As part of “operation declutter”, which I started on this past week, I tackled the hoard of magazines that I’d amassed. I used to buy two or three glossy fashion magazines every month, and rarely threw them away. Every now and then I’d go through them and bin a few. But in truth, I bought more than I threw away. Going through them all I wondered how much I’ve spent on them over the years, and what I could have bought with that money instead. You don’t get much change out of fiver with some of them. That’s a lot of money for what’s basically a book of adverts.
Apart from the odd current affairs article in Marie Claire and a few high street fashion features, I was decidedly underwhelmed. Looking at clothes that I can’t afford on young, very slim models seems pointless. When I want style inspiration I’ll find it in other bloggers. Real people, wearable clothes and photos that haven’t been airbrushed is what I’m looking for. This got me wondering: Do bloggers have more influence than glossy fashion magazines?
Remember last year when Lucinda Chambers was abruptly dismissed from her post as Vogue’s fashion director, she admitted that she hadn’t read Vogue in years? She went on to say that “The clothes are just irrelevant for most people – so ridiculously expensive.” Who could disagree with that?
The last copy of Elle I bought (the October issue) had 42 pages of adverts before even getting to the editor’s letter. A total of 154 pages devoted to advertising – the luxury brands far outweighing the likes of M&S, Debenhams and Matalan. Is it any wonder print sales are in decline?
In October, Glamour UK magazine announced it was going “digital first”, stopping its monthly editions and instead producing a “collectible, glossy” issue twice a year. InStyle had done the same the previous year. Of course, declining print sales doesn’t necessarily indicate diminishing influence. But in an increasingly crowded online space, maintaining a loyal readership isn’t easy. And then there’s the question of advertising revenue. When Glamour announced the end of monthly print publications it said its editorial and commercial teams were becoming “fully integrated”. Another way of saying that the commercial team will actually be controlling the editorial content perhaps?
All this raises the issue of authenticity, and this is where bloggers fill that vacuum. Well for me anyway. I realise that as a blogger myself I’m biased, and that not all bloggers/influencers give completely honest reviews. But what bloggers do so brilliantly that magazines can’t is show clothes on a variety of body shapes and sizes. The blogosphere provides diversity that has always been bewilderdingly absent from fashion mags.
Back in Glamour’s heyday when sales peaked in 2004 I was one of its avid readers. I was also one of many glued to Sex and the City, lusting after the hideously expensive clothes, shoes and bags. Then the global financial crash happened and shit got real. Suddenly it seemed ridiculous to spend a month’s salary on a handbag. Times have changed. A lot. Anyway, who actually believed that a freelance writer earned enough to buy all that designer stuff and live the high life in New York?
It seems that we’ve all got more savvy, realising that photos are routinely airbrushed and that beauty products are not always what they’re cracked up to be. Now I’m not saying that bloggers/influencers are not part of that; some high profile influencers recently found themselves in hot water over non-disclosure of sponsored content. But this is where “micro-influencers” prove so useful – to both brands and their readers.
Micro-influencers who generally have between 1,000 and 50,000 followers are proving to be an essential part of brands’ marketing strategies. The reason? They have relatively small, but very loyal followings and high engagement rates. Choosing to work with bloggers or micro-influencers is akin to not putting all your eggs in one basket for a brand. They have a direct, personal connection with their audience. A blogger will tell you if something runs true to size, if the fabric is good quality, if it washes well. You don’t get that kind of information anywhere else. And that level of engagement is something brands want to tap into.
Even luxury brands are recognising the selling power of influencers. Once reluctant to appear less exclusive, high end brands are increasingly forging relationships with social influencers. However, identifying which influencers to work with and tracking ROI are big challenges. With some Instagrammers buying fake followers and likes (you can read my post about that here), it can be difficult to predict who will genuinely get the message out there and drive sales.
A survey of 2 million social media influencers by influencer marketing platform Markerly showed that for unpaid posts, Instagram influencers with fewer than 1,000 followers have a like rate of about 8 percent, while those with 1,000 to 10,000 followers have a like rate of 4 percent. The like rate drops to 2.4 per cent for accounts with 10,000 to 100,000 followers and to 1.7 percent for those with 1 million to 10 million followers and more*.
Of course like rates and comments don’t necessarily translate into sales, at least not in the short term. But in the long term, exposure can yield results. Blogger outreach has proven to be very effective for a lot of smaller brands who don’t have a big advertising budget. I can think of many brands that were first brought to my attention by bloggers. So in a way, the marketplace is becoming more democratised as magazines lose influence.
There is undoubtedly something very satisfying about leafing through a glossy mag on a long train journey, but do they actually make us go out and buy the products they feature? For me, no, they don’t. If I want outfit ideas or the scoop on a newly-launched mascara I’ll check out blogs and vlogs rather than magazines. Bloggers are accessible and approachable; their reputation (and sometimes career) depends upon their honesty and transparency. I’m not saying I’m totally done with fashion mags, but with the money I’m saving by not buying them I should be able to afford some nice new clothes! 😉