Fashion journalist is probably up there with supermodel, singer and actress.
It is perceived as a glamorous role that involves meeting famous people, getting free clothes, going to fashion week and having an absolute shed load of social media followers. Erm, best bloody thing ever, no?
Let’s be realistic, let’s look at the declining numbers of print mags. Let’s look at your favourite glossies, crammed full of covetable street style, new handbags in rainbow shades and beauty products in gold packaging that you’d basically cut off a finger to have in your make-up bag.
Yes, let’s look at them and look at how much they’ve declined in the past 5 years.
Company closed earlier this month after circulation plunged into five figures. But, over the past five years, decline over the most popular fashion and lifestyle magazines has, at worst, reached 47% (LOOK) and at best, only hit 10% (Vogue).
Redundancies and pay freezes have been steady across the board at all publishing houses – with the norm being not to replace positions after staff have left rather than make a show and dance and firework display over the need to cut magazine teams.
But there is still a product to produce, a product that still requires a full team of staff to create, design and put-together – and it’s probably the stress-levels on these magazine teams that have been hardest hit.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the sales of the actual magazines that create the income, it is the glossy full page advertising inside. The poor circulation figures drive down the prices of the advertisements and therefore the publication takes in less and less profit each month.
But, I hear you say, even if fashion magazines do eventually die a sad, sad death, I can still always work for their websites, right?
Whilst a magazine team will contain at least 30 staff members made up of writers, stylists, subs, picture resources and designers – in 2014, the average web team on one of the above mentioned titles is three.
But, what, how, it’s 2014, everyone uses the internet and surely if EVERYONE uses the internet and the declines in circulation are THAT drastic they should be pushing their online content hugely and making ginormous, amazing websites that I can only aspire to one day work on?
Ahh, if only.
The problem with the digital world is that advertisers and PRs are still very slow on the uptake. Despite the fact studies have shown that consumers are more likely to buy a product recommend by a blogger than a glossy mag, by up to four times, online advertising revenue is only the tiniest fraction of what it is for print.
I found this cute little graph on Wikipedia under ‘decline of newspapers’ – uh huh, has its own Wikipedia page now, saying something, right?
The main problem, from experience, is that instead of web strategies simply being ‘ let’s make some bloody great fashion content our users will actually want to read’ – it’s ‘will people be able to find this on Google’ and ‘does it match the brand in print’.
Guys, guys there will be NO brand at all at this rate.
Whilst Buzzfeed succeeds in that it not only has a fantastic, read-able homepage that is crammed with articles and quizzes you didn’t know you needed to read until you were there, the majority of the content is hugely shareable – so even if you’ve never typed Buzzfeed.co.uk into your web browser, you’ve probably seen countless articles from them propped up on your newsfeed. Turns out, you’ve probably never Googled ‘What’s my spirit vegetable?’ but you’d bloody well click on a quiz to find out if it was at the top of your Facebook feed.
Mail Online play on a similar trait – they show you stories you never knew you needed to read – Lauren Goodger talking about Mark Wright, Katie Price showing off her tiny post-baby body and Kim Kardashian wearing another outfit so repulsive she basically looks like a peeled banana. The difference between Mail Online and Buzzfeed is that Mail Online plays hard on popular search terms – such as celebrity names, missing planes and the favourite, missing children.
Publishing houses are trying too hard to replicate their mag content and make articles rank online without stopping to think about what their readers might actually want to digest on their lunch break.
Clue: It’s probably NOT another new hairstyle gallery, or how celebrities are wearing denim (they’re wearing jeans on their legs – seriously, what is this tomfoolery!) or an article about how you can get the same plane white blazer as Millie Mackintosh. Give a flying fuck?
One look at the online fashion industry and it’s not hard to see who is absolutely nailing it – bloggers.
And the best and my most favourite part? Those savvy fashion journalists who have noticed the decline for years, have on the side being growing their own blogs, their own brands, their own social media presence, and they’re flee-ing these world-acknowledged fashion magazine brands to go it alone online.
Dem girls be smart.
So, the main reason there’ll be no fashion journalist jobs in five years?
Even if, at best, magazine circulation levels stopped declining, they just leveled off, the teams would have to be much, MUCH smaller because there would be nowhere near as much money coming in from sales and advertising.
I honestly believe that many of the publishing houses have had their heads in the sand for too long following the online boom, and they’ve now left it almost too late to resurrect their brands with an online presence. They’ve refused to invest decent money on a platform that may be their last hope of saving a brand, saving a long-loved magazine name from complete extinction.
Their websites will fall into obscurity because they are so far removed from what their audiences are actually reading online (with the exception of Cosmopolitan.co.uk – I think they’re actually doing a pretty damn good job, although, MUCH bigger digital team to their competitors).
It will be the bloggers, the normal girls who write the things everyone’s thinking, the ones who don’t try and sell you anything they don’t believe in, the girls who feel like your (slightly more stylish) friend, your big sister, your cool aunt, the popular girl at school, that ARE the fashion industry.
Just one look at the likes of Zoe Sugg, Tanya Burr and Niomi Smart’s pay checks (not that I’ve ever seen them – just y’know, what you come to know bits and bobs about successful bloggers from working in media) will tell you everything you need to know.
Love fashion? Love clothes? Love writing?
Forget the mags and join the online world of blogging – it’s your only real chance of succeeding in the fashion industry.
Go get em, tiger.