My best guess would be sometime between 2007 and now. Let’s see, in 1999, I dipped with a discussion on “The Lion King” on my ever changing website. Because, obviously, blogs didn’t exist, timestamps and ruler lines separated the barrage of opinions. To be fair, blogging platforms, including Blogspot, launched around that time, but they weren’t popular, and everything was so slow and broken all the time! Except for LiveJournal. I loved my LiveJournal! Anyway, I was 12 and talking about how beautiful Nala looked. Meanwhile, just a few years ago Tavi Gevinson was 13 and already inhaling her first breaths of New York Fashion Week as front row royalty.
My shoddily constructed and poorly hosted website (thanks, Angelfire, just kidding, you rocked!) looked like chicken droppings compared to Gevinson-age popular Blogspot. She started her blog in 2008. Susanna Lau, the genius behind Susie Bubble, began her ventures in blogging in 2006 (this crudely constructed timeline is slowly coming together.)
In 2008, I jumped on the fashion opinion train and commenced with the commentaries on a blog of my own. Because I was working in fashion, it was only appropriate. Susie Bubble was already reaching massive ranks, and the world was talking about the “blogging” phenomenon. Specifically, the discussion centered around the credibility of these journalistic endeavors. In a somewhat contradicting manner, I never gave myself the benefit of the doubt that my posts were, in fact, credible. I did, however, look up to other bloggers and followed updates incessantly, firmly believing their voice was just as important as any fashion magazine.
I had a good run with my blog for about a year and a half before I decided to take a “hiatus”. The hiatus was a relatively popular thing to do for a casual blogger. It’s like summering in the Hamptons when you’re a well-off New Yorker. This pause is unthinkable at blogging’s current standard. There are teams of people making sure content is pushed out on a rigorous schedule.
Long story short, I knew nothing of the moneymaking abilities of said blog. I never replied to “endorsement” emails, because WTF is that? I also didn’t realize that my traffic meant something. The way I saw it, I was getting paid few thousand a shoot modeling (commercial, the editorials never paid) so I was happy doing that instead of “wasting” my time pretending I was a journalist.
If you told me at that point that bloggers would be making upwards of a million a year, I wouldn’t believe you. Yet, here we are and everyone is still confused how in the world the (select) blogging community is now making money from event appearances. In other words, they’ve gained celebrity status.
The problem is that there’s a bit of a “Wizard of Oz” effect pulsing through the blogging community. A perpetuated image of impeccable lives, glamorous events, and luxurious closets laden with designer duds makes the readership drool. Couple that with pretty photography and well-maintained websites and you’re bound to get a few million hits.
Unfortunately, the readers don’t fully know what is paid for by the sponsors and what is inherently part of the blogger’s natural world. Yes, we now have more disclaimers, disclosures and overt “partnerships” but it’s still difficult to tell fact from fiction simply because of such a PERSONAL connection the bloggers have with their readers. That’s the whole point, right? We want to have that engagement and the conversations.
While I agree that this breeding ground of toxic relationships dominates some aspects of the blogging community, at the core, many bloggers have an ability to build trust with discerning readers. This is still a new field and we’re a generation of quick learners. We need to play a game of checks and balances in order to elevate this into a respectable job. I find it hard to say I’m a blogger when anyone asks. The words come out slowly, with thorough hesitation. Luckily, I began equating blogging with an entrepreneurial spirit, and I think all bloggers are ultimately self-motivated entrepreneurs. Though a good chunk remains pretty self-absorbed and superlatively narcissistic.
Blogs will keep popping up at an incredible rate, but that in no way means hard-working bloggers are being diluted. It’s like saying because websites are constantly being created, no website can truly have an impact. If anything, it highlights who’s truly passionate about the field and treats the experience like a job they’re lucky to have. I feel incredibly fortunate to be in an industry that inspires and energizes me.
I think plenty of big name blogs (yes, the ones making good bucks) provide incredible added value. Others, maybe not so much. Passionate bloggers should be proud and keep fighting for the credibility they deserve. The content producers and consumers need to accept that ads and partnerships are required to continue producing good content. I need those ads to be able to pay for the hosting, maintenance, and things like food. We just need to get a little bit more real and stop making our entire existence and personality one giant ad.