March 5, 2017 | life

Oh Blogging, Where Art Thou?

November will mark the 10th anniversary of this blog. Ten frikkin’ years. What a ride. When I started Bangs & a Bun, in a freezing cold bedroom in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, no way could I have dreamed up where it has taken me. Back in ’07, blogging was yet to really become a thing. Those of us who did it, were presumed to be loser weirdos, living in our mothers’ basements (side note: can we puh-lease kill the whole ‘mother’s basement thing now? It’s enough already). Blogging has had quite the evolution over the years. Where we are now, the 2017 version of blogging? Yeah, I’m not really feeling it and I’ll tell you why.

It’s damn near impossible to figure out what bloggers are about anymore. When I started, it was because I loved writing. I simply wanted to write more and get better at it. I wanted to find my voice and connect with people. Blogging, most definitely helped me do all that. But at the root of it, was a simple love of writing.

After a couple of years of blogging every day and no one reading it (no exaggeration, I was getting 30-50 hits a day. There are no zeros missing there – literally thirty to fifty hits – yet I continued to blog, regardless. There’s a lesson there, kids), people eventually took notice and I started to be contacted by PR people, interested in me working with the various brands they were representing.

Well, how flattering!

Much of that was unpaid to begin with – it was really just nice to be asked. But time went on, my following grew, offers came in thick and fast. Blogging was now what I did, which sounded good, except it was nigh on impossible to maintain a living doing it.

I was really pleased with my writing and the way my voice had developed, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do a sponsored post or two out of sheer financial desperation at times.

What I will say for myself though, is that I was always very careful about sponsored posts and brand partnerships. I steered clear of them unless I felt I could really connect with the brand or they’d be of genuine interest to my readers.

And that’s been the stumbling block for modern blogging. Blogs that have started in the last few years (let’s say from 2012 onwards), were born when blogging had reached its peak. New bloggers got to see blogging stars – people who’d gone on to be wildly successful, with millions of followers, red carpet invites, brand partnerships and mucho bucks. Blogging had gone from a little corner of the internet to worldwide fame.

And new bloggers wanted in.

So, blogs were started, not necessarily with the vision of creating a space to document a person’s particular passion or interest, but merely as a gateway to the various riches blogging could potentially bring.

The foundations were not laid (say, where you might blog for a couple of years with no one reading it, in order to establish a tone of voice, a purpose, an ability to string a sentence together). That was all bypassed and you’d see people who’d been blogging a couple of weeks emailing PRs asking for freebies.

I cringe.

It was around this time that I started to shy away from calling myself a ‘blogger’. I was a little embarrassed by what it was morphing into.

Brands were losing their way too. People were inflating follower numbers, buying likes on Instagram – the game was rigged. It was getting harder and harder to tell what was genuine and blogs were popping up so fast, it was like Whack-a-Mole trying to keep up with them all. Brands and PRs were just throwing money and partnership opportunities at anything and everyone and seeing what stuck.

Now, you don’t even need to blog. You don’t actually need to be about anything. Are you pretty with a crap ton of followers? That’ll do. Sure, all brands say they want real, genuine engagement and I’m sure some of them do, but it’s just too hard to seek out truth in a sea of mediocre bollocks.

So now we just have ‘influencers’. It’s very hard to tell what influencers are about, because it seems that everything they post is in partnership with a brand. Any brand. Whichever one threw them money that day.

‘Here’s my opinion! (brought to you by [insert brand name here]’

And yet still, buzz words like ‘genuine’, ‘real’ and ‘honest’ are bandied about in relation to this movement. Influencers themselves will talk about how much they relate to and connect with certain brands. Really? ‘Cause I come across maybe a couple of brands a year whose message I really dig. These guys are posting content from different brands every day! Their ethics must be all over the gaff to find a way to deeply connect with all of these things.

I bet their bank accounts sure do connect with those dollars though.

I always thought of blogging as a way to give voice to the little guy (or gal, or non-gender conforming individual). We had a chance to create our own media, to be the antithesis of everything that frustrated us about the mainstream. Now every other thing I see in my timeline is an influencer spouting how much they love whatever their brand of choice is that day, with professionally taken photographs, Photoshopped within an inch of their lives.

With all the tools and opportunity to create a media of our own, we’ve become walking advertisements for brands. Ethics and values – all up for the highest bidder.

