It’s been nearly a decade since I started writing about stuff on the internet, which makes me feel quite decrepit in a digital world full of young hot things selling a lifestyle my teenage self thought only existed for members of girl bands and actresses in rom coms. You may have heard it as many times as Piers Morgan moaning about the Kardashians, but it really was a simpler and purer time back at the dawn of blogging and social media; we did it from a place of pure love, desperation to connect and escapism from our otherwise dull lives. There was no ulterior motive in sight, because monetary gain or celebrity status simply wasn’t part of the journey – the most you could hope for was a free shower gel alongside a free glass of champagne and a cupcake for your time.
There’s no doubting that blogging has completely changed my life. If it wasn’t for taking the plunge that rather boring April day, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today – two businesses and many other ventures under my belt, a career in digital media to build on my experience in marketing and often called upon to work with some of the biggest global brands. And I’m not alone, as thousands of men and women are now earning their living creating content or launching their own businesses through the power of social media, vlogs and blogs. It’s even been reported that up to 75% of young people now wish to be a YouTuber when they grow up – surpassing the dreams we had as kids of either becoming an archeologist (me), ice cream lady (my sister), pop star (my best friend) or everything inbetween.
“Bloggers started to get paid; they quit their jobs and hired managers; they started to earn more than they ever did working a 9-5.”
During the blogging boom, every brand going wanted to be seen on the best sites and work with the most influencial writers; they understood the value of the long form articles bloggers could provide and the longevity they offered (there’s a reason why a whole new category of SEO agency popped up with the birth of blogs.) Brands started to see the value of working with these new media outlets and diverting budget away from big television campaigns, generating far more impact (and sales) for their buck than chucking something on around The X Factor. Bloggers started to get paid; they quit their jobs and hired managers; they started to earn more than they ever did working a 9-5.
But over the last twelve months it’s become increasingly hard, as a blogger, to make a decent income. The value of the written word has hugely decreased in favour of more visual and immediate content, with brands (on the whole) preferring to invest in comparatively cheaper and more timely Instagram posts. The worrying result is that so many of the bloggers I used to turn to on almost a daily basis have pretty much shut up shop; their sites are barren, with only a sprinkling of sponsored posts and holiday reviews to keep them ticking over. And you can’t blame them really: if Instagram is where it’s at, monetary wise, it would be silly not to invest the time and effort into growing and feeding that channel – it’s just unfortunate it’s at the expense of the blogs that many of us loved them for so much.
So where does this leave us as we enter 2019? Rather than worrying about the future of blogging (which has honestly been top of my mind for pretty much the last twelve months) I believe this year provides a huge opportunity for those of us who still love to write. Instagram may be hot right now, but as I said within a post almost a year ago on the ‘death of blogging‘, it doesn’t necessarily provide a sustainable and ownable option – nor does it provide the opportunity to write in-depth thoughts or recommendations, which will always be of value. Here’s an extract from that post, which I still stand by entirely…
“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… Instagram has become such a huge focus for so many 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.”
Over the years my blog has provided me with a place to express my opinions, be creative and build a community of like-minded people; it’s allowed me to tell stories without limit or restriction (posting twenty different images of my new dress if that’s what I want to do!) and it permits that content to be discoverable indefinitely. Unlike Instagram, where my image is lucky to have a lifespan of 24 hours and seen by only a fraction of my followers (10% on a good day), some of my most popular blog posts are those written years ago and are still discoverable via the wonders of Google and Pinterest. That’s something I’m not prepared to yet give up on – even if those reading are becoming fewer and further between.
“Like the resurgence of hard copy books and movie soundtracks, it seems living in such a fast paced and immediate world has actually given us thirst for something more meaningful.”
I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter, from bloggers and readers alike, reminiscing about long form articles and the power of the written word over a quick picture. The tide is definitely turning back towards sitting down with a cup of tea and digesting 1000 words on the best shows to binge, how to get a better nights sleep or the mascaras you need to try – and I’m honestly not surprised. Like the resurgence of hard copy books and movie soundtracks, it seems living in such a fast paced and immediate world has actually given us thirst for something more meaningful; sometimes slowing down and paying attention to one thing is just what we need to regain our focus, and honestly I’d far prefer to read the recommendation of someone who’s spent time researching, trying and writing up a review of a product than someone who’s just held it up to their face for a quick cash injection.
The growing older market also has something to do with the sudden rekindled interest in blogs, as us over 30’s (and 40’s / 50’s / 60’s) still remember the joy of flicking through a magazine – something that can’t be compared to scrolling through your Instagram feed. As this older demographic becomes increasingly tech savvy, they’re the ones starting up blogs or googling how to apply winged eyeliner; the youngsters over on Insta and Snapchat will soon get bored and move onto something new, while the more mature audience will remain loyal to those they trust and sites that bring them joy.
“The youngsters over on Insta and Snapchat will soon get bored and move onto something new, while the more mature audience will remain loyal to those they trust and sites that bring them joy.”
Instagram absolutely has its value (and honestly it’s where I’ve made 50% of my income this year) but it’s a flash in the pan when compared to the longevity of digital media as a whole. The skill set involved in being a great Instagrammer (good clothes, good pose and good editing skills) is completely different to that of a great writer who can tell stories and engage you enough to get to the end of that 2000 word feature on a face cream. It’s where I can really get creative, bringing my loyal readers regular content they can continue to enjoy free of charge – even if I’m rarely paid for it.
Where does this all leave us in 2019, I hear you ask? Honestly, I’m not sure – but what I am sure of is the fact that bloggers, brands and readers are starting to turn back to where it all began. If we want our favourite blogs to continue we need to support them, both as a readers (read, comment, share) and brands (the value of a blog post is far superior to that of an Instagram picture.) We need to ride this wave and continue to put our hearts into the sites that have been such a support system for such a long time, and reap the benefits that are inevitably to come.
So yes, I think 2019 might just be the year of the blog. Do you?
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