I started by blog in 2009. Yep, over six years of me tapping out my various thoughts about everything from the minute differences between two seemingly identical taupe eyeshadows to sharing new launches, going backstage at Fashion Week or even flying off to amazing places. It’s been one hell of a journey and I can’t really think of anything I’ve done that has truly changed my life in the same way as it did that day I decided to sign up for a little .blogspot address back in early 2009. Over that time there’s been a hell of a lot of changes – some great, some not so great.
1. It’s not about the product as much.
A slight generalisation, but by and large blogs have gone from being about the product to being about the person.. It used to be more about everyday people sharing as accurate photos of a product as they could take to help show what it really looks like and how it applies etc. Now it’s more about ‘edits’ and gorgeous photos of products placed in pretty backdrops or casually (likely arranged using blu-tack) spilling from designer handbags. No criticism of this at all as I feel both styles of blogging still have a place to an extent. Except now there’s a little more of an expectation that even a swatch photo must have a glossy background to it to really make it popular – also known as dialing up the pressure a tad.
Beyond just that, the majority of the ‘biggest’ blogs are often about the person above all else. Those that started as beauty are now about the person writing the blog’s overall lifestyle. I guess that’s where I see mine now, although beauty always has a hold and will be the major feature. Products will always be a huge thing on this blog, but overtime it’s come to be more about more than just that – more about life in general. Which in many ways is more interesting overall – but sometimes you do just want to know what that new MAC lipstick looks like on someone with pale skin…and you don’t really care who that person is, you just want to see what it looks like in ‘real life’.
I’ve always said there are always two types of blog – there’s the product blogs and the people blogs. Some are all about the product and not about the person, and others are all about the person and what they’re wearing/using/liking/doing. Overtime I’ve seen it shift from the product sort being the majority to the person sort.
2. It was never about money (in 2009).
It really wasn’t at all about money. Back when I started out, it wasn’t even about the products (I actually screamed and phoned my mum first time I was sent something for ‘free’). In fact – at first it wasn’t even about the photos. For me it was because I wanted to write. I wanted to do something creative (having zero idea how limitless that actually was in blog land when I started). I just wanted something as a break from a job that was quite serious. Fast forward a few years and I’m doing this as my job. Insane, and yes – now it does mean that money is part of the daily running of this blog – as well as many others out there. However, I am fortunate in that I run the blog alongside doing social media consultancy, which meant I am never 100% under pressure to make my money solely from my blog. It’s more of a case of lots of projects combine to make an income – but the bottom line is that from time to time it is about the money. BUT this does not mean I would ever get to the stage of charging to review anything (as in won’t review unless it’s paid for) as this is NEVER what it’s about. For me, it’s quite simple in that if a brand wants a piece with specific information, to go live on a specific day or to actively drive traffic to something (say a competition or event etc) then this is what will fall into advertising/sponsored. Otherwise, I am open to try and reviewing and blogging as I see fit. Not everything gets reviewed/blogged about. I can’t guarantee it as I’m only one person!
3. It’s not (quite) as friendly anymore.
This is the one bit of blogging changing that makes me sadder than any other. Now, this isn’t to say it’s filled with nasty backstabbers or cruel internet trolls and general bad eggs. But it used to have a much more open community than it perhaps is now. Maybe because it was smaller, maybe because it wasn’t about money so there was less competition. I don’t really know. I can still say I’ve met lots and lots of people who I consider to be totally true friends and people I love to spend time with away from the world of blogging. There’s also people I know who I would consider to be friends but maybe don’t see as often anymore. But in all honesty, there are also some not-so-nice characters too and in general people play their cards a lot closer to their chest now. Personally, I think this is a real shame as I think a lot could be gained from us all being a bit more of a friendly community again.
4. Photography has gone to insanely good levels.
When I started I didn’t even take my own photos. I just use generic pack-shot images of products. Starting a blog, for me it was all about the words and not the photos. It was only a little while into blogging that I cottoned on to the fact the photos were a big deal too. So I got a camera for my birthday and started taking my own photos… then photos got better and better and the bar was constantly raised. I think it was in maybe 2011 or maybe even 2010 when I decided to buy my DSLR (Canon 600D) and I haven’t looked back. Without a doubt one of my favourite blog-purchases ever. Not to say it’s a vital thing to have (phone cameras have come on insane levels since 2009…) but for me it makes my photos so much better. I’m still constantly tweaking and changing how I take them and will probably never settle on one style above all others. But that’s one of my favourite things – now beyond the writing, I love taking photos. As much as I am happy with my photos, I always think they could be about a million times better too.
5. Social media has grown EVEN MORE.
Ok, I’m not so old that social media wasn’t around when I started this. OBVIOUSLY. But since I started it’s gone from maybe a twitter and Facebook account for your blog/you tube to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Periscope, Vine… You need to be posting on them all. The pictures on most (bar maybe snapchat) must be gorgeous and glossy and wonderful and basically your life must look perfect at all times from all social angles. No pressure there then.
I suck at SEO. But it’s sort of a thing for bloggers now too. Along with the whole ‘post first’ get the key words right, tag your photos, do all sorts of other SEO based wizardry that I don’t really pay attention to (probably should) to make sure your the one who gets as close to the top of google and therefore gets more traffic. Don’t ask me how though.
