Photo credit: Grace Howard
We live in a digital age. University journalism courses offer modules in blogging and SEO, and your chances of bagging a career in the creative industries are slim if you don't have some sort of online presence. Chiara Ferragni's blog, The Blonde Salad, and its spin-off ventures have raked in over $8 million. Meanwhile, circulation figures for women's magazines keep dropping, with many titles turning digital-only. Few of us could buy our first homes for £1 million at the age of 24, but that's exactly what Zoella did earlier this year. Spot a theme? The future, it would seem, remains online. But are bloggers replacing journalists?
To be a successful fashion blogger, one seems to need the following: a DSLR camera, an iPhone, abundant spare time and endless money. Neither an in-depth interest in fashion nor a passion for writing seem to be prerequisite to blogging success. In the business of newspapers and magazines, journalists are hired based on their writing ability rather than their capacity to edit selfies, which is why some bloggers can make 'real' writers want to bang their heads against a wall. I remember a well-known newspaper journalist tweeting a link to a Blonde Salad article earlier this year, bemoaning the writing style and questioning how people are reading (and, more curiously, enjoying) this crap.
But those who miss reading proper articles are probably old-fashioned. In a society where Snapchat makes images combust after 10 seconds and Twitter never sleeps, it's hardly surprising the Buzzfeed-style 'listicle' is our preferred way to digest information. Why read 3000 words on relationships when you can quickly consume the same thing in a 12-point list, complete with hilarious Sex and the City screencaps, during your lunch break?
And then there's Instagram, which encourages us to capitalise on our Kodak moments to accrue likes and followers. Carefully curated documentations of Our Perfect Lives are the norm on Instagram, particularly on bloggers' feeds. Indeed, some people have created visual blogs, forgoing any written aspect.
Sophie Davis, who blogs at Filthy Paws & Silky Drawers, reckons Instagram is ideal for those with a fashion or beauty focus. "In primarily visual industries like fashion and beauty, I see no problem with bloggers only uploading visual content," she says.
Another blogger, Jemma Sleeman, uses solely Instagram due to its speed and simplicity. "I love looking at people's outfits for inspiration and finding new ways [to] put an outfit together, or finding a gorgeous item that I wouldn't have looked at without seeing it on," she says.
But does Instagram devalue her 'blogger' status? "I actually enjoy reading some 'traditional' blogs as long as they are not too long-winded. I'd probably have one myself if I had the time to do it properly. I currently don't have the time to make a decent stab at one," Sleeman argues.
While Sleeman's Instagram feed has a firm fashion focus, other bloggers use Instagram to document life's banalities. With the help of apps and filters, mundane tasks like visiting Starbucks become glamorous moments. Similarly self-absorbed content is a large part of the fashion bloggers' arsenal. Clothes shopping wishlists and 'What I Wore Today' photos are classic fashion blog fodder. From a reader's perspective, I can see why. My favourite blogs are written by people whose written 'voice' sounds a lot like my best mate when she comes over for coffee. In the same way advertisers use personal pronouns and eye contact to draw in consumers, bloggers take faux-intimacy to a new level, reeling us in with promises that the créperie down the road is the place to eat, and that their flawless skin is all down to the £3.99 cleanser they've been using.
But maybe that £3.99 "miracle" cleanser is only a miracle because the blogger is being paid to push the product. And the créperie down the road? It probably received such a stellar review because the blogger behind it was given enough free crépes to feed a homeless person for a week. Earlier this year, London patisserie Anges de Sucre expressed its disgust over a blogger who, after being told she couldn't get her hands on nearly £100 of free food in exchange for a review, went forth and slammed the establishment online. Despite their butter-wouldn't-melt image, some bloggers seem just as shady as journalists when it comes to morality.
In a way, blogging heavyweights are doing the same job as anyone who writes for Cosmo: being paid to flog a product. The only difference is that journalists work in offices, whereas most bloggers work from home like glamorous freelancers. And while the masses don't particularly care about someone else's favourite shoes or beauty rituals, there's comparable self-absorbed chat in the average magazine columnist's work.
Consider citizen journalism, a term thrown around when members of the public harness their 4G connection to break a news story. Citizen journalism is sometimes bashed by people who work in the media, but the public are a force to be reckoned with. Cast your mind back to the Charlie Hebdo shootings' coverage - the most poignant scenes were the bits of shaky footage shot on camera phones. Surely this a sign that citizen journalism, unpolished as it may be, isn't any less of a valid journalistic form than something carefully produced for the BBC?
The same could be said for blogging. For every girl with who's just in it for the likes, followers and free clothes, there's a girl who has a genuine passion for writing - and an interest in fashion besides just shopping - and wants to use their blog as a pedestal to career success. Hannah Gale and Tavi Gevinson are perfect examples.
Owen Jones was right when he described journalism as "a closed shop for the elite." It's no secret that the fashion industry is built on nepotism - getting a job on the Vogue features desk often isn't about knowing your Galliano from your Gaultier - so you can't blame bloggers for taking their future into their own hands.