just a thought – two kinds of bloggers

Over the weekend I attended IDS09, and one of the highlights for me was seeing a panel discussion with three top interior design bloggers – Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan from Apartment Therapy, Harry Wakefield from MoCoLoco and Grace Bonney from Design*Sponge.  It was an animated discussion moderated by Mark Challen of House & Home.  As always I find bloggers, especially popular bloggers, to be fascinating people – they are enthusiastic and articulate.
IDS09 Bloggers Panel

It was essentially a discussion about blogging rather than interior design.  Topics range from blog design, comment management, positivity, and the importance of great images.  I would have liked to hear more about their niche rather than the standard stuff you could hear at any social media convention.  All three are career bloggers who make their living by selling advertising.  The questions from the audience were all about “how can we make money from our blogs” which hardly draws on the unique experiences of design bloggers.  I guess its par for the course to get questions equivalent to the cliché Google search for “make money online”.  Read ProBlogger for that stuff, people!

The one thing that I wondered was why the other kind of blogger was not on the panel.  The furniture designer who blogs.  The textile designer who blogs.  The interior designer who blogs?  They are all out there – and some of them post to the same level of quality that the panel bloggers do.  Not every blogger is a mini-media empire built on advertising revenue.  But the other type of blogger doesn’t get the same kind of attention – despite the fact they have many interesting things to say as well.

I count myself as one of the “other bloggers”.  We fly under the radar for a lot of reasons – not least of which is the fact I have no idea what we are called.  We are described as making a living “indirectly” from our blogs, but “Indirect Blogger” sounds a bit misleading.  Kevin Kelly describes the phenomenon in terms of artists using new media to find their “1000 True Fans“, but that doesn’t suggest a pithy term to me either.  Any ideas?  For now, I’ll use the term Who-Bloggers, just because we often have to describe ourselves something like “Fashion Illustrator Who-Blogs”.

Another reasons the Who-Bloggers get overlooked?  They spend time doing things other than posting on the blog, so they can not post as frequently or build the same level of traffic as a Pro-Blogger.  The established media (like newspapers, television) is hooked on the idea that blogs are their competition and so there is an assumption that the only way to make money from blogs is the same way that the rest of the media does.

There are so many reasons why Who-Bloggers are awesome.  Perhaps we deserve a little more credit and the occasional seat on a panel about blogging.  Here are a few reasons I can think of:

  • We are more focused on creating original content.
  • Since we do things other than blog, we have more things we can post about first-hand as a participant rather than as an observer.
  • Because our audiences are smaller, we can interact more directly with our readers.
  • We get the benefits of being part of the media on top of the benefits of the other work we do – like event invitations.
  • Blogging allows us to promote ourselves in a way that is cheaper than advertising, more personal and more genuine.
  • We have to hold ourselves to a high standard just as much as Pro-Bloggers do, because making our living depends on it.

There are so many Who-Bloggers who have inspired me – I think that Gaping Void is probably the original Who-Blogger and has a huge influence on my attitude towards blogging.  In the world of fashion and design, there are so many I know of – makeup artists who blog, stylists who blog, graphic designers who blog, photographers who blog.  All doing really cool things, I find that when I open my feed reader, I pounce upon the more infrequent updates of the Who-Bloggers while the Pro-Bloggers frequent posts pile up into the hundreds before I feel like I have enough time to sift through all their updates.

How about you?  Are you a Pro-Blogger or a Who-Blogger?  As a reader, do you have any favourite Who-Bloggers?  If you are an artist, designer, or a service provider, how have you used your blog to build your business?

14 thoughts on “just a thought – two kinds of bloggers”

  1. I guess I’m a third kind: a hobby blogger. I derive very little economic gains from the blog; I’m just here for the talk and idea swap. Though I wouldn’t mind amping up the blog and selling knitwear designs or handmade items, I’m just here for the party for now.

  2. I’m kind of -embarrassed- to say that I’m a Pro-Blogger after reading that. You really paint the dual-intent job to be so glamorous and upstanding, I kind of feel like a mooch who can’t write, now.

