Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Blogging has changed. I haven't. And that's the problem.

Don't worry, I'm not going to moan about the current state of blogging.  Well, maybe a tiny bit, but not much.  There have been a slew of posts like this across the blogs of some of my oldest blogging friends recently, because the industry has changed, and as change usually goes, it's benefited some folks, and not others.

Back in the day when we were young and blogging was young and innocent and quite frankly things were better*, bloggers were typically hobbyists, squeezing their blogging in alongside a full time job.  PR events started happening in the evenings, posts took a while to appear, things were a bit, well, amateur.  Now, of course, blogging (or rather, bloggers) is an industry in itself, with influencers** commanding the attention of readers and brands in their droves.

For the hobbyist blogger, this can mean declining readership as people trim down their blog reading time to just their favourite influencers; brands do the same, seeking the biggest exposure.  Both of these things have happened to me.  Fewer people than ever are reading this blog nowadays, which makes me sad - I've invested a lot of time into it over the past seven years, and with commenting having dropped off a cliff and views down too, I kinda feel like I'm talking into a vacuum.  I've also been dropped from pretty much every press list in town, which also makes me sad - despite earning a good wage, I can't afford to buy enough product to post as regularly as I used to.

Both of these things are okay, though.  They're logical.  People will follow the bloggers/YouTubers/Instagrammers who have the most time to spend generating quality content.  Brands will work with people who can guarantee exposure and provide a professional working relationship.  As a hobbyist blogger who has no desire to be an influencer, go professional, or spend more time on my blog***, I'm just not as interesting in this brave new world.

And that's absolutely okay.

I'll continue to post occasionally, mostly with stuff from my sample backlog, or with stuff I've bought myself.  I won't pressure myself to schedule as many posts as possible on a Sunday.  I'll find time for some older hobbies I've neglected, like sewing and writing, and maybe even find a few new ones too.

That's the thing about change, you see.  If you don't move with it, you can't complain when you get left behind.  I could write something terribly trite about doors opening as others close****, but I'll save you the cringe and instead say goodbye to considering the London Beauty Review my other job.  Now it's just one out of many hobbies which make me the person I am.  And that's just fine with me.

* Sarcasm intended

** I hate this term.  Influencing is all about bringing people along with you, and helping them to make decisions or understand things without directing them.  It's not about projecting desirable lifestyle, and having people copy you to try to win that lifestyle for themselves.

*** Or, in fact, reply to emails from PRs more than once a week, and then only if I have enough energy whilst I'm sitting on the train on the way home from work.

**** Oops.

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Six Years of LBR

Sarah and I started the London Beauty Review a whole six years ago this week, and my, what a journey it's been.  We saw US brands like Sonia Kashuk and Le Metier de Beaute arrive in the UK and then leave again, and some British classics like Ruby & Milly and Naked Skincare disappear.  The savvy consumer now has more variety than ever to play with, from insanely good high street brands like Bourjois and Makeup Revolution, to the extreme of high end luxury that is Christian Louboutin's new £60 lipsticks.

Blogging's changed a lot, too.  Barely six months after we started LBR, our IMATS press passes ignited a tirade from one person on how blogging wasn't a valid form of media - six years later, it's hard to imagine anyone bashing bloggers, given how big a part of the beauty industry they've become.

From bedroom consumer passionistas to full-time journologger hybrids, you don't have to work for a glossy magazine to be an influencer any more- and indeed, influencers are now counted by their Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube following, rather than a boringly flat circulation figure.  There's a lot written about the movement from hobbyist to professional and the difference in perspective that may come from relying on your blog for a living, but remember - we all started out of a love of the feeling that comes from a new lipstick, the excitement of trying a new styling product, and the glow that comes from discovering a fragrance so you that you know it's a keeper.

Long may it continue, and whether you're a pro-blogger, a weekend blogger or a lipstick hungry consumer, keep doing what you do and enjoy every moment.

