Recently, Racked.com published an article suggesting that fashion and style blogs are edging ever-closer to embodying their print magazine counterparts. I guess it’s no surprise – The High Tea Cast has been up and running for a year now, but we’re late to a party that discusses diverse issues in an entertaining (and pretty!) way.
Considering that so many blogs rebel against that horribly condescending tone of Cosmo, Heat and the rest, it’s a little ironic that they appear to be coming full circle, and they’re not the only platform. Twitter is making swift headway by plonking adverts into your daily self-selected content, and as for Facebook… you’ve seen those ads all over your pictures right? And the fact that you have to pay for your content to be seen by a reasonable number of people? Hmm. Screaming advertorial profits.
I read blogs because I refuse to take in the crap that a mainstream magazine churns out. We’ve spoken about it before, and I know many of you agree. So here’s why we should be a little bit worried.
If you’ve never been through a Journalism or Public Relations degree, grab a cuppa and get ready to whizz through an interesting and outrageous little history lesson. If you have completed either of these Media studies and never heard of the mucho famed Edward Bernays… you spent your lectures dying of even more treacherous hangovers than I did. Kudos to you.
This Edward Bernays geezer was known as “The Father Of PR” back in the day (which, in this case, is 1919), and is the reason that the likes of Max Clifford and huge PR agencies now monopolise our news sources. Among the delivery of ghastly messages and product peddling into the press, he was the man to promote Lucky Strike cigarettes to women as a slimming substitute for dessert.
Believe me, I know that’s infuriating in itself. But it turns out that whilst Bernays took on Lucky Strike as a client and promoted ciggies to the masses, another of his clients was the NHS. Medical reports were proving at this time that tobacco was damaging to the body, so all implications were laid out for him in black and white. Talk about a serious lack of ethics.
Return to present day, and it turns out PR has taken the jobs of the journalist in many, many places.
It’s easier to be fed press releases than to hire journalists to source and write objective stories from scratch. As I well learnt during my university years, journo jobs were few and far between whereas PR vacancies were ten-a-penny. This results in the “news”papers not being news at all – actual news should be objective and of national importance. PR’s have clients who are paying them good money to see their names in the news. And so, the world of media becomes skewed and misleading. When you see Katie Price on the front page of a newspaper, don’t you wonder what actual news should really be there instead?
So how does this relate back to the evolving blogosphere we have on our hands, I hear you ask?
Blogs are, for most, a way to hear from real people. Their refreshing lack of photoshopped celebs who we’re supposed to take on as role models and genuine voice of the public is all that has kept me sane in the face of materialistic press. But if we’re to see popular blogs (currently starting with fashion, however there’s no reason why this wouldn’t expand into other blog genres) make a move towards fully fledged magazine copies, they have a bigger job than ever, thus are a prime PR target. To have our online space saturated with PR on top of our mainstream media would be sad – it’s not history that I would like to see repeated. Would you?
Aiming for the so-called “higher standard” of mainstream print magazines – which, hilariously, is still low enough and old-fashioned enough to undermine so many things, including the roles of women – is a huge job that requires a workforce, profit margin and the ability to talk to a massive audience to keep it going.
By trying to please so many people and keep an entire team in a job at the same time means being diluted – it’s hard to keep up a strong stance on anything when you’re catering to the masses. Is sacrificing your blogging voice worth making your website into something that blends in? I’m dubious – not just for those blogs as a publication but also for the sake of the rest of us who use WordPress to try and spread good words.
Social media buffs among you might’ve noticed a few stories kicking around about being able to buy Twitter followers. You can indeed buy several thousand followers for a mere £20 upwards. Logically this is done to make a Twitter account look more important than it is because numbers are impressive – few will stop to see if anyones followers are made up entirely of Twitterbots. It’d be easy for PR and advertising agencies looking for opportunities to fund a blog to be misled by someone who has bought followers to establish themselves without actually attracting an audience of genuine people. Sneaky sneaky, no?
Also, you know those promoted tweets you see springing up in you Twitter dashboard? Those campaigns can be tweaked to appear within your newsfeed as a tweet, even if you aren’t following that brand. So once again, PR has a way to worm into a system that we think we have prepared for ourselves. But instead of choosing our own updates by just following who we like, corporate brands can disguise their client promotions as content. Doesn’t it feel horribly like the smoke screen of promotion is descending on us all over again… on our territory? It’s all well and good if Clinique want to pay to tell me about their new lipstick on Twitter, but what about when it’s sensitive subjects like cosmetic surgery being promoted? Or weight loss fads? Or quite simply, abrasive people making a bolt for the public eye?
I would like to think that Twitter HQ would be responsible enough to vet the promotions that they host, however Facebook barely do. Certainly not a single person is taking responsibility to get newspapers and magazines to shape up and talk sense, and I fear money prioritises over ethics in this instance too.
As respected bloggers, it’s our responsibility to try and prolong the transparency of the blogging world. I for one, will stand up and say that I do not need any more exposure to propaganda, and so many print Editors already lack sense in favour of money. If they were ethical about what they publish… well, I guess The High Tea Cast would have a lot less to complain about.
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