'Vogue,' Vloggers And Other Shifting Tides

My son, who is 15, has this little joke. I use him frequently as my n=1 sample audience to try and learn about new platforms, games, language, etc. Whenever I ask him something along those lines, he always sighs and then says with a slightly mocking tone, “You’re so old!”

This is true. Compared to 15, I am ancient. When I was only two years older than he is today, I found myself at the helm of a highly popular but also highly illegal FM pirate radio station in The Netherlands. The local paper came to interview us, and the subhead above the article quoted me as saying: “We’re popular because we’re not old farts,” hinting that the average age of DJs at the legal competition meant they were obviously out of touch and irrelevant.

I was reminded of this when I read about a spat that occurred last week between Vogue and a group of fashion vloggers. According to a Campaignarticle, Vogue editors bemoaned the fact that those darn vloggers were effectively “polluting” fashion with their independent choices and depictions of fashion.



Calling the Vlogger fashion choices — as shared on their multitude of blogs, Instagram accounts and other platforms — a “distressing street-style mess,” the Vogue editors in fact were complaining about the loss of the influence they once held over the fashion industry at large.

Before the advent of fashion coverage on the Internet, Vogue’s choices determined what was hot or not, what colors or styles were in or out — all of which could make or break collections and fashion brands. No longer. Fashion can now come from anywhere, styles are mashed and mixed, and vloggers are invited to actively report on Fashion Week events from New York to London to Milan.

Nicole Phelps, director of Vogue Runway, wrote: "It’s not just sad for the women who preen for the cameras in borrowed clothes, it’s distressing as well to watch so many brands participate."  This surely “is heralding the death of style,” she wrote. What she meant was the death of Vogue’s style, and the loss of brands interested in going to Vogue first.

The vloggers obviously have a very different opinion, one that aligns more with 17-year-old me at the helm of a pirate radio station. Sasha Wilkins, founder of lifestyle blog, called the comments “horribly snobbish and very misogynistic.”

While we don’t have to question the diminished role of Vogue in today’s fashion world, we should at the same time not overestimate the impact and sway of all those vloggers and other social media wonders. Fact is, they all rely on a model seriously suffering from what we in the industry call “glut.” The average vlogger, podcaster, etc. needs to be active across a significant number of ever-evolving platforms in order to drive numbers.

This is my biggest concern. It seems that the de facto success criteria for any of these social media superstars is reach: that is, how many followers do they have, and how many likes and shares can they generate for a post. They now even have agents to ensure their pipeline keeps spouting.

And they rely almost completely on organic distribution, a model we in the advertising industry know is broken, as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat consider paid placements of far greater importance than anything organic.

So while I agree that the world has moved on in terms of who the influencers are, what also needs to move on is how we measure that influence — beyond mere reach, to business impact.

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