There are two things in the title of this blog post that astounds me. Firstly, that I've been blogging for TEN WHOLE YEARS. Crazy. Secondly, the fact that blogging is now actually recognised as an 'industry'.
I began blogging in 2008, I was working full time as a picture editor for the Financial Times, but wanted a creative outlet separate from my job that involved my ever increasing passion for interiors. A friend sent me a link to Decor8, and straight away I made an actual scrapbook of ideas (not a Pinterest board - it didn't exist!), brainstormed some names and set up my first ever 'blogspot'. It looked awful but over time it evolved and has had various looks over the years. I learnt so much by just starting and finding out what worked and what didn't. Sadly, after years of blogging on blogspot, I managed to accidentally delete all my images in Picasa, which led to nearly all my posts losing their images. Gutting. I made a fresh start over on Squarespace, but it means that I can't direct you back to those naive posts from ten years ago for a bit of a giggle!
Back then, blogging was far from being considered an 'industry', in fact it was hard to be taken seriously when approaching brands to ask for use of images when I was putting together shopping posts. I certainly would never have dreamt of asking for a freebie! (I still don't tend to ask for these even now) There was no social media to promote your content so I've actually no idea how I ever got people to come and read my posts, other than interacting with other bloggers through commenting.
Over the years, blogging has become part of me, and while I often struggle to find time for it as my personal and professional lives have both changed dramatically too, I've always tried to keep connected to it and keep posting. I guess the most notable change for me personally was when I left my job and became freelance. It was no longer just a hobby, I felt the pressure to make it something that brought me income. Luckily, the evolution of this newly sought after industry meant this was actually possible. I've had many great opportunities over the years through my blog and I am SO thankful for that, but over the past few months, I've felt at a little bit of a loss with my blog's identity and it's place in this now hugely oversaturated market. I felt like the quest to make money from it had drained my creativity, and it was as if I'd lost sight of what I originally started it for.
It feels like the world of social media, blogging, marketing and PR moves so incredibly fast now that it's hard to keep up. When the idea of 'influencer marketing' - as it's now known - started to emerge, bloggers were frustrated by the fact that brands didn't want to pay for content, we were being taken advantage of. Then, brands appreciated or succumbed to the fact that if they wanted a slice of this new form of advertising they'd have to part with some cash. Many bloggers (who I admire and still read regularly) have learnt to create truly authentic content in collaboration with brands, but it now feels like SO many others are trying and failing, and that this is slowly destroying the world of blogging. I absolutely commend anyone that is making a living from doing something they love, but there is something cringeworthy about badly executed sponsored content, and I'm sure this is what is putting people off reading blogs. In the same way that people got frustrated with mainstream magazines and the pages and pages of advertisements they had to wade through before finding the actual editorial, people don't enjoy being sold to repetitively. Yes of course advertising is a part of our modern world, and as someone who publishes a magazine, I absolutely support it and believe there is a need for it, BUT the problem in the blogging world is that it is SO oversaturated and there is no quality control. Anyone with a computer can start a blog, and many millions of people have done just that, meaning it is just so incredibly noisy out there. Whereas, in the magazine publishing world it's not so easy to simply start a magazine, there is a bit more of a limit to how many publications will make it into the shops, and budgets limit how often they can publish and how much can be within the pages.
I realise it shouldn't be a direct comparison between the magazine industry and the blogging world, they are different beasts, but at the same time they have many similarities: They are providing content for people to consume, whether informative or inspirational. They are curated using words and images to construct a story or report. They are both media outlets that brands see as a platform to reach a specific type of person. Many people now say that they no longer read print magazines as they get their 'inspiration fix' online. But why is it that people have moved away from magazines to online? It is because it's free? Because it's easily accessible? Because they find the content better quality? Or because they wanted to avoid the advertising in magazines? Perhaps it's a combination of these things, but the most notable difference in the blog vs magazine comparison is that blogs are free to read, magazines are not.
Let's face it, money talks - and this is in reference to both the consumer and the producer. As consumers, we all love receiving things for free, so in that sense blogs and social media are highly appealing sources of inspiration. As producers, we need money to allow us to continue doing what we do. Blog advertising never really worked, hence the advent of influencer marketing. The contradiction is that consumers are now wise to the use of this kind of marketing, with many reporting that they don't like how it isn't always clear whether a post has been sponsored or not. This has led to many content creators having to become much more transparent, and explicitly labelling their posts with 'AD' or 'Sponsored', almost like a traditional ad.
Reflecting on these past ten years, I've found myself really thinking deeply about where the industry is to go from here. I'm currently reading Emma Gannon's book The Multi-Hyphen Method and she talks of how Gen Z (the one that comes after millennials) will have jobs that are not even created yet, and this has already been demonstrated in the past ten years. Social media managers, content creators, influencer marketing executives for example had not even been dreamt up in 2008. How can we foresee what might be to come? Wouldn't it be great to have a crystal ball and see where things are going so we can be at the forefront?
One shift that I have noted of late, is that people do seem to be more happy to pay for content online. Whether this is an e-course, e-book, or editorial content. I found this article interesting, particularly the reasons behind this shift - people want quality content as the internet is so massively saturated with rubbish and that they want to avoid the platforms that are heavily affected by internet trolls - people want a more enjoyable, friendly online space with great content they can truly benefit from.
I think this is great news - as I mentioned earlier, people are happy to pay for magazines, but have always been reluctant to pay for online content. Hopefully this progression means that people are starting to sway towards supporting those media platforms that they really thrive on reading. I think what Lou Archell is doing with her Sisterhood Camp is a great example of this. Following her successful 'real life' retreats for women, Lou has created a similar experience but online. You pay a subscription for a season and receive an abundance of well-written content around creativity, wellness, career etc, in both blog format and more in-depth e-courses. You also have access to a supportive, creative community.
The world of work is changing so incredibly fast, and it's more important than ever to keep a handle on the advancements and trends. I'm not going to lie, being a freelancer and running your own business can be tough, and I really do hope I can keep up.
I want to continue to blog, but I want to shed the guilt I feel from not being here as regularly as I'd like, as well as the pressure felt to produce content that will appeal to brands. Yes, I may occasionally work with brands, as at the end of the day, I am trying to make a living, but I will only ever do things I feel truly comfortable with and I always give my absolute honest opinion. I want to write content that appeals to my readers, both old and new.
When I started back in 2008, it was because I had a passion for magazines. I wanted to create my own little 'magazine' online. I never dreamt that I would eventually have my own 'real' magazine for sale in shops across the world! I want to go back to this here on Patchwork Harmony, and simply share with you things I love, things I've been doing and more posts like this that comment on the world we are living in. I hope that sounds appealing! I will of course continue to share inside my own home, but also I'd like to share other interiors if I can, something I used to do lots when I first began.
In terms of my career, it's clear that I need to continue to diversify my offering. Magazine sales will never make me my millions so I hope to run some more 'in person' workshops (I've got some in Sept/Oct), I'll continue to do some picture research work for book publishers which I enjoy, and I'm keen to do some more one-to-one mentoring for other creatives who might benefit from my ten years experience. I'm also considering writing an e-course aimed at small business owners to assist them in creating a strong brand as well as their PR strategy. I'd also love to host some day-long events for creatives to network with like-minded people while enjoying some uplifting inspiration.
If you've made it this far, thank you! I hope my reflective ramblings have been in some way interesting. I'd really love to hear your thoughts on the blogging industry as it is currently and where you think it might be headed. I'd really love to start some conversations on here again, so please don't be afraid to say what you think. :)
Here's to another ten years of blogging.... or whatever it may be!