This was a post I’ve wanted to write for a while.
You might remember that way back when (at the beginning of June – seriously I just had to scroll back through so many Twitter favourites that my eyes feel dizzy) I asked you guys where you were getting your digital content from.
What you were reading online. The websites you were going to for features and news and to generally while away your life because CBA doing work or being productive and that, nah.
Your answers didn’t surprise me, they just helped me prove a point that I’ve been badgering on about since the dawn of time.
Or I guess, if you’re being pernickety about my research methods, you proved that my Twitter followers – digital-savvy twenty-something females – agree with what my brain already thought, and that, ladies and gents and kittens and wizards, is where the future of journalism is heading.
It’s no big gigantic surprise that print is dying – or to put it in a more rose-tinted way, marginally less important than it was before the internet.
Mag teams are trickling away, being downsized because budgets won’t allow massive fashion teams and weekly shoots across the globe. There’s pay freezes in place, people are often left working two roles instead of one – and oh, there’s these circulation figures I published in a neat little table last year. (There’s also another nice little graph further down that shows that print revenue took a sharp decline in the mid noughties and that well, online revenue was slow off the ground…).
In the time since that last post was written – nearly a year ago – magazine circulation stats have fallen even further. Weeklies like Grazia and LOOK are now at less than half of what they were in the glory days, and we’re only a month or so away from figures for the first half of 2015 being revealed, which I don’t doubt will show further decline.
But here’s the big deal – you guys aren’t reading their website counterparts.
You women who have educations and jobs and aspirations, you women in your late teens to thirties, you women who like fashion and beauty and holidays and binge watching Mad Men on the sofa, you women the target audience, aren’t interested in the online versions of the magazines you would have been reading had the internet never been a thing.
OK, I mean I’m sure some of you are.
But out of those of you who replied to me on Twitter? There was only one mag website that came up in your lists of top websites for content, and that my dear pals, was Cosmo.
I’ll be honest, when I was at Metro and Cosmo had their re-design I was all NAH BABES, NOT THE ONE. And then a week in I was like ahhh I see what you’ve done there and I applaud you.
Cosmopolitan.co.uk is the only women’s lifestyle magazine to acknowledge the internet and the wider world outside glossy pages, and invest in a re-design that plays up to what’s working right now in the digital realm.
That Buzzfeed format, that easy on the eye format, that website layout that uses limited energy to understand and take-in – yes, it’s the classic list feed homepage.
When you’ve got 7 minutes to burn whilst eating a Pret salad you want editorial laid out in front of you in the easiest way, like Buzzfeed, like Cosmo, and like your Bloglovin feed.
The list feed just works. It’s freakishly simple but it’s what we, as consumers, find pleasing and easy to digest.
The big issue is that it’s not that digital editors don’t know what works, don’t have wild dreams about the sort of content they know will generate traffic and readers, it’s that the people higher up just don’t get it. Or if they do get it, it’s a recent acknowledgement and it’s dealthy slow-moving and there’s just not the right sort of budget to invest in huge-scale re-designs that work and research and new writers to bulk up web teams.
Oh, and one more thing – brands are also hideously scared of producing online content that’s too far removed from their magazines. Even if their online readership is entirely different. Yup.
Just an FYI, aside from bloggers (because more on that in a minute) the other websites you guys included in your top threes were The Debrief (which is part of Bauer Media who also look after Grazia), The Pool, Buzzfeed, The Guardian and the BBC.
People are reading websites that aren’t blogs, people are loving websites that aren’t blogs, they’re just not the ones associated with magazines (aside from The Guardian being a newspaper and what not).
I wrote last week about hitting a blogging brick wall – well, about the entire bloggersphere sort of hanging out at this brick wall being a bit like, now what guys? And it feels like this level of peak blog, combined with peak list and declining print sales is making the future of women’s lifestyle content all over the damn shop.
(I mean is it shop or shot? Even Google doesn’t have a damn clue).
We’re shopping from Instagram more than we’re shopping from magazines, and the popularity with both bloggers and fashion magazines of LIKEtoKNOW.it just proves this – there are women, young girls, out there who are raking in 4, if not 5, figure sums every month from affiliates based solely on Instagram accounts. It’s insane isn’t it?
And yet that’s the type of content we’re digesting now and compiling shopping lists from – Instagram and blogs, where we get a chance to see what something looks like on a real person who could be us or our BFF. And the best bit? Getting to see something on someone that they’ve bought in H&M for £20 that week – something we can afford and go online and buy rn if we so wish. Instagram and fashion is a genius combo – why ever need anything else to sell clothes, eh?
And then look at the lifestyle package in general. Up until Wednesday morning I had no idea where the bloggersphere could expand too at all in that area – and then Victoria from InTheFrow unveiled her new blog – ahem, soz, WEBSITE – design and it all became searingly obvious.
The future of bloggers is to overtake magazine websites by miles. To be glossier and better designed and sexier and snazzier and more personal than anything that came before them.
The next step forward with blogging isn’t necessarily about changing our content – although improving writing skills and photography skills will come naturally the more we blog and create content – it’s about the way we’re packaging it.
It’s about stepping away from that classic blog design we’ve all known since about 2009, that sidebar with the archives and the Instagram photos and the selfie and the bio and it’s about transforming our blogs into destinations that rival the big boys in every way imaginable.
I haven’t even thought about YouTube in all this because it’s enough to give me an over-excitement/confusion headache, but the big picture is that there is no obvious answer about where journalism – in the women’s lifestyle sector, at least – will go in the next five years. It’s a bit of a free for all, but I suspect it’ll be the independent creators – the bloggers and brands not connected to publishing houses that come out winning.
Will blogs slowly disappear? I doubt it. 2015 has seen more bloggers go full-time and more brands jumping aboard the wagon than ever before – stats are rising and rising as are social media followings.
Will magazines disappear? I think we’ll se a couple more closures in the coming years. But when you look at the readerships – they’ve simply ditched magazines (unless they’re boarding a plane or ill in bed). Where you’d graduate from something like Sugar or Shout and move onto Glamour and LOOK, well, there’s very few people left in that age range who still appreciate a good ‘ol magazine.
Whatever happens, my plan is to adapt.
I never set out to be a full-time blogger, the goal was always to write for Glamour. But the internet created a whole new way for content and features and stories and fashion to be consumed and I’ll be damned if I’m not writhing around in the middle of the chaos until I retire.
Wait, does this post even make sense?