All the pretty voices…noise or symphony?

There's no doubt that we're in the middle of a media paradigm shift. I'm not sure if I really want to write yet another commentary rallying the rising power of bloggers or the sheer numbers of new participants… all you have to do is open your eyes, and you'll notice more and more bloggers using the medium to create meaningful, lucrative careers. However, there comes the time where one shouldn't be just pointing out the obvious, by saying ‘Hey there's a lot of blogs out there, and I don't like a lot of them.' and start asking questions like ‘Why are there so many blogs out there.' and ‘What can we as a community be doing to improve the dialogue'

This comes to mind as last week Business of Fashion published an article titled Fashion 2.0 | Not all blogs are created equal. Where they critiqued the aggregated content site Inside The Tents:

A perusal of some of the aggregated content on [Inside the Tents] ITT causes one to pause and ask: are these bloggers really offering any unique expertise or vantage point that adds to the fashion dialogue? Some (though not all) of these bloggers appear to be more focused on themselves and on the celebrities in the front row than on the fashions on the runway. Unique opinions are few and far between.

Simply pointing out the lack of contributors with unique perspective or expertise to ITT struck me as a odd as the participants were some of the most prominent bloggers, ones who actually, have years of experience establishing a dialogue with their readers. Whether their opinions are good is perhaps missing the point that the unique expertise or vantage point has more to do with a real relationship than a mere broadcasting of opinion.

“Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself”

~Miles Davis

The truth is, in this whole media revolution we have several camps… each are scrambling to learn each other's game. I didn't know jack about fashion when I started my *ahem* fashion blog… I just liked dressing up. Since then, I spent a lot of time researching, figuring out what I liked and didn't like and why. Today, newspapers and journalists want me to link to their ‘blogs' and read them, though they've never commented on either of my blogs, they don't have a blog roll, they rarely reply to the one or two comments on their own blog… it's just another two dimensional media. They only getting half the the story.

Bloggers are successful because they establish lines of conversation… that means there's a two way street going on here, people are bored with just being talked “at” rather than “to.” Professional journalists are successful because they are experts at articulating their thoughts and they have valuable connections. We're bound to meet at some point, hopefully to establish an inclusive and informed dialogue.

While talking about what doesn't work is fine, it it's easy to criticize, it's easy to have ideas… it's hard to actually do anything them. While ITT wasn't perfect, it was indeed a step in creating a community by providing a platform for bloggers to work together to create a stronger voice. Sure there was a lot of sorting out what was good and what was crap, but then same could be said about Style.com, there was loads of crap on there too, but that's just my critical opinion. The real thing we should be talking about is how both ITT and Style.com address a problem by giving a real solution by providing a space for those of us who can't be at fashion week to gain access to the runways.

catoutofbag

There's no virtue in waiting for the perfect solution, we don't have to wait to become experts to start something special, because becoming an expert is a process. Sure there are mistakes, and the good thing about mistakes is they are a lot easier to learn from than success.

So what about the solution?

There are loads of solutions… we're not going to leave you hanging (for long) for instance, just because the critics don't always say the nicest things, that doesn't mean they should be discounted entirely. Wendy Brandes pointed there's a lot repetition out there when as 30 bloggers post about Kate Lamphear. This Thursday we'll be going over some tips on strengthening your unique voice. So by next time NYFW rolls around both Business of Fashion and Inside the Tents will be happy.

Cat Image ‘Charlie' by Hey Paul on Flickr.

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12 Responses

  1. Business of Fashion

    Jenine,
    Some really interesting perspectives and points of view — I really enjoyed reading your piece.
    I think the point that blogs are about dialogue is a really important one. There are very prominent journalists like Cathy Horyn who understand the power of dialogue that come through a blog, and how that differs from her more standard articles for the New York Times. On the other hand, as you say, there are plenty of others who seem to be setting up blogs just because management is forcing them to.
    That said, as the convergence that you speak about inevitably comes closer, I think it will also be important for independent publishers to resist getting into an ‘us against them’ exchange regarding the traditional media. There is certainly a lot they can learn from the way bloggers are engaging with their audiences, but the reverse is also true, professional bloggers can learn from them as well, particularly as it concerns issues like fact-checking, and editing to provide an end product that is of good quality, with a target audience that is larger than just the person in the mirror.

