Whether we like it or not, blogging has moved into a kind of tiering system – it’s not bloggers doing it, it’s brands. But before we get up in arms about it, this has always happened to print press.
At the top tier, you’ll find the usual suspects; Vogue, Sunday Times Style, Elle and Tatler etc. The middle tier will fall to magazines such as Zest, More, Woman & Home and those that are less aspirational and more achievable, while publications such as Take A Break languish at the very bottom of the ‘desirable’ heap.
In fact, many brands won’t even send product out to the bottom tier – they simply don’t want to be featured in them and that’s that. Even the newspaper I write for sometimes falls into the bottom category, much to my surprise, because just about everyone who ever gets on a train reads it, so I’m not sure how they calculate the demographic, but mostly it settles in the middle to top. However, for FTHSI.com, brands can’t get their products on it quick enough.
So, the same thing is happening to blogs. Quietly, while we aren’t looking, we’ve been tiered. And, it’s a catch-22. If you can’t afford to buy and write about ultra-luxury products, then you’ll never be considered the right place for luxury products to appear. However, those who do write about luxury can pretty much get away with writing about all three tiers – I certainly do – to no real detriment.
Brands have every right to control where and to whom their product goes; I don’t like it any more than anyone else, but that’s their prerogative. It’s not just about what products you show – it’s how you write about them. It’s fine if you haven’t liked a product to say so and why, but just flashing up a picture with little in the way of words to accompany it isn’t good enough. The whole picture is quality. You can take a 99p product and if the writing is eloquent and good enough, with a thought-through argument and obvious consideration, that elevates it to a better post.
Actually, I had a request through to speak at an event on a section that covered topics such as ‘Making bloggers work effectively for you’, ‘Exploring ways in which bloggers can inﬂuence your customers most effectively’ and more. To be absolutely fair, this was a guideline and the person who contacted me was more than willing to change the titles. But, it gives you an idea of how the whole genre of blogging is being viewed now. As a sales tool. So, you can quite see, when this is the general attitude towards blogs how the tiering system fits in. I can’t get on the podium quickly enough to start righting these wrongs!
For bloggers, you have to hold firm. Yes, we’re totally aware that our recommendations boost sales – when a product is a gem it flies round the blogosphere and people do go out and buy it on our say so. However, the heart of blogging is not selling – it’s open and fair reviews about products that are useful and helpful to potential consumers and other bloggers. When brands realise that you cannot be bought, that your word is not for sale, your opinion is held in even higher esteem. They cannot control you or your views.
As a pro-blogger, I have said before that I turn down more than I accept – I have to or my word is worth nothing. I don’t care to be tiered and I don’t care to have my views bought. For Superdrug, where I am working with the B. range, I saw that range in its (almost) entirety first, I tested as much as I could, the contract went back and forth about twenty times before I was happy that I could still be honest and yet be useful to the brand. There are some hard calls to be made in blogging but as much as you might think you have the upper hand, the tiering system is ensuring that you don’t.
So, what do you think? Fair or not? And, I don’t have all the answers here… what can we do to ensure a more level playing field? Or does tiering and specific marketing to bloggers mean that we’ve reached the same point or even further than press?