    Regardless of that, I see what you’re saying, and really envy people who don’t write for a living and also blog. I get wrapped up into the Pro-Blogger sect because I’m a freelance fashion editor who also writes a budget section – that’s a lot of writing about one topic, for sure. I agree that non-pro-bloggers (meaning ANYONE, including Who-Bloggers) totally get overlooked. Hell, I’m a full time blogger in the top 0.21% of Technorati blogs and I never get invited to anything. It’s a rough world where your competition is in the range of 8M other blogs to worry about.

    Maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity to become a Who-Blogger.

  3. I’m working on being a “Who-blogger” (which is kind of the best title ever). I currently run my blog basically for my own entertainment and the general debasement of the internets, but will be rolling out a new site soon that will offer more services besides just talking about my pubic hair.

    Yeah, I said it. 🙂

    And I wonder why *I* don’t get event invitations…

  4. Miss Elle – Don’t be embarrassed! Being a Pro-Blogger is totally cool! I didn’t mean to seem like I’m putting PBs down, some of my favourite blogs are by Pro Bloggers. Also, its not totally either/or, I think most bloggers who use their blogs to make a living do it from a combination of advertising and networking to sell services or products.

    Your point about the competitive nature of Pro-Blogging is a good one for those who think its easy – PBs work HARD to get to where they are. The bloggers at the IDS panel work on their blogs day and night.

    Red – glad you like the name I came up with, I thought it was kind of silly but at least it gets across what I mean. I started blogging for my own entertainment too, I definitely didn’t become a Who-Blogger by design.

    Re: Event invitations – you guys don’t get them? I know bloggers in Toronto/NY/Vancouver tend to be very active in the scene and get plenty of event invitations, but it might be a location thing? The PR people here are very blog-savvy and very generous to us.

    Lauren – I checked your blog and I bet you are on your way! Just keep posting about the stuff you are into and with persistence, opportunities will come.

    Ryan – some bloggers are just hobbyists, I think I am just trying to categorize the ones who blog for a living. But I bet you have used your blog for networking as a writer.

  5. I was a pro-blogger, I worked my butt off for about a year, and aside from getting some notice in PC Magazine just before the plug was pulled by our parent company, I found it difficult to make headway in the market. I can’t describe, for example, the days I spent trying to come up with ways to get in on the promotional opportunities that our competitors seemed to have just by having a very loud voice or by being the online arm of a print publication. I did this with a freelance wage and the backing of a huge internet company.

    Once you start, it’s difficult to get noticed, and what I find both interests and repels me in a number of the blogs I read that don’t belong to larger networks is the cult-of-personality vibe. It seems to be what’s rewarded, if you’re starting without the backing of a professional advertising and marketing arm: lots of photos of yourself, lots of this-is-what-I-do.

    Another good point to note is that a lot of the “pro bloggers” you mention do not write their own content. Yes, they generate some of it, and might have been on their own when they were starting out (and when the field was a lot less crowded). However, go to Apartment Therapy now and see how many posts are written by Maxwell? See how many people are writing posts, period?

    Many popular “blogs” are actually small topical news organizations, and a number of the “blogs” listed on the recent 25 Best list in Time — like Metafilter and the Huffington Post (how is it super-different from Salon.com?) — seem an awful lot more like “sites” to me — the point is that there’s plenty of content being generated and, in at least a few cases, it’s either user-generated, or generated by people who will do it for the publicity or just because they enjoy being offered a large soapbox, or etc.

    Eh, just some thoughts. 🙂

  6. I know this is an old article, but I must thank you for it.

    I’m in the process of setting up my own, art-featuring blog (like the art section of Coilhouse or like form is void, and I’ve been reading a lot of Problogger.

    But even though I find the articles good, after a while the whole ‘make money, make money, make. money!’ gets a bit too much for someone who’s looking up to Who-bloggers and hobby bloggers.
    When they talk about, say, choosing a niche, it seems like you should first choose by what is popular/profitable right now, and only then consider if you are into that particular niche.

    I’d really like to see a metablog aimed at Who-bloggers.

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