7. There’s a LOT more fish in the sea now.
When I started out there were maybe a handful of bloggers. Of those who I knew when I first started there are some who are still going, some who aren’t. Now though, there’s a new blog about every time you blink and whilst I always think starting a blog is the best thing I’ve done and would encourage absolutely everyone to go for it. There are times I get the feeling the motivation for starting blogs now has changed – and it is all about making money, getting free stuff and living the fabulous life bloggers portray (if you’re wondering I’m typing this in my PJ’s, make-up free with a pile of mess behind me that needs tidying – not whilst lounging in cashmere, sipping on a green smoothie with perfectly done hair/make-up/nails). No bad thing, I want that life too and am eternally confused why mine doesn’t look like something out of a magazine. So I get it. I really do. But equally I do sometimes wish it wasn’t the case and wish the main motivation for blogging was back when I started – all about the writing/being creative side of things. Not about free product and making money. Maybe that’s naive, and maybe it’s unfair when I do this as a job. But for me it was five years of labour of love to get me where I am – not an overnight fast-track from setting up a blog to handing out business cards. At the end of the day, blogging isn’t as easy as it’s perhaps made to look so whatever your motivation/starting point/’level’ of blogging – it takes work, and the more fish the harder work it is to stand out.
8. ‘Lifestyle’ became a thing.
As much as I actually love broadening out to cover more ‘lifestyle’ stuff, I equally hate the idea of maintaining this glossy life we are all expected to lead, or at least portray. It’s a bit like reading Good Housekeeping magazine and trying to be the perfect homemaker. Except it’s the blog version where you can’t just be on holiday, you have to be on the beach staring wistfully into the sunset whilst you take around 50 photos to capture one where you’re not squinting or having hair blown in your lipstick… or just downright awkward like I am when it comes to photos.
It used to be that when you started a blog you chose your niche – beauty, fashion, travel, food etc. Now you can go with the general lifestyle title and you’re good to write about whatever you fancy. I do sort of wish I had started out with a slightly less niche-sounding name as it would make it easier to branch out beyond beauty as with my blog name it is all so easy to get pigeonholed into just beauty blog. When actually – unsurprisingly – over the six years I’ve been blogging my interest and passions have changed a bit and now. I would probably advise anyone starting a blog now to really think about the name before you start out – as once you’re going, you’re pretty much stuck with it as it can be a risk to change it (can also pay off, but a risk all the same). But niche or general – lifestyle seems to come through them all in some way.
9. A ‘blog’ is a thing people understand (more) now.
Telling people I had a blog when I started then automatically led into the spiel of ‘well, it’s basically a sort of website that I write myself where all the updates are in order of date’ to try and wipe the confused looks off faces. Now everyone kind of gets what a blog is. I think my Grandma would probably still say ‘she does something on the internet’ as the general description of what I do for a living though, if she was ever asked. I’m seeing her next week, so I may have to ask her what she would say… But the upside of pretty much everyone and their cat having a blog, people get it and it doesn’t have to feel like this geeky underground hobby anymore!
10. Blogging advice.
Along with blogs becoming more common, the community growing and generally the whole blogosphere getting bigger along comes blogging advice. There was little to no advice when I started. You wanted to change something? You did it yourself. Not sure how to take photos? You wing it or make it up as you go along. Not sure if you’re doing it ‘right’? Well, there was no right or wrong way to do things. Now there’s advice posts, tips, tricks and secrets for everything from how to start the blog off to how to perfectly edit your instagram. No bad thing at all, bit there was a certain naivety I miss from the early days of winging it and just trying things out. Didn’t work? Change it again.
Now there’s definitely more of a trend to follow the herd of how to do things – and it can be very hard to break away from it. For the very reason being that whatever it is the leader of the herd is doing, it works. But to stand out, you do need to do more leading and less following. Not easy and not even something I think I’m all that good at. But still, something I’m at very least aware of!
But what happens next?
But after looking back at ten ways blogging has changed since 2009, the biggest question is where to next? Well, who knows. If you had asked me six years ago if I would be here typing away at my blog about this now I wouldn’t have believed you. The few things I would ‘predict’ though – the slightly bonkers growth in recent years can’t sustain forever. It will be a challenge to maintain a blog, no matter how popular. Things, interests and readers will all change. To keep them or to keep growing will be a forever uphill battle – especially when there are so many blogs out there and everyone is always going to look for that new and exciting one to catch their interest.
What I would like to see in blogging – a return to a more open community. More sharing and support (I’m working on a little project around this – more news to come soon). I don’t necessarily mean in the form of advice posts, but more of a collaborative feeling and just being friendly rather than just pure ‘networking’.
I don’t expect social media is going nowhere (at least I hope not or else my career is in trouble) but I think this will continue to be an extension of blogs – so I expect more and more for these to be used for more commercial purposes. I think live social media is going to be ever growing – which will be the challenge for a lifestyle/edited online world – you can’t edit what’s live! But perhaps this will bring a does of real life back to blogging and the internet in general?
For me, from time to time I am tempted to start a little side blog to this one that would be just whatever I felt like I wanted it to be in the moment. I probably won’t ever do this, as I would rather just take this blog in the direction I want it to. But it takes time to do it in a way that really works without losing what’s been built over the years (hence temptation on the side blog front). But I am loving blogging again, after a bit of an off and on few months at the start of the year and I’m excited to see where it goes next. I always figure, I’ve kept it up for so long now I might as well keep going and continue to see what adventures it can take me on!
As always though, thank you for reading – regular reader or not. Everyone who take a moment to stop by and have a read is very much appreciated! Do also let me know the ways in which you have seen blogging change over the years – as a blogger yourself or a blog reader. Really interested to hear from all perspectives.