Sunday, 9 November 2014

Why Blogging Sucks in '14

In early October, this blog turned five years old.  I'm not really one for birthday posts, and anyhow, I was kind of busy with a new job, but reaching such a milestone has made me think about the differences between blogging today, and blogging five years ago when I first started.

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.

7 comments:

  1. Happy birthday! FWIW, I love blogs like your's - honest, well written reviews from the POV of a consumer, clearly marked PR samples etc - to some of the bigger, glosser ones where it's hard to tell the difference between the actual content and an advert. Which is why I'm here rather than there.

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  2. Happy Blogversary! I too have been blogging for 5 years but never really caught the attention of the major brands or PR here in the US. Blogging has changed and it seems it is now a competition more than anything else. I noticed blogging etiquette has gone out the window after many just refuse to credit their source when it is so obvious! Getting the high number of subscribers is more important than the moral stance in blogging. I find this disappointing for both as a blogger and the brands who represent these morals but then again I am not surprised.

    I think for you, you know how important your personal life really is and to be a good blogger by pushing away the so-called peer pressure blogging is hard. Yet, it what makes you different and trustworthy from those other blogger/vloggers who are all looking and sounding the same!

    Stay true to yourself!! I wish you many more years of blogging!

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  3. I love you and your blog, Gemma! Xxx

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  4. I think the really point that struck me was what if as a blogger you don't necessarily want to aggressively grow your blog or commercialise it etc. - you're right, it does leave you in a strange place because everyone presumes that the dream is being able to blog as a job and become a mini celeb...in reality there are people too who have their feet firmly planted on the ground and enjoy dare I say it...some privacy? Anyway this is a great post, I hope enough people read it x

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  5. Happy blog birthday!
    I love your blog, primarily because it contains actual opinions about actual products that you use. I barely even read any of the 'big' blogs anymore because so many of them are so positive about every single thing you know it isn't real. Most of them don't even swatch anymore! True essence of blogging seems to have been lost for a lot xxx

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  6. Congratulations!
    I love reading this blog because the passion for makeup is actually still there, something I feel is starting to disappear in the larger blogs. I'm getting fed up reading about the press trips, the same products that often do not even appeal to a blog's audience. All because bloggers have discovered how to make money from blogging, and brands have declared blogs to be invaluable.
    I'm just glad there are still bloggers who just love to try new products, and don't necessarily want their own product line.

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  7. I started like 4 years ago as well and yes, this is the topic of many discussions between blogger friends. The blogging style and aims have changed a lot.

    I agree with you in the sense that then it was all more "naive" and firms proposed collaborations as a way of advertise their products. Now everything has become more aggressive, both bloggers and brands, they don't offer so many collaborations or invitations to events, and if so, it's the same people attending over and over again.

    For me, my blog is also a hobby, a productive way of spending my spare time, of meeting new people even. But now there is more bad vibe, more competition to be at the top of the brands' list. I am not that competitive at all and sometimes I think I am wasting my time, and yes, it seems as if the companies are also a bit "tired" of us. This bubble is going to explode at some point and this is going to end, become private and/ or really expensive to maintain or afford, so that in the end just a few of us will remain.

    Another possibility is that it becomes something else, for example, a lot of bloggers have quitted their blogs and started all over again but microblogging, that is IG or Pinterest, for instance.

    Stop by my blog, it is in English as well and I have never had any comments in English.

    Greetings!

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