Guyliner Look in Mirror

Bloggers are not the new pop stars

I had assumed it was all over.

I’d been brushing off my darkest black, digging out my finest mantilla and clutching my rosary in preparation for the funeral procession. Blogging was dead and buried, you see; its life force finally expunged thanks to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Medium. Or at least, that’s what I was led to believe, in pieces I read. By bloggers. On blogs.

But while I may have shed a tear for the demise of blogging, I wasn’t too perturbed, because I knew it would soon rise once more relatively quickly – probably before the sandwiches from its funeral tea had curled at the edges. It usually does.

I didn’t have to wait too long, because apparently, not only is blogging not dead, it is the new pop music. Oh yes! Take this excerpt from an email I received from a blogging network just this week. Step the hell aside, Calvin Harris – here is my moment.

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Well! Who knew? One minute blogging is being read the last rites, now, bloggers are “glitzy celebrities” with “the world at their feet”. A cursory glance at my inbox, not to mention down at my immaculately polished Derbys, tells me this may not be happening for every blogger. I see no mountains of invites; my toes do not rest upon the Earth’s mantle.

So which is it? Is blogging throwing shapes to the sound of its own death rattle, or is it a den of internationally renowned celebrities, elegantly stepping off planes and into sponsorship deals as far as the eye can see? Well, it’s a bit of both, for relatively few. The rest of us are somewhere in the middle.

People like to say blogging is over because they feel it should be over.  How can it be, with technological advances and lifestyle changes happening at lightning speed, that a plodding, superannuated platform like blogging still exists? Why hasn’t it been excised from the digital age, an anachronistic blot on the minimal clean lines of the vision of tomorrow, like LaserDisc and MySpace and BBC Choice?  I mean, if people are saying it’s finished, it must be finished, right? Maybe, but talking things into obsolescence has always been the laziest and least reliable method of innovation. You can’t will something into extinction just because its continued vigour inconveniences you – although Apple certainly give it their best shot every time they launch a new product. #Justice4HeadphoneJacks

People still want to tell their story, to find their audiences, to carve out a niche, but the methods of delivery are changing. These, oh what would you call them, content creators, maybe? God, now we really are in corporate branding hell. Anyway, these bloggers now find it easier to use social media or simpler blogging platforms to preach their gospel. Just look at all the garbage swilling around the annals of most platforms – it has never been easier to expose the world to your bilge. As internet users, we’re becoming a little lazier, yet more demanding – we want everything right there, in one place. Content aggregators win, and bloggers, stripped of any advertising revenue their blogs may make because nobody can be arsed clicking through to a personal blog, kind of lose. If you’re strong enough, or well-known enough, or maybe even liked enough you’ll still see footfall, but it’s highly unlikely anyone is going to know anything about your blog other than the one link they see on social that took them there.

But if nobody cares about blogging any more, why would you even bother getting into it? For many, I imagine, it is about indulging their passion, either going on a journey of self-discovery or finding catharsis in collecting your thoughts together in one place. It’s something you can look back  on in later years, either with pride or cringing horror. For some, it’s the opportunity to be read for the first time. For others, a way of communicating ideas you may find otherwise difficult, or that wouldn’t seem appropriate alongside other aspects of you life. For a few, however, I imagine it’s the draw of being one of these  “glitzy celebrities” we’re being told bloggers are now.

Oh, you know the ones – they always get front row at Fashion Week or spend night after night being invited to wonderful foodie events or new bar and club openings. They love a goody bag, are experts at posing knock-kneed for photographs next to a corporate logo and are always sure to #eatclean. I am sure the vast majority of these bloggers started out doing what they’re doing because of a passion, be it for food, fashion, travelling, or fucking – that’s the thing with blogging, you see. When you start out, you’re doing it for free; it has to come from love, because that’s all you have. The urge to write, or to take photos, or to experience new things, is so great, that you have to get it out of you. And so you blog. The trouble is that to get accepted into this top flight, the criteria for which seems ever arbitrary and doesn’t even necessarily correlate with page views, changes daily, and to become one of these influencers you do, ironically, have to be open to more than a little bit of influence yourself. Your drum that you used to dance to? Now it has a decidedly different beat, and it’s being played by someone else.

What these bloggers have in common with pop stars is that, usually, at the very beginning of their fame, they have little control over what they say or think, it’s highly unlikely they’re making much money from it and, and I apologise if this smarts, the resulting material will be subpar. While their inbox may be groaning under the weight of their invitations to exotic locations, for many of them it’s a fairly thankless existence, fed by PRs on exactly what to say and when to post. The very top elite keep their editorial freedom, up to a point, but those positions don’t become available every day, take an astonishing amount of free time and, just like pretty much every other prestige content job, they’ve all pulled the ladder up after them to make sure you don’t get close.

I am realistic about blogging. I am aware of its diminishing power, how it is seen as lesser by journalists at large organisations, its tendency for pomposity and attention-seeking (some of it on this very blog you’re reading right here).  Blogging’s rep has long been in tatters anyway, when you think about it. Even now, I stupidly blanch when described as a blogger, mainly because I’m a writer who worked in editorial long before it became content and way before I signed up for my first “weblog”. The title of blogger feels dismissive, amateurish – I get paid for what I do, elsewhere, after all. But surely if blogging were as cool and aspirational as the “glitzy celebrities” email would have us believe, I’d be lapping it up, wouldn’t I? Or perhaps I’m just a dreadful social climber who is desperate to taken seriously. Either way, as Hynacinth Bucket would no doubt say if she were rebooted as an Instagram addict for 2016: I’m not a blogger; I have a blog. But every blogger would tell you that as they pressed a printout of their page views into your hand, trying to get into your party

Despite its unhip image and tendency for hysteria, I am also aware of blogging’s role as a tonic, a promoter of new or interesting talent, a respite from the echo chambers of established voices. It should not die. It must not.

I would never advise anyone not to blog. If you’re brilliant, have enthusiasm or simply MUST be heard otherwise you’ll explode, then go for it. Carve out your niche, develop your voice, make it yours. Accept that success may never come, that it may only end up being a glorified diary. Recognise that some of the best content online is seen by only a few eyes, that loud mediocrity often triumphs over silent excellence.  Be aware that most blogs are awful, Sex and the City-style ripoffs and that very few people, other than friends and those wanting to fuck you, will be interested in your daily goings-on. Face the fact that you are very unlikely to ever be one of “the new pop stars”, that blogging and fame hardly ever hook up. If you’re after fame, you’re better off going for The X Factor or maybe committing a crime or two – your blog isn’t going to do it for you.

And if, after all that, you still want to do it, then do it. Be brilliant, be read, be at the centre of your own storyline. Because it can change your life.

Just don’t pin everything on it – it might not.

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