Vv Magazine’s Danielle Jobb gives you a snapshot of what it’s like behind the scenes of the city’s blogging industry from some of the top Toronto bloggers…
Fresh from the salon where she spent the afternoon having the pink and blue streaks removed from her bleach blonde bob, Casie Stewart arrives at the Vv Magazine office. With her splattering of tattoos, cheetah print mini dress, and red lips, everything about the self-proclaimed “Grandmother of Blogging” points to this lady not being your average 9-to-5er. This borderline-overwhelming charisma is precisely how she turned the online transcription of her life into a career. Hers is the art of the millennial generation, the art of over-sharing, the art of blogging.
Stewart landed in Toronto in the mid 2000s with a characteristic bang. She simultaneously scored a full-time job and started her blog ‘Casie Stewart: This Is My Life’ The blog began as a place for her to post anecdotes and poetry rather than doodling them in the margins of her notebooks. Stewart soon became one fifth of the ‘Blondetourage,’ a group of blonde bloggers who hung out on the Toronto techie scene. She became increasingly serious about her hobby, posting regularly about events she attended, people she met, and products she used.
“There was this big upturn in the media about how millennials were this ‘me me me’ generation and we were lazy and we didn’t want to do any work… We were kind of an uprising against that,” Stewart explains. GenY was down to do things its own way, and that meant paying less attention to the middle-aged, government-regulated news anchors who were putting them down. Their focus had migrated to the voices of their peers, and those voices were growing louder and stronger on the World Wide Web. When Twitter blew up in 2008, the floodgates to unregulated online journalism were thrust open. Stewart says it was around this time when people actually started to read her blog.
Bloggers tend to develop a personal brand. It’s essential that the brand is likeable, interesting, and should read like a stamp across all the blog’s content. Truly successful bloggers have that je ne sais quoi and their fabulousness is what legitimizes their content. Take Gracie Carroll, who’s About Me on her self-titled blog tells the tale of her beginnings as a rockstar’s girlfriend blogging in London, England. Or Lisa Ng of Hip Urban Girl and This Beautiful Day, who is a DJ-turned-blogger currently residing in Los Angeles. People often keep up with good blogs for the same reasons they gossiped about the popular kids in high school.
Marketing and PR agencies began to realize the potential of the personal brand as a sales strategy. Bloggers were now referred to as “Influencers.” Influencers were making real, human connections with fans and readers across social media platforms. They were engaging consumers in a dialogue. And thus, Influencer Marketing was born; the techie version of celebrity endorsements.
Suddenly, bloggers, with their ‘me me me’ attitudes and cupboards full of Mr. Noodles, were being flown to Thailand and Madrid, all expenses paid. They were being sent shoes, clothes, and make-up in exchange for two thumbs up in a written review. Bonus points if they took photos. More bonus points if they tweeted the photos. Brands were, and still are, eager to partner with the voices of GenY because they are the voices that people trust as a third-party endorsement.
Lisa Ng’s recent post on This Beautiful Day outlines the major ways bloggers can monetize their sites aside from sponsorships and endorsements, but she recommends that nobody start a blog in the hopes of making bank. “If you’re passionate about your blog and you’re reaching a decent-sized audience, you might as well be making some money, but it’s almost impossible to make a living off your blog alone,” she explains. Paid gigs are few and far between. Everyone wants to pay bloggers in free swag, but the glamour wears thin when you’ve got an overflowing bag of fancy moisturizers but no food in your fridge.
Gracie Carroll, editor-in-chief of The Chic Canuck, says she, “shifts gears into a full night of work after a full workday, every single night.” She isn’t interested in supporting the faux fairy tale world associated with blogging — the perks are a by-product of hard work and long hours. Stewart points out that it all looks pretty fabulous but she spends the majority of her time at home, hanging out in the glow of her laptop screen. Nicole Wilson of Dainty Girl wakes up every morning at 5:30 to get through her blogging duties before starting her 9-to-5 workday.
The hard work does pay off as the skills you hone as a blogger can help you land some pretty sweet jobs. Abbey Sharp of Abbey’s Kitchen didn’t want to ruin the pretty landscape of her site with brand partnerships, so she used her blog as a way to leverage her expertise as a dietician. She pays her bills with public speaking gigs and by working with brands to develop healthy recipes, among other ventures. Stewart says that it was because she had blogged that she knew how to manage a community, how to run events, and how to stir up a conversation online; these skills landed her a full time job as Social Media Manager for MTV/MuchMusic/MuchMoreMusic back when Lauren Conrad was the cat’s pyjamas.
Bloggers have reclaimed the criticism surrounding the millennial generation and are turning it into a creative industry that’s very much alive and well in Toronto. The market is heavily saturated but, according to Stewart, “there’s room for everyone on the Internet, just no room for lazy bloggers.” It’s pretty clear that if you want to be a blogger on top, you’ve got to do it for the love, and certainly not for the money.
Do you follow or idolize any of these top Toronto bloggers? Let us know your favourites in the comments section below or tweet us at @ViewTheVibe.