We’ve reached a significant turning point in the industry, where media really is everywhere. The proliferation of screens, messages, technology and social networks means that we are royally bombarded with a variety of different media wherever we are and whenever we want (or don’t want). That’s a lot of clutter to try and get past and the only way to break through the noise is to have a strong point of view, a view that comes through great content.
The people who have traditionally been able to establish this best are the same people that do it today – great writers and editors; content creators expressing a strong point of view in a first person voice, connecting with their audience, community or readers. These are the people shaping the future of digital media. And the key to engaging those readers is through having this unique voice and a strong point of view, while creating an ongoing open dialogue with your audience, and communicating with them day in day out.
But what does it really take to make a brand click and engage with an audience? I’ve seen independent content creators who have built massive passionate audiences for their content. And these independent digital brands are on the path to eclipsing traditional media brands in both scale and engagement. It’s something we’re all watching in real-time. So that begs the question, what makes a blog a brand?
Is it size? When you compare a seemingly ubiquitous print brand to a young digital community online, you can see that they are connecting at the same scale. We see it happening in women’s fashion, beauty and technology, where these online brands are connecting even more quickly and more deeply with their audiences.
Or is it about being part of the daily media diet? With a magazine, you might flick through the pages once or twice, you might tune into a TV show once a week. But then you have these new, online brands that readers are engaging with several times a day.
We recently hosted a panel discussion at our Say Create event, bringing together some of the fastest growing blogger brands to find out how they are reinventing digital media and what this means for traditional publishers.
You just have to look at the numbers to see the influence that these blogs have: Remodelista has 2.8 million monthly page views, 29,000+ Twitter followers and 26,000 Facebook fans and boasts an engaged community of 500,000 in the UK and over 1.1 million globally. Fashion Foie Gras (pictured) boasts a community of more than 200,000 engaging with views on what’s next in the world of fashion, while UltraLinx has over 190,000 readers in the UK and over 250,000 globally.
People are accessing and engaging with media in a completely different way today than they ever were before. They want it all and they want it now. And social media has a big part to play. As Emily Johnston, editor and founder of Fashion Foie Gras, said, while people don’t tend to comment directly on her blog, they love to comment on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, where the majority of conversations happen.
Brands must remember that there are so many different channels now where people are engaging and this is a great opportunity to tell your story and to share links and content. There tends to be a big buzz happening, it’s just happening in hundreds of different places.
However, Christine Chang Hanway, the UK editor of Remodelista, a top destination for the design-minded, points out that it’s important to understand the channels as well as knowing your audience. Twitter requires short and sweet snippets, while on Facebook it’s a whole other audience where it’s all about that one image. It’s important to remember that in order to catch the attention of your audience, make sure it’s in an environment that’s right for them.
But what does this mean for publishing? Some traditional publishers may feel threatened by these new kids on the block, but the key to a great relationship is to work together. Emily sums it up perfectly: “Today, magazines really use bloggers. They realise that we talk to a certain group of women and they to another. It has been the most amazing thing to watch develop over the past couple of years. Where before it was very much split between print and digital, now everyone’s helping each other out. That’s the way forward. We could either go our separate ways or work together, but it works very well now and hopefully it will stay that way.”
So how does a blogger become a brand in its own right? Well it all comes back to this strong point-of-view, having an honest voice that others want to engage and communicate with. And while there’s a semantic debate raging right now over what we should call them – do we call them blogs, sites or digital magazines? – it doesn’t really matter. The point is that they are important and are here to stay.