Earlier today, the homegirls over at Fashionista published an article titled “How Personal Style Bloggers Are Raking in Millions” in which they outline the rise of blog culture as it pertains to the world of fashion, but really, to the world of making money. You see, while blogs started off as cutesy little sites where girls (and then guys) started showing each other how to be stylish, or teaching them unique DIY nonsense, many are now monetized to the point that some bloggers are making serious money. Like, motherfucking millions.
How is that possible? Well, yeah, corny banner ads are one way, but most of these bloggers have started to earn their riches via these things called affiliate links. As the article explains, whenever a blogger recommends a product and you click on their link and actually buy it, the blogger takes a cut. So, it should come as no surprise that bloggers are now endorsing a whole bunch of shit they might not have otherwise rocked with because why would they put something on their site that doesn’t have the potential to earn them money? Like, sure, I dig Margiela sneakers, but fuck Margiela if SKECHERS is going to come through and give me $5 for ever pair of Shape-ups I #influence. And for the record, Four Pins doesn't utilize affiliate links because someone in marketing is clearly fucking up.
There’s an entire discussion to be had about why this is potentially messed up as it betrays the trust of readers who started following a blog because they actually were down with its content. Spider-Man's dead uncle may not have known shit about the Internet, but he pretty much had it nailed with the whole "with great power comes great responsibility" thing. It’s all kind of obvious, isn’t it? And frankly, this affiliate business isn't really any different than celebrity endorsements of any kind. Besides, saying that a blogger started their site simply to “express themselves” is kind of presumptuous in its own way. Like, I’m not saying people who start blogs are inherently attention-seeking assholes, but no one starts a blog because they want to fly under the radar. Even if people simply want to help others via their blog, it’s safe to say they want people to look at them doing it. I’m not exactly thrilled about the idea of affiliate links because I think it leads to a bunch of dishonest garbage parading around as benevolent self-expression, but I accept it and hope people aren’t stupid enough to not realize they’re being sold something. Always.
But where I think the article goes astray is when it reports that only bloggers with either a substantial (lots of eyes) or potent (focused, if less eyes) reader bases can make money via their sites as if that can’t be faked. Without naming names, I can say with 100% confidence that there are bloggers out there right now “collaborating” with big name brands and “partnering” with mega corporations and making money doing it simply because those brands were dumb enough to believe their line of bullshit. The fact is, most of this is social handjob climbing, and if you do it enough times a big name might just show up asking if you wouldn't mind spitting into your palm. All it takes is one company to believe for anyone to successfully perpetuate some self-mythologized tastemaker status.
So, what’s the answer? For one, I think this Fashionista article is a good start. Perhaps uninformed readers of blogs will be more literate in the ways companies are trying to market to them. But, at the end of the day, it’s up to the proprietors of these blogs to actually start curating their own sites and lives in a way that puts ideas first and money second. And to the brands out there, Four Pins all for taking your money, but don't you want to make sure we're actually the right fit first?