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

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 If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Grumpy Blogger Rants: The Expectation of Samples

Image lovingly modified from an original from

I've been blogging now for over four years, first at a short-lived blog called Project Beauty before I hooked up with Sarah and established LBR, which I now run on my own.  I'm very, very lucky in that I have good relationships with a number of brands, am regularly invited to events, and regularly receive samples to try out.

I love receiving samples.  I love receiving any form of cosmetics, whether I bought it myself, it's a gift, or it's a sample from a brand I'm interested in.  The day I stop getting a little thrill when I come home to a padded envelope is the day I check in to a padded room  stop blogging stop being interested in beauty products.

And you know what?  I feel like I've earned the right to those samples - I schedule content regularly, I write honestly, I've spent time building up an audience who (hopefully) trust my reviews.  I spend a huge amount of time on this blog - I joke that LBR is my night job, and really, it is - it takes up a day and often multiple evenings of my week, which is a big commitment when you have a 60-hour-a-week dayjob.  I still LOVE it.  LOVE testing cosmetics, photographing cosmetics, writing about cosmetics, even writing poems about cosmetics.

So it sort of gets my goat when I go to events and see bloggers turning their nose up at the apparently-meager contents of their goody bags.  It also gets my goat when I see undisclosed reviews, and read about undisclosed paid content.  And it also gets my goat (I don't literally have a goat, just a figurative one) when I see and hear new bloggers complaining about the lack of samples.  Let's get one thing straight:

Having a blog does not entitle you to samples.

I suspect some bloggers aren't entirely clear on why they get samples.  Bloggers get samples because brands want to raise awareness.  They get samples because brands want to create buzz on a product.  They do not get samples because brands like them, or because other people get samples.  Brands don't have infinite supplies of them.  They are not presents, nor are they a mark of popularity.  They are a marketing tool, no more and no less.

If you would like some samples in the future, and you're a new blogger, build an audience.  Review every beauty product you have lying around at home, or those you can beg from your friends, post lemming lists, take photos of interesting new things you've seen at Boots and post those too.  Post meaningful comments on other people's blogs.  Publish meaningful comments on yours.  Use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pintrest to engage with likeminded folk, both blogger and consumer alike.

Having a blog with a legitimate following entitles you to maybe appear interesting to brands if your following matches their demographic.

Don't go begging for samples (particularly by tweeting at brands publicly).  Don't publicly complain about not getting any samples (online or IRL).  Samples are about brands getting exposure to the public, so your public profile matters.  And don't feel hard done by if you have to wait a while to build up PR contacts.  After all, you're not in this for the free stuff, right?

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Illamasqua Creators Collection

Illamasqua have teamed up with a few favourite bloggers to create a mini-collection called Creators - it pays homage to Illamasqua's online popularity, in celebration of their 5th birthday.  I can't quite believe they're been around for 5 years - feels like yesterday they were bursting onto the scene with their refreshing attitude towards makeup.

The collection is made up of two lip glosses - one Intense and one Sheer - and two nail polishes.

The lipglosses are Wanderlust, an Intense lipgloss with an interesting brown base with multi-coloured shimmer.  It's pretty striking.  Culminate is a sheer gloss, and has a peachy pink base with copper glitter.

The polishes are my favourites of this collection, mostly because I always wear polish and I rarely wear gloss.  Perseid is a deep purple black with multi-coloured glitter in multiple sizes - it's absolutely beautiful in the bottle.  Fusion is a cool bronze shade with silver and gold glitter.

On the nail, I find myself preferring Fusion - it has a low level sparkle which really catches the light, and it applies like a dream - smooth, virtually opaque in one coat, and easy to remove for a sparkly polish.  Perseid is the opposite.  The glitter makes it somewhat gloopy and chunky, and you really have to work to get it even on the nail.

You'll find Illamasqua's Creators collection online now, where each piece will cost you £14.50.

Disclosure: PR samples

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

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...

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