When I had my site redesigned at the end of last year, I made a point of telling my designer I don’t want any advertising on here. I had my time where I got caught up in the hype and thought I’d make my living from my blog, but for me, it came at too high a price. To make it a reality would mean having everything I do sponsored by some brand or whacking up ads I don’t really care for.

I’m not saying I’ll never do a sponsored post again – but I do know they’ll be very few and far between. Having integrity dictates that they will be.

I just want to be about the writing, man. I want to be able to discover new people and their passions without having to deep dive through a sea of hashtags and ads before I can figure it out. I want people to be brave enough to be boldly who they are without needing a brand to cosign their worth or coolness.

Blogging really was a beautiful thing. I hope we get it back one day.

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15 Comments

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I started blogging in 2011, and within a few months things just started taking off with Cosmo doing their blog awards and the wider media beginning to shed light on the phenomenon. I didn’t blog for fame, money or whatever else comes with it nowadays – I merely did it to express my passion for beauty, and to boost my CV when applying for internships as I was a student at the time.

Almost 6 years on and I barely blog. Despite my friends and family always encouraging me to, I cannot pinpoint a particular reason why, but I have a few reasons/anxieties/concerns floating around in my head. My blog took a huge hit a couple of years ago when I had a mental health breakdown; where my blog was what initially helped me through tough times, it became a burden due to the competition and high standards I’d set for myself. I’ve since made a very deliberate decision that I only compete with myself because I cannot continue to look at other blogs and beat myself up for not being good enough. My second reason for not blogging is that it’s become an industry that I really resent. Though I’ve met wonderful people and made great friends from blogging, I feel as though since companies have taken an interest in blogs as yet another medium in which they communicate their marketing messages, blogging has become both a way of carving out a living for ones self, but also a very nasty environment. To expand on the latter, getting a brand to send you free products, or to get a campaign or sponsored post is the ultimate goal and many bloggers will do what they can to get it. I’ve personally had ‘friends’ ask me to get into a brand’s launch event or for PR contacts only to then ditch me the minute they get ‘big’. Such people get far in their life, and it’s not fair. Money ruined blogging, and it will have to get worse before it gets better; the bubble will burst sooner or later and bloggers like yourself with integrity will last.

We can only get back to the beautiful blogging you desire if we return to the radical, refreshing impartiality that bloggers initially started out with. We were interesting to the media because we expressed our feelings and opinions freely, but money ruined it and now I find myself doubting a blogger’s word because I wonder if they’ve been paid to say that they have. That’s why I respect you not having banners and ads. I understand that for some blogging is their livelihood, but I have to admire those that are willing to put the prospect of money to the side for the sake of honesty and integrity.

Arash Mazinani

Loved this post! I started in 2010 and noticed even since then how much it’s changed. I stopped blogging in 2014 and only in the last couple of weeks have decided to re-start it. I’ve always been writing about fashion and personal style as it was a niche I started out in and one I feel I can genuinely offer some value in.

When I decided to stop I noticed a shift in blogs. When I started everyone seemed to have a niche, beauty and fashion (particularly outfit of the day OOTD) type bloggers were huge. But from around 2014 I noticed more and more lifestyle blogs that covered everything. I’m not sure why? Possibly because the restrictions of focusing on a single niche means you have to say no to certain invites or sponsorship deals. Whereas if you cover pretty much anything you can say yes to more deals and get invited to a wider variety of events.

It feels a lot of blogs are saying the same things. Not many really keep it real anymore. Very few are prepared to really share their opinion on a subject (for fear of putting new sponsors off?) or talk about a subject in detail.

Having said all that there are still some great blogs, they’re just much, much harder to find.

I wrote a similar post to this on a friend’s blog a couple of years ago, in which, I compared a lot the blogs that are full of sponsored content to those free mags you get shoved through your letter box.

Kylie

I remember starting a tumblr in 2009 and finding a COMMUNITY of weird and wonderful people… most of whom became friends and pen pals. I tried to keep up with what blogging was evolving into and I completely fell out of love with it – to the point that I hit the delete button on my entire blog that documented my health and fitness journey for 7 years.
Initially I felt liberated but a part of me lost a voice and a way I expressed myself and connected with others.
Trying to get that back now is seemingly impossible. I might have a tiny voice in my corner of the internetiverse but it is hushed in a new landscape of influencers.
I am done with trying to keep up, but I am happy.

Always on point with your words, Bangs. It has been a long time since following your tumblr but your voice is still as authentic and badass as ever.