    Reply
  2. grechen

    great analysis, Jennine…I am a capitalist, so the more competition, the better. this is the INTERNET, there’s room enough here for everyone, if you don’t want to read what they have to say, don’t. But the brilliance of it is that anyone can really find someone with whom they resonate, or if not, they can make their own voice heard. and that’s OKAY. the idea that because one person believes that some bloggers do not have anything unique to say they shouldn’t say it OR be given legitimacy is ridiculous. (maybe i’m wrong, but that’s what i got out of the bof article). and i agree, there was and IS still TONS of crap/same old sh*t out there, but you know what they say…one person’s crap is another’s treasure 🙂 and eventually, the “cream” will rise to the top….

    Reply
  3. Jennine

    @BoF.. thanks for taking the time to read this article and respond to it. I really appreciate it. And you are right, there’s should be more of an effort for independent publishers to learn from journalists about editing and fact checking. Both really good ideas for IFB posts *thank you*. Both things I really didn’t know about, and some are really difficult to do (ie. proofreading your own work) if you are on your own… which journalists have a support network, while Independents are usually writer, editor, copy editor, fact checker, photographer, graphic designer, web developer, marketer and they usually have a day job. So there definitely needs to be some perspective on both ends.

    Independents aren’t just talking to the person in the mirror… regardless of the editing skills or lack thereof. I guess at which point we’d have to ask ourselves what is the purpose of fashion media… or even more general… what is fashion media?

    @MR… hahaa

    @gretchen… thanks love. it’s amazing because on the internet you don’t have to read something if you don’t want to. you don’t even feel guilty about not reading it because you paid $19 for it. while i don’t believe ‘legitimacy’ should be thrown out… I do believe it needs to be reassessed.

    Reply
  4. apricot tea.

    A wonderful post. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I’m going through my own version of “fashion blogging” remorse. In a lot of ways, you took the thoughts right out of my head in regards to it all.

    Thank you so much for sharing. :]

    Reply
  5. Jordana

    SYMPHONY!

    Great article, Jennine!

    From a personal style blogger standpoint, I think we’re all battling (friendly competition) to say something different; express ourselves through creative wardrobe experimentation. Many of us are connected and online 24/7…we get Twitter, we’re in online communities like IFB and tFS ,and are influencing the ever-evolving concept of social media.

    Completely agree with Business of Fashion in that indie bloggers and traditional media can learn a lot from each other. Some traditional media outlets are already beginning to leverage indie bloggers for content (fashion glossy’s have been featuring style bloggers on their websites and in print). In general, it seems a lot of indie’s are afraid of letting in the influence of other media and PR/marketing ppl as their “voice” might get lost in the process.

    As for the PR/marketing ppl who constantly blast impersonal emails and want to be featured on our sites…do your research! Or at least take the time to learn how to use mail merge (haha). I will almost always respond to someone who crafts an email just for me…almost never to the blasts. Seriously though, bloggers are constantly looking to write about something different…we aren’t getting the exclusives so we have a completely different approach to crafting content for our sites than print/broadcast media.

    Can’t wait to see Thursday’s post!

    Reply
  6. SwanDiamondRose

    nice nice Miles Davis quote. perfect really. and i agree with all your points. and have really enjoyed your public style evolution [sorry bit heavy description there]. i love seeing people [like my friends in daily life] find their style tastes. that intuitive insight is extremely valid.

    and i guess i am a populist, and enjoy a full range of opinions. and a bit of a capitalist, and a bit of an anarchist too? so i love the internets in its many manifestations.

    it’s kind of pointless to have so called more “professional” or “established” people or people who use more “professional” or “established” mediums criticizing what is going on. though i totally expect it. but seriously… the only way their professions or mediums or expression became recognized were through paradigm shift times like this, wild west times, times of new ways of doing things. even if you refer to establishment or education, those were also groundbreaking new ways of doing things at some point.

    ha cha cha.

    Reply