Earlier this year, Heather Armstrong, the so-called Queen of the Mommy Bloggers, announced that she had begun to shift her attention away from blogging. The challenges of the job – from aggressive publishing schedules to demanding advertising contracts to concerns about her family’s safety – were resulting in what she called “a dangerous level of exhaustion and dissatisfaction.”
The announcement was taken as a sign that professional blogging – specifically “mommy blogging” – is on its last legs, and a flurry of articles and surveys rushed to confirm that theory. And indeed, the latest research does seem to show that full-time professional blogging is a shrinking industry. According to iBlog Magazine’s “2015 Women’s Blogging Industry and Business Report,” only 12% of women bloggers now work full-time on their blogs, with the majority of them (68%) earning less than $5,000 a year.
But while some may see these statistics and anecdotes as evidence that blogs are going the way of the dinosaur, I see things differently. Sure, plenty of bloggers are scaling back their operations or even quitting altogether. But at the same time, a small but very successful percentage of bloggers are using their business acumen, multimedia expertise, and social networking and leadership savvy to thrive in a rapidly evolving industry. They have become not just writers, but photographers, expert social sharers, event and television hosts, public speakers, and conference organizers. Their blogs – and calendars – don’t look much like they did in the late ’90s, when Armstrong first shot to fame and fortune. But neither does today’s media landscape.
Gone are the days of copy-and-paste press releases and flat, text-heavy product reviews. Today, brands expect their stories to be seamlessly integrated into blog posts, preferably through high-production-value video, carefully edited photos, and grabby graphic design. Doing this well requires a broad set of skills; good writing is no longer enough. Some bloggers have the resources to hire experts for design, production, and marketing, but most small-scale bloggers do not.
Small-scale bloggers are also struggling to compete for traffic, thanks to the rise of paid social media marketing. Unable or unwilling to invest in promoting their sites, many bloggers find it difficult to bring in the numbers of readers brands are looking for.
Does this mean the end for part-time, independent bloggers who lack the skills, staff, and capital to build powerhouse blogs? No – it just means they have to change their business model.
For example, many of today’s bloggers are finding that aggregation is the key to success. Blog networks featuring a range of writers can help shoulder the costs of production and promotion while delivering large, loyal audiences. They can also provide the kind of professional feedback and guidance bloggers crave. The study from iBlog Magazine found that over 85% of women bloggers feel that detailed feedback after a project would help them execute more successful future campaigns.
Of course, bloggers aren’t the only ones being forced to adapt to today’s new blogging landscape. Marketers have to change their perspective as well. While brands used to simply buy ad space on popular sites or send press releases to bloggers willing to use prewritten content, those practices are proving to be less and less effective. Today’s marketers need to invest significant time and money in developing real relationships with their brand ambassadors – who are also brand influencers – in order to achieve the business results and customer engagement they’re looking for.
To me, that doesn’t sound like the end of an era. It sounds like the beginning of a more evolved and, yes, mature approach to marketing partnerships. For brands willing to make the investment, this new age of blogging will present more substantial and fruitful opportunities than ever before.