In the space of a few months we’ve gone from hailing blogs as the biggest and most important thing to happen to the media landscape in a generation, to discussing whether the end is nigh and if they’re really the future of content consumption at all. So where is this chatter coming from? Over the last decade blogs, vlogs and social media stars have changed the way we communicate, source information, get our kicks and find inspiration. They provided the ultimate escape from over-airbrushed, over-edited, over-marketed magazines and advertising, instead showing ‘real people’ and bringing their ‘real opinions’ to the forefront; we swapped ultimate glossiness for a sprinkle of reality, but over the last few years the lines have undoubtedly been blurring.
Although it started from a place of realism and provided an antidote to the images that left us collectively feeling less than confident about our appearance, many of these social media darlings are now showcasing the very things that we were challenging: hugely aspirational lifestyles, incredibly over-edited and over-stylised imagery, endorsements and collaborations that are less than authentic and a focus on consumerism over self-care. There may be a resurgence of #relatable and raw content, but fundamentally our industry is at a crossroads; is this an opportunity for us to flourish, or is the death of blogging really upon us?
There’s no doubt that we’re all struggling right now, seeing the negative impact of everything from an Instagram algorithm that prioritises big name content to the fact that comments are at an all time low. With the hundreds of thousands of new pieces of content being published every single day, it’s harder than ever to gain and retain the attention of a core audience; it’s almost impossible to grow without a big break or the endorsement of a super YouTuber, and with thousands of sites offering the same thing we’re all competing for the same campaigns and brand relationships. I’m not gonna lie – it’s bloody hard.
I’ve definitely noticed a drop in my following, general stats and engagement across all platforms over the last twelve months, and after eight years of building a brand it’s painful to witness. Admittedly I have reduced my content production by about a third overall (and completely re-branded,) but I definitely lose more than I gain – and I’m not alone. I hear more and more than bloggers are hemorrhaging followers, losing a big percentage of their monthly hits and falling from the attention of readers they’ve had supporting them for years.
But you know what? It’s no reason to panic.
The truth is, people’s habits have evolved; their attention has fragmented and the way they consume information online is completely different to only a few years ago. We no longer spend hours devouring our favourite sites, or researching the latest mascara launch – instead we flick, we scroll, we like, we share, but we don’t necessarily take the time to support in the way that we once did. We’re overwhelmed with information and opinion, so we have to pick and choose. Although I still read a tonne of different blogs and follow hundreds of different bloggers, as a reader I know it’s often easier to refine your reading list and click only when you have a spare few minutes waiting in the Starbucks queue on your lunch break. (I swear I consume most content while waiting for coffee.)
The growth of platforms including Snapchat, Insta Stories and Facebook Live have enabled us to deliver and consume content in the moment with a sense of immediacy about it; often we don’t have the patience to devour a full magazine, in the same way we don’t always want to read a 1000 word article on how to style up a trench coat, but we will take a quick look at the pictures. Instagram has become such a huge focus for so many (because of our desire for photographs that tell a story,) that they’re practically ditching their home-grown sites altogether – but in my opinion that’s not a long-term way to future-proof your brand, or your income.
Although the grid is hot right now, we know there are more problems with Instagram than there are with the Brexit strategy; Snapchat lost millions of dollars off its value and lost users quicker than the Titanic sank after Kylie Jenner and Rihanna expressed their lack of support for the platform; YouTubers have been vocal about the restrictions placed upon them to monetise their sites (or even get their content seen,) while Facebook is being pulled apart for effectively letting their users data be sold to the highest bidder. These sites have a purpose and value yes, but we don’t own them and we don’t have control about what happens next – all it takes is for a new algorithm or media storm to render our content practically invisible, but with your own blog you will *always* retain authority.
My site has provided me with a place to express my opinions, be creative and build a community of like-minded people; it allows me to tell stories without limit or restriction, and it permits that content to be discoverable indefinitely. Unlike Instagram, where my image is lucky to have a lifespan of 24 hours, some of my most popular blog posts continue to be those that were written five years ago – and I know where I’d rather put the majority of my effort. That’s not to say I don’t love a bit of Insta, that you won’t find me nattering over on Twitter or pinning my latest pics to Pinterest, but my blog will always be the amalgamation of all those ideas and conversations in one place.
I’m thankful to have developed an incredible core audience that support everything I do and continue to read pretty much everything I write; I’m so grateful for the comments and lovely words they read and the fact they go out of their way to see what my opinion is on a hot topic or new launch. The value I have isn’t in my staggering numbers or ability to say I’m the biggest or the best, but in the fact that I have a readership I’m proud of and a long-standing relationship with many of them who’ve been there with me from the very start. New readers discover me every day, but instead of chasing growth or worrying about where I’m heading, I take comfort in the fact my point of difference is so much more than my stats.
From my point of view, my blog is where it’s at – and as long as you keep on reading, I’ll be here keeping on writing.
So is the death of blogging imminent? Nope, I really don’t think so. It’s the landscape that’s changing; we just need to respond accordingly (and buckle in for a potentially bumpy ride.)
What are your thoughts on the future of blogs, both as a reader or content creator yourself?
Photos taken by Kirsty from Fashion For Lunch
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