“You as a blogger are running a business” was one of the rallying cries of Julie Falconer (@aladyinlondon) in her well attended blog monetisation session at Blogstock last Saturday. Before we delve into that further, let’s answer that obvious question, what is Blogstock? Well sorry to disappoint, Dylan was not there (he didn’t make it to Woodstock either), the closest thing we had to a real rockstar was ReeRee Rocket of (@reereerockette) and upstart vlogger from Cape Town Kiera McElroy (@CearaMcEvoy). The venue was a field in the grounds of Aldenham Country Park. Yes…this event did involve camping and on night one a good amount of rain. It was certainly different from other industry events!
An event in a field may sound a bit makeshift and more than one fashionista may have lamented a (very) bad hair day but it created a great atmosphere. It was very social and open, with lots of people sharing advice and experiences. I think this was partly down to scale and partly due to the fact that it felt less corporate. Approximately 70% of attendees were bloggers, which I am sure greatly pleased Expedia who were the main sponsor. They had brought with them their digital community managers as well as the finalists competing for the hottest prize in travel blogging this year, the chance to be an #Expediapioneer. Find out more about this competition here. In a nutshell it is an almost unprecedented foray into brand ambassadorship and really shows the company’s commitment to resonating with the millennial untethered traveller.
Back to the blogging as a business point, after a few hours it was quite clear that many people are still finding their way into an area where the rules are yet to be written. I say this from an advertiser and a publisher perspective. One blogger I listened into explained to another that a cosmetics company had sent her some lovely free moisturiser to review, a big deal right? We know bloggers get freebees, well guess what this moisturiser was wrapped in? A Mulberry handbag! Yep that is how some brands are choosing to engage with bloggers now. This was not an isolated incident; I heard many similar stories during my visit. How is this type of outlay justified? Well interestingly (and unsurprisingly) there was no talk about the commercial value of partnership arrangements with bloggers, no insight into the extra revenue such actions generate and definitely not a whiff of talk about attribution. Is this because nobody knows or because in a brand / content led environment it doesn’t matter? I suspect it is a bit of both. Advertising be it affiliate or otherwise is inherently easy to measure but due to various factors, advertising is not the only way bloggers make money (in many cases it’s only a small percentage of their earnings). Many are making far more from writing sponsored posts, selling follow links for SEO purposes or curating twitter chats. In many cases this type of thing is handled by PR companies or more traditional media agencies and they come from a very different world to us performance marketers.
The final session of the day was amongst the most interesting from my perspective, a panel debate on the topic of “what does the future hold for bloggers?” First up Jill Lloyd, Senior PR and Social Media Manager at Expedia explained that she thought blogger collectives would become ever more important for brands. The ability to reach relevant, high quality content creators to deliver co-ordinated campaigns at scale is essential to making the channel work. This is good news for events such as Travel Massive, specialist agencies such as Handpicked Media and progressive affiliate networks like affilinet, all of which take the pain out of bringing the supply and buy side together, arranging and optimising partnerships.
Paul Dow (@TravMonkey) Founder of Traverse Events that arranged Blogtstock spoke next, his perspective focused on formats and how technology can support user engagement. He is a big advocate of ‘live blogging’ which involves linking and leveraging short formats such as Instagram and Twitter to get real-time feedback from an audience while the blogger is actually involved in an experience. For example from a travel perspective that might involve real time coverage of a festival or a music concert which could be tied nicely into a brand ambassador strategy.
ReeRee Rockette, also involved in the debate supported and dismissed some of the points raised in equal measure, a reading of her tattooed palm revealed that she thought long format blogging will be gone in two to three years (not many of the audience agreed). She cited vloggers with video production skills taking the place of written editorial in the fashion and beauty sector. Going even further she felt micro formats such as Instagram and Pinterest are evolving even faster with many of the power users on such platforms not even having a blog, their profiles of millions of followers existing on their curatorial merit. How will these users effectively monetise? This question remained unanswered, what is clear though is that Blogstock showed the potential to bring together impassioned content creators with an eye on earning a full-time living doing what they do best. There is clearly a lot of headroom for businesses able to straddle the gap between optimised automated advertising and integrated, co-ordinated content marketing. Watch this space, exciting times lie ahead!
Out if hours Paul is at his happiest drinking wine, eating cheese, travelling the world, playing sport and discovering new music and film.