British Beauty Blogger is posing an interesting problem over on her blog at the moment. Can you be both a blogger and a journalist? As always, it is very well written so I recommend you read the original post. British Beauty Blogger considers herself to be both, so it is an important question for her.
I don’t have any such existential problems myself, there is no problem at all with being a scientist and a blogger. Lots of scientists write excellent blogs and I am really grateful to them for what they share. I know a lot more than I used to when all we had to rely on was New Scientist, journals and gossip (which scientists are much better at than you probably imagine).
But another great new source of information for me has been the huge number of beauty blogs written by people who are enthusiastic for the products. It really has opened my eyes to how people use stuff and how passionate so many people are about their favourite personal care and cosmetic brands. Have beauty bloggers replaced beauty journalists? Well for me, no. I never used to read the beauty press, women’s magazines and the like, and I still don’t. I should point out that every month a PR agency sends round a big folder full of cuttings, so it wouldn’t be hard to do so. But I find that kind of journalism so boring I simply can’t get my brain to even decipher the letters into words. I know that the sole object is to keep the advertisers happy. The whole exercise seems to me simply pointless.
Now the industry has woken up to bloggers and I am seeing articles in the trade press talking about how many purchasing decisions are influenced by bloggers. I know a person who has a full time job for not that big a brand monitoring blogs, Twitter and Facebook and sending out samples to individual bloggers.
I really hope they don’t ruin it all. It is a real joy to read people who just love stuff. Especially when it is your stuff they love. It is just as interesting to read what they hate. Especially when it is someone you know’s stuff.
But there is a serious side to this. I personally won’t miss the glossy women’s magazines. But I have a feeling that time is not on their side, at least in their present form. The economics of a magazine is unforgiving. You have very set fixed costs. If your circulation drops below a certain level you are out of business. So if people do switch from magazines to blogs in large enough numbers the number of titles on offer is going to go down. This is bad news for the people whose livelihood depends upon them – which is a much bigger number than just the journalists. I don’t wish anyone any ill will so I am not particularly happy about this.
The other thing that bothers me, is where will all the advertising spend go if there are fewer glossies to soak it up? We are talking a lot of money here. The cosmetics industry spends a fortune on above the line advertising. In the region of 20% of the price you pay goes straight into the advertising budget. I don’t begrudge my beauty blogging friends free samples and a bit of income from advertising. But I would hate to think that the blogs I enjoy so much might turn into mini-online beauty mags run with the intention of maximising advertising revenues.