A friend recently commented that my blog wants to make her buy the things I am writing about. I took it in the spirit she meant - she loved my blog. But it made me think - Are bloggers 'selling' things to their readers (even unknowingly)? This year for Black Friday, consumers all across the country spent more than 52 Billion dollars (yes, Billion!) over the 4 day weekend! (They also used pepper spray, shot the bullets and got arrested, but thats a different story!) While reading about these figures, I wonder how many people bought things they saw on style, fashion and beauty blogs? How much of a sales force are fashion bloggers? And not only for the Black Friday but in general. Recent story in Financial Times underscores the fact that fashion bloggers are the new Ad & PR vehicle! As consumers themselves, fashion bloggers are (or should be) the most authentic voice and purest judges of products, services and trends. But does corporate advertising and PR
polluting this purity?
Blogging as a platform essentially means the 'truly free' opinions. The only bias comes from the blogger's thinking, not from the outside agency. But as the blogosphere gets crowded each day, blogs are becoming another source of sales for products or services. There is a very fine line between having an opinion and selling something. And sometimes without the intention, fashion bloggers cross that line. As I write my blog (and talk about products and services in my posts) I am trying to understand and answer these questions-
- Are we unknowingly working for the brands? - We put the outfit post with the details of the clothes and accessories (to make it easy for readers to find those things if they like). But as my friend said, a good picture or a nicely put together outfit instigate the readers to get the 'same look'. There comes my next question -
- Are we shopoholism enablers? In the movie 'Confessions of a Shopoholic' Rebecca Bloomwood says about the fashionable girls - "..they were beautiful, they were happy, they didn't even need money, they had magic cards (aka credit cards)" (And that's how magically they get in debt too!) I can't help but wonder (take that Carrie Bradshaw), how much magic card spending fashion bloggers are responsible for. We report about the It bags, latest must-have accessories and the season's best clothes, we put our pictures, tell people where to buy it - it all 'enables the shopoholism'. (on the other hand - somebody's got to stimulate the economy!) This brings me to my next question-
- Are we commenting on the trends or pushing the products?- As the style enthusiasts, fashion bloggers critique, admire and suggest all things fashionable. I discover so many great products via blogs! That's why we love blogs - they are the real deal, real people talking about what they think is cool/practical/ has the best value. But is it really true? Are all bloggers 'just blogging'. Or are they the new billboard? The bloggers with a huge fan following can even sway their readers' opinions (and thus an advertising opportunity for brands/retailers). Recently I got to know about a group of influential bloggers (not naming names) opening up their online store that carries products from their 'hauls' calling it their 'collection' , but in reality it was the same mass-produced stuff you can get in most retail stores, may be cheaper too. Although who am I to judge if they have a market for that, but I am sure their blogs have moved far away from the true core of blogging! This brings me to my next point-
- Are we contributing to materialism?- This is the most complex point when it comes to fashion and style blogging. Fashion itself is a term associated with buying. It is very hard to be stylish without investing money in 'stuff'. Fashion blogging has brought the phenomenon of 'street style' to a whole new level where street style often comes with a steep price. A lot of websites devoted to the pictures of street style or common people's fashion pictures certainly don't make you 'not buy'!! And the blogging 'icons' soon become brands themselves. This brings me my final point -
- Are we selling out our editorial integrity?- Most of the fashion bloggers are still authentic, honest to goodness bloggers, but many of them have compromised the editorial integrity by selling products or services through their editorial content. And the disturbing thing is - they are not selling it in the pure form of advertising (by selling the ad space)- they are selling it by wrapping it up in their writing, decorated by their 'unbiased opinion' bow!
It's a complicated matter and has no one dimensional answer. It's also the result of the inherent nature of fashion and style - a major part of of fashion is buying! And I know firsthand - blogging is not easy work. It takes time and energy and we put many things in the back seat when we decide to blog regularly. So why shouldn't we get paid for it? You wouldn't work in an office where you didn't get paid for your time and effort. How to tread the line between getting paid for hard work and selling out the blogs is a skill that separates the blogger from seller!
What do you consider the difference between blogging and selling?