Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The History and Evolution of Blogging

Forgive me, I know its been a while!

My blogging adventure started 20 years ago when I was at university studying a BA in Marketing and Advertising - for one of our assignments we created blog posts but it wasn't until I held a marketing role within the fashion industry that my love for blogging really grew, at the time I was a marketing co-ordinator for Arcadia back when all their online content fell under a shared service we called Zoom. The online content for all the Arcadia brands Topshop, Topman, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridges and Burton was all done by our small team and one of the parts of my job I enjoyed was creating blog features that used products from all the brands such as a guide to the best skirts of the season etc. My team's work on Topman won an award at an event presented by Lauren Laverne and Preston from the Ordinary Boys.


I continued blogging professionally when I later worked for an architect firm and again in the fashion industry for a maternity brand, I enjoyed setting up blogger events and working on collaborations. In the mid naughties there were only a few bloggers and influencers and it was certainly seen more as a hobby and its true value to brands wasn't yet to be revealed. It was hard enough to get a budget sign off to provide breakfast and a goody bag for the bloggers we invited in to preview the new collection and the director of the company felt like it was a waste of time, I had to really fight the case for working with bloggers - it was still very much unheard of.

In 2008 when I was pregnant with my first baby, I launched this blog, it was really just to keep me involved with online marketing whilst I wasn't working but it was driven by the fact that I missed blogging! It was my first adventure into blogging for myself and the first time I hadn't been on the corporate side! It was strange being on the other side of the table but I loved it. The community of British parent bloggers was relatively small and we all seemed to know each other. You would bump into the same faces at events and it was lovely, we genuinely cared about each other and twitter was still a place to hold conversations rather than an addition to customer services as it is now. I'm still friends with people I met through blogging a decade ago - some were fellow bloggers, some still blog and some were the marketing people for brands at the time.

Brands started to see the value in bloggers, they understood that we were a useful marketing tool and recognised that a good blog post would take about 3 hours and that many of us used DSLR cameras and provided high quality imagery (this is before current smart phone offerings) within marketing and PR departments there was a dedicated person working with bloggers, we would get to know each other and build a professional friendship to the point where our brand contacts would send out Easter eggs and Christmas cards to their group of bloggers, it wasn't unheard of to receive a bouquet of flowers when a campaign went particularly well. The work bloggers did was recognised and valued by brands who would pay bloggers for their contributions. Many of the bloggers, like me, came from marketing backgrounds themselves and understood how to use key words, SEO and things such as alt text for images, we knew which fonts google could read, we know the best times to share across our social media networks and how best to drive traffic to brands. Readers valued our opinions and our brand contacts would ask our advice on upcoming campaigns or for our recommendations when looking for other bloggers to use.

As things grew, I moved to the middle of the table - I ran a few campaigns for brands I had developed good relationships with. One included a book publisher I still love. I would manage a group of about 10 bloggers on a campaign to support a book release. At first the publishers had wanted to thank the bloggers with generous book bundles - these would include the book they are promoting before publication but also the bundle would include other books and toys as well usually to a retail value of about £80 but I proved how valuable the bloggers were and negotiated a generous fee for the bloggers too. It was hard work making sure the brand and the bloggers were happy and that everyone had everything they needed and that things went smoothly - with the publishing of a book - timing is crucial. For one campaign I chose a blogger who at that time was local to me, we'd met up a few times for coffee and whilst we hadn't worked together before, She had mentioned being in a position where she needed to earn some money and when a campaign came up where I felt she would be a good fit I put her forward. Unfortunately a complication came up and she didn't tell me there was a problem, she just didn't publish her blog post when she was supposed to .... didn't reply to my emails and phone calls and just seem to not take part, the brand were not happy and blacklisted her for future campaigns as it left a gap in the online campaign (the bloggers were all linking to each other) and I was upset as I had personally selected her. Several weeks after the deadline, and after the campaign had been closed, she published a blog post that didn't even fulfil the brief and then sent me a demand for payment. It took a lot of negotiating but the brand paid her half the original fee. As a way of thanks the blogger sent me an email which which included insults and comments which were enough to put me off continuing what I was doing - I don't give up easily so I hope you can imaging that this particular blogger caused a lot of personal devastation.

Just as I was feeling low enough ... then the saturation came ... there was no longer just a small community of marketing trained professional bloggers.. now anyone and everyone was blogging, now there were lots and lots of new parenting bloggers popping up overnight, some played dirty by buying large followers to make it look like they had more influence than they really did, some copied existing bloggers work and some were just out to troll. Some were great and became solid parts of the blogging community but whichever way you looked - parent blogging and the world of influencers exploded and it was no longer following the same professional trajectory.

Brand attitudes and teams changed, it became rare that you will have the one same contact long enough to build up a professional relationship, it's been a few years since I received a Christmas card from a brand contact or a call just to see how I'm doing or what I'm working on. A lot of blogger and influencer work is given to interns and there seems to be a growing expectation that bloggers will do 3 hours of work - writing, editing, photographing, publishing, marketing - their blog post to benefit a brand with no payment at all, but maybe in return for keeping an item they're asked to blog about such as a £6 book.  It seems we've seen a switch from qualitative blogger influence to quantitive.

Towards the end of 2019 I saw a few glimmers of the value of blogging returning. I have hope that 2020 will see brands forming dedicated teams to build relationships with bloggers and influencers again. I've noticed, like me, some of the bloggers who were influencers a decade ago are returning to the community. I hope that the work a blogger puts in will be recognised once again as just that  - work.

... or maybe I'm just daydreaming of a time long gone?

I almost walked away from blogging, I certainly took a long break but I'm not quite ready to hang up my keyboard keys, not yet! I'm also evolving and trying something new ... 2020 is going to be quite the year!

Emma xx

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Emma x