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.
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.