The Problem with the Blogging Business
August 19th, 2015
Fashion blogging has changed dramatically over the past couple of years.
I started blogging six years ago as an outlet to share my personal opinions on menswear and style. The original site is still online. It’s crazy looking back at how much has changed, but also how much has remained the same. From my first post, dated March 10, 2009:
“Hello and welcome to my Men’s Style Blog. Living in New York City there is certainly no shortage of fashion all around, but I’ve come to notice over the years that the best style is not found on the racks of department stores or the mannequins of high-end boutiques, but rather on the unique and interesting people in the city’s streets. Therefore, as a fashion & style enthusiast, I started this blog not only to share my thoughts on the subjects of fashion and style but also to share photos of the stylish people that I came across in the street. I also hope that, one day, this blog can grow to become a meeting place for other enthusiasts to discuss their opinions and share tips about their personal style.”
If you’re really ambitious, you can read the original site in it’s entirety here, and continue by going through the AoS Archives in the right side column ->
In 2009 the “business of blogging” hadn’t started yet. Blogging was new. Nobody had a custom site optimized for banner placements. Blogging was simply an outlet for people to share their experiences and opinions on a topic that they were passionate about. It was genuine and honest, for the most part…perhaps with some embellishment. This was also a time when most of the specialized content that the public was consuming came from editorial magazines mostly owned by the same parent corporation, which were starting to reveal their advertorial-heavy hand in a world that was quickly becoming fast and transparent.
The thing about magazines is that they are full of paid advertisements. Not just the pages and pages of “ads”, I mean the articles and editorials themselves. I have a colleague who works for a major magazine (both of which will remain nameless) who was in LA about a month ago for a celebrity interview in Hollywood. As we usually do, we had a long dinner and drinking session where we shared our thoughts and practices on all things regarding the business of editorial and publishing.
Over some fire grilled fish tacos he basically tells me that (at the major menswear magazine) they don’t begin a story until they have a paid sponsor. “We have a list of high-level editorial ideas, lined with fitting potential sponsors, and the sales team hits the phones to see who’s willing to pay the most for the product placement or mention. Once the money is there and we the product from the brand is confirmed…then we hire the stylist, model, writer, etc. to bring the story to life”.
I guess I always knew this, as magazines are businesses, but I never really thought about it like that. The vast majority of the content we were consuming, before blogging and social media, was sponsored by major corporate brands.
Fast forward a few years, and let’s just say the advertisers have adapted faster than the magazines in this new world of grassroots “experts” with large followings and one-day turnaround times. Now that more and more eyeballs are moving from print to online, the blogger actually has the advantage. Blogging is fast, blogging is cheap, blogging is green, and blogging is “real”.
In response to the “blogger boom”, there are more and more bloggers every day, and a whole new industry known as “Blogger Management”, to serve them. If you reach a certain number of followers, it’s not unusual to have a manager, agent, assistant, a couple interns… The thing is, the money that gets commissioned by these “brand developers” has to come in strong, and keep growing. For the majority of bloggers, all of this money comes predominantly from one source: paid sponsored content from major brands published on their websites and social media accounts.
With that said, the past year or so has been difficult. We’ve been in transition and development mode. We’ve turned down a lot of money to do advertorial content for major brands. But shooting mediocre product that we don’t care about and pasting advertorial text is just not the reason we began this project, regardless of the price.
For a while I struggled with the idea of adding a clothing component to Articles of Style. I could see the reactions coming; “how can you remain unbiased when you’re shilling your own products? How can you keep an honest editorial voice?”. Well, the truth is, developing our own products is the only way to keep our editorial message genuine.
With the launch of our new collection we can completely drop all advertisements and advertising agreements. We can also create custom garments to improve our editorial content, while more importantly, creating a full-service experience where our readers can become our clients and we can custom make their wardrobes.
So I guess my plea today is this: if you’re a blogger, or you’re creeping up over 10,000 followers, and your goal is to monetize your following, think about the longevity of how you do so. Sponsored ads only come along so frequently, and your readers lose a little bit more interest in your “expertise” with every ad piece you publish. You are an expert in what you do. Learn as much as you can, and think about how you can provide something tangible that is in line with the reason all of those followers appreciate your work. A great blog can be a conduit to a great brand, not just another source to find advertisements disguised as artworks.
Thanks for reading. The team and I are very excited to present our collection and make our Articles tangible.
Yours in style,