Since 1983 the world has had, in some form or another, blogs. The earliest being Usenet and mod.ber where a few members posted about the goings on of the world wide web (Wikipedia 1). In 1990 Bruce Ableson launched Open Diary, the first blog community with thousands of blogs and the introduction of reader comments (2). Since then, a variety of ways to blog have been presented and blogs in general have been steadily increasing in existence. In 2011 there were over 156 million public blogs in existence, in 2014 there were around 172 million Tumblr and 75.8 million Wordpress blogs worldwide (3). So in an ocean full of blog content, what makes a blog successful, what makes a blog stand out among the vastness?
I think most American children remember getting to the checkout line of the grocery store and there, right at eye level, were the very tempting novelty candies and prizes. I will admit, I may have tested my mother’s patients, on more than one occasion, at the end of a long day over if I could pick out a treat. Now, in the good ‘ol style of Karma, my children carry on this tradition also. But since I was around eleven, those end of the day grocery visit treats changed from the cherry thumb sucker (yes, a cherry sucker shaped like a thumb) to me asking if I could buy the latest issue of Better Homes. These magazines, above and below the latest paper publishings of gossip, were the least expensive of design magazines, their pages filled with country home design and tips on how to make your home “shabby chic”. But things changed when I asked my mom for a Domino magazine (Domino). Domino was a game changer. At about twelve to fifteen dollars a pop, I really had to butter my mom up to receive such a gift. A Domino magazine at the end of a work and shopping day was a grand gesture. (Thank you Mom!) With a new Domino at my fingertips, my eyes were beholding this new world of design (at least, new to me), where design was not how to make your neighbors old shutters into a wall hanging but how to make your home into an art piece. From there my love for design was nurtured and I stopped having hobbies like other children. Under my bed at twelve I had a wide, narrow bin full of white folders that held the contents of sketched up floor and room plans. I clipped away at my favorite magazines and added the flooring, furniture, textiles, and lighting I believed made a beautiful design plan for an imaginary client.
Unknown to my pre-teen self, design magazines began to struggle and some even disappear completely. In the article “The World of Online Interiors” by teacher, architectural historian, and critic, Alexandra Lange mentions, “you can have a blog without a print magazine, but not a magazine without a blog—people like both, and advertisers do, too” (2). Inside Domino, Lange’s favorite magazine, the magazine broke design down and always told you where to buy. “Because of this emphasis on attainability, it is no wonder Domino’s followers have migrated online, where they find links to stores, designers, and architects embedded on the virtual page” (3). So what goes into making a blog? How much effort and time does it take? Can you make money from blogging? For most blogging starts out as a hobby or as Emily Henderson of Style by Emily Henderson says, her blog was “a way to share inspiration to the 14 people that read it” (Ladies who Laptop: Chatting with Interior Designer Emily Henderson 1), but since 2010 her site has changed from job, to career, to a “full blown business” with “4 full-time people, 6 market researchers, and 2 contributors” (2). So how do you go from 14 viewers to the more than a million person reach Emily now has? Emily gave advice to young entrepreneurs in an interview with Anna James at the blog Lauren Conrad (3), and gave the advice to “Produce, produce, produce.” “Get your work out there, get feedback, adjust, and move on. Without putting your product/service out there, no one will find you and hire you. Just start” (4). Emily now describes how her blog as her best marketing tool (5). What began small grew momentum and into a project she poured herself into from 7am to 10 am and kept running smoothly over the years with the help of her staff. Today Emily and her team fill the Style by Emily Henderson blog with original content every day and Emily herself puts in a rigorous 40 hour+ work week (6). So how does a blog owner pay their staff, or their rent for that matter?
Viewed by some as slightly taboo, most successful bloggers make a career out of their blogs and are able to pay a staff from sponsored posts. John and Sherry of Young House Love, sat down with three design bloggers Justina Blakeney (The Jungalow), Nicole Balch (Making ItLovely), and Emily Henderson (Style by Emily Henderson) to chat on their podcast about the nuts and bolts of sponsored posts ("#8: Three Pro Bloggers get Real About Sponsored Posts" 1). Through the podcast the three thriving woman bosses agreed that they are similar to creative ad agencies (cue Mad Men theme song), where they are coming up with interesting concepts around different brands (2), ("Bloging + Money Matters"). The popular magazine Vogue has a reach of about 1.2 million with a one page ad costing $195,000. Justina Blakeney has a 1.7 million person reach and charges $5,000-$10,000 per sponsored post which includes sharing through her social media (3), (2). It seems as though brands have found a way to save money while bloggers have found a way to make money. Bloggers are not only reaching more readers but they are also, as Emily mentioned during the podcast, providing assets for brands (4). Emily says she sometimes winces at how much her blog charges to do a sponsored post, at $10,000 to $30,000 per post, but then she realizes that she not only saves brands money, but she and her team are also providing assets that the brand no longer has to produce, such as renting a studio, hiring a photographer, and creating interesting content (5). It’s really a win-win for brands and bloggers.
In short, as Emily Henderson again so eloquently puts it, “[design bloggers] work hard, using their design, media and general creative brains to produce content that makes everyone (readers, buyers, brands, and bloggers) really happy" ("How a Blog Post Gets Made"). Personally, I have, for the past ten years, loved reading and following along with a variety of design blogs and bloggers and I am happy to say that I see it continuing to be a source of inspiration and a possible asset to my own career in Design. So cheers to the world of the design blog, may you live long and prosper.