One of my first blogging experiences, a few months after starting this blog with my ex-co-writer Sarah, was meeting someone at IMATS and then being attacked for being a consumer who dared to have an opinion online. At the time, it was a bit distressing, but also an interesting sign of the shift in the beauty industry that was yet to come. We, the mere consumers - the inexperienced writers wielding cameras we didn't quite know how to use - we were to become a driving force in an industry dominated by paid advertising, surface-level journalism, and a whole load of snake oil.
And indeed, over the years, blogging evolved into a thing. Consumers were able to read the opinions of other consumers, brands had to get behind honest reviews, and bloggers were suddenly the toast of the town. So popular became blogging that the number of bloggers increased and increased. No problem there: the more opinions the better, right?
Not so if you're a brand or a PR agency with limited resources. You have to choose who to grace with your coffee meetings, event invites, sponsored posts and samples. Eventually, some bloggers became professionals because the volume of coffee meetings, event invites, sponsored posts and samples meant that they could earn a living from blogging.
And why not? Earning a living from your passion is something almost everyone aspires to. More power to the pro-bloggers. Now, pro-bloggers can be found producing content for a brand, posting sponsored content, reviewing samples and even releasing their own product onto the market. In some cases, the pro-blogger is a brand themselves, employing others to ensure that they continue to make money from endorsing, featuring, discussing and producing beauty products.
That's a long, long way from the voice of the consumer idealism we started with.
In many ways, we've come full circle, back to the days when the most accessible, discoverable content then (magazines) is the same as the most accessible, discoverable content now (pro-blogs) - paid for, and not entirely clear where the breadline stops and the real opinion begins. Even with this lack of clarity on the realism of an opinion, consumers today have a huge number of blogs to cross-reference products against. It takes more work, but consumers can still get a more balanced idea of whether a product is worth its price tag now than they could five years ago.
As a blogger, this leaves me in a weird place where I'm constantly falling off press lists, because I don't aggressively grow this blog, have no desire to turn this website into a career and don't accept sponsored posts or ads. For the last six months, I've felt pretty shitty about it - diminishing returns for all my hard work, for rigidly maintaining a consumer-first stance, etc etc.
Whilst I definitely do care, I'm choosing to not worry about it. I started blogging because I love beauty - I still do. I continued blogging because I enjoyed arming myself (and others) with honest opinion before I go shopping - I still do. I will continue blogging for as long as these things still hold.
For those of you not familar with DJ Shadow, this post is named in homage to a track from his album Entroducing, entitled Why Hip-Hop Sucks in '96. It's a laid back, West Coast California kind of track, all instrumental, apart from three words at the end of the track. These three words sum up why I feel a bit like blogging sucks in '14, particularly if you were bought into that original consumer-focused idealism.
"It's the money"
This post originated at www.londonbeautyreview.com. If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.