gathering.

  27. Hello! Okay, I made this point on the original posting, but IMATS didn't actually differentiate between which form of potential coverage was actually attending. There were no BLOGGER passes. I'm sure if there had have been we'd have been absolutely fine to wear them. I had one labelled PRESS, even though I had said I was both press and blogger and let them know I was bringing a blogger friend, she too had a PRESS pass. There wasn't an alternative to a press label offered. So, it's a great shame should it turn out that it was all in the name on the badge because that is an IMATS administration issue. On the other hand, the comments to the feature provided the most valuable feedback on how UK beauty blogging. I'm shocked that others think we are clique-y - I think we are all really friendly and supportive and welcome all comers, and the attitude that someone bloggers are upstarts who should know their place. Who knew? As far as I am concerned UK beauty blogging is pioneering consumer feedback in a way never before seen and of course it is going to take time to settle into the realisation we are here to stay. It is for most a hobby - I am sure the trainspotting blogs don't get nearly this level of critique!! (They can't drive a train so who are they to chat about trains!!) Its going to need a level of patience and maturity to ride it out but I'm truly hoping that we can learn that denegration and critique is all part and parcel of the pioneering and that we can address the issues head on and come to a happy beauty blog place!

  28. whoops - have just read back my previous comment - sorry there are parts where I've gone adrift mid sentence...long day! x

  29. This woman needs to remember that she's not a trained beauty editor on a monthly glossy, but a website writer with no formal journalism qualifications. Yes, she's apparently a professional make-up artist but really, her medium isn't that far away from blogging. Many of us bloggers host and build our own sites from scratch, which is almost the same as creating a website.

    Even bloggers who don't 'work' in the chosen field obviously have enthusiasm and experience in their chosen subject, otherwise they wouldn't have such a loyal following.

    Good bloggers should edit themselves to be courteous to the reader. This doesn't mean reviews should read like a rigid press release, like Sam suggests. It's a shame she attacked you in such a way, but your response was dignified.

  30. Thank you to everyone who commented here. The post is possibly the most long-winded diatribe we've ever posted, so big props to you all for managing to read it all the way through. (I think Sam may have had a point about us talking too much after all...)

    I physically cannot reply to all these comments individually, though I have tried (comments have a character cap of 4,096 chars apparently) so I will sum up by saying that a lot of interesting points have been raised by the original article and the comments that arose from it, quite apart from the attack made on us specifically.

    Now we've had our say on the off-slagging aspect of it, we hope to let this go, although I think it might be interesting to post about some of the broader issues re. the nature of the media zeitgeist etc. and how blogs fit in (or don't) with more traditional media formats.

    Brilliant that people actually found us via Sam's post - "no such thing as bad publicity" rings true.

    Oh, and a huge round of applause to Charlotte (Lipglossiping), which she deserves in general, if not for her splendid comment.

  31. Indeed - thank you all for your comments. There have been some fascinating points raised, and a lively debate is always interesting; it's just the slagging off we took exception to really!

  32. I dont know when i last read a beasuty magazine, as half the time the 'advice' is out of date, or given if a product has asked for publicity..eg the top 5 so in so products..you'll nearly always find them advertised in the mag too.

    I prefer real women giving real opinions on products. I created my own blog because i found i wanted to share what id learnt myself as i felt it might be useful for others, not so i could gain some sort of weird following, like this journalist seems to want to have.

  33. I got Press passes for the IMATS Toronto, but gained nothing by having it, it was essentially pointless, but as a blogger I was qualified to have it. IMATS sets their standard on what is considered media for their event, if you dislike that then it is your issue not the bloggers. If you dislike people making commentary on the internet in the form of blogs then don't read blogs, it is your view and your issue. It the same as if you didn't like one tv shows view on something, don't watch it. Easy as that.

  34. I agree 100% with you and all the comments left here. This lady is obviously threatened by us bloggers and she should be! We are valid sources of information and successful because what we say is important to our readers. I could go on and on, but I think everyone has covered it all. Glad you all posted a response and good for you! You've got a new follower now! =)

  35. Well darn it all, thanks to the hub-ub you just gained another follower! I wouldn't of found you else wise :)

  36. I would like to add...

    1)Sam Donald is probably one of the worst make up artists around. Have a look at her site. She even puts herself in there pretending she was her own client.

    2)Her own hygiene is appalling (I know as I had her for a trial, MY mistake). She is no guru, is very patronising and is unpleasant.

    3) Apparently she gets into these places as she stole a list of magazine and PR contacts so now has direct contacts with them. They have no idea.

    4) Her forum is THE bitchiest place where she spends her life bullying members and non members and encouraging others to do the same.

    5) Any artist that advertises on her site I would also avoid. What does it say about them? Apparently all they do is go on bridal sites and pose as brides and recommend each other.

    6) Sam Donald has Marie Claire covers on her website yet has never done ANY make up for Marie Claire!!!

    Keep doing what you do and AVOID the make up advice forum - its her pathetic little childrens playground and she writes these articles for an audience. She believes she is an authority but she's just a sad individual who can't just be pleased for anyone.

    Your blog rocks.

  37. Funny isn't it? She has no formal training in, well anything really. Jack of all trades, master of none. She's a one trick pony who uses the one method of application and merely changes it by using different colours!


Related Posts with Thumbnails