Cindy

I totally get where you’re coming from! I started blogging in 2009 and have never really had that many readers. I’ve done a handful of sponsored posts, but most of the time I’ve shared an item or service, it’s been because I bought it and loved it and wanted to share it with the world.

I never felt I could compete with other similar typed bloggers b/c I didn’t have the name or the connections or the desire to chase after markers and ambassadorships.

I haven’t really blogged consistently over the past few years as I’ve been finishing my PhD and that took precedent, and I hope to get back to it, even if it’s just for myself.

The Jaded NYer

Yooooo, the good ol’ days of hanging out in your comments! I totally miss it. The post made me so nostalgic for it all. I’m glad you stuck around, though; you were one of my faves, because not only did you always have something real to say, you’re actually a good writer. It was rare then, and it’s rare now. xo

Jennie Spiller

So true! I never know what to trust any more when people recommend products, places, restaurants, bars, holidays, gym classes etc. The list goes on and on. I made a new years resolution in 2016 to unfollow all accounts that constantly bombard with sponsored posts and/or are a stream of perfectly manicured toned women (bar my sister, of course). And man, I feel way better for it. My feed is now full of people doing genuine people doing inspiring things, taking beautiful photographs, changing opinions and educating me every damn day. 😀

Jem

Privilege called, wants its high horse back. Not everyone can afford to hire a designer and turn down advertising or freebies.

While I agree with the sentiment behind questioning those that jump in the saddle and immediately expect a free bag of oats, it’s important to remember that blogging and its rewards has opened up many chances for those who would be otherwise overlooked.

Jen

Agree with Jem-surely you can appreciate the position you are In is surely down to the fact you had amazing chances with your blog and quite rightly took them? Comes across as incredibly patronising (perhaps not intentionally) to talk about your conversations with your blog designer and deciding you don’t wish to advertise. Many bloggers are happy to just have a bit of pocket money to cover the £10 theme they bought off Etsy and their hosting fees. We must also stop this attitude that one blogger is better/worse than another because they accept money or gifts; it’s not art-if you’re good at something, why shouldn’t you get paid to do it?

Lina | Mind over Matter

True story.

I started my first blog in 2005 and I still blog now. Mostly because I just like doing it but I have gotten some cool stuff to review as well and I can’t say I don’t like that aspect of blogging. Still, I like the fact that I have a job that pays my bills so I don’t HAVE to work that hard in monetising my blog. Some people do it incredibly well and actually – good for them. (I don’t read most of these blogs 😉 but I guess plenty of people do so each to their own).

Steve

Totally and utterly agree with every single world.

I blog about fitness – possibly one of the most crowded areas of the blogging world.

My writing is from professional experience (I’m a personal trainer with nearly 15 years in the industry), but all of the top ‘fitness’ blogs are essentially full of puddle-deep, brand-sponsored content written by pretty women who lost touch with the real fitness message a long time ago. Now their content is all about their day out at the (insert product name here) launch.

It possibly sounds bitter, it may even be – I haven’t given it too much thought. I know quality of message seems to be less relevant than reach nowadays, which is a pretty big shame.

Give me interesting and informative over self-indulgent any day of the week…

LesLeigh J.

I personally don’t have a problem with sponsored content, as long as it’s done well.
To me, it’s just an excuse to throw up your hands and say that you can’t trust anyone and that all blogging has gone to hell.
The truth is, most people can spot a dishonest “influencer” when they see one, so that’s not even really an issue. And to promote this “us versus them” mentality between “genuine” bloggers who only do it for the “art,” and “fake” bloggers who only do it for the money, is only perpetuating the problem.
There are people in EVERY industry who are willing to sell their soul to make a buck. It’s been that way since the dawn of time, and certainly before the Internet.
I really don’t intend to chastise. I’m just frankly a little disheartened to see OG bloggers whom I used to admire, complaining about the good ol’ days.
Everything changes. That’s life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with nostalgia for simpler times, but to throw all current bloggers under the bus because they don’t meet your criteria for what’s genuine? I don’t know what that achieves.
Those are just my thoughts on the matter.

But thank you for your honesty either way!

Ashlie

I have blogged for years with almost no one reading it and there’s not a flood of people knocking on my door to pass out freebies, but surely it wouldn’t make any difference to YOUR blogging experience if that was my situation? I usually find that people don’t have to explain their integrity- it should come across without a comparison to those you consider inferior. Good blogs are worth digging around to find, and sometimes attitude turns me off as much as sponsored content.

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