Blog Criticism | The Neverending Story

It looks like the Belgian blog criticism treadmill is back at full speed. Or did it never stop? I’m writing this article following some activity on Twitter and an article by fellow blogger Ingeborg Deleye.  Translating the entire text would be crazy and it’s not that my knowledge of the English language is as extensive as Ingeborg’s Dutch vocabulary, so I’ll stick to translating the main arguments that were raised during the discussion.

Some arguments are cross-overs from my previous blogger bash rant. You can read it here.

Are bloggers narcissists?

“I have a problem with hundreds of similar, narcissistic photo reports that don’t contribute to anything.”

Here we go AGAIN. *sigh* Everytime I hear the word ‘narcissism‘ when referring to outfit bloggers, it makes me roll my eyes so hard I get dizzy. Why so judgemental? If getting your picture taken is narcissistic, then everyone’s a narcissist. We all post pictures of ourselves, whether it’s on Twitter or on Facebook. Some people even change profile pics more often than I post my outfitpics.

It’s funny this remark always comes from people who choose not to do outfitposts themselves. I advise you to try it yourself to find out what it’s really like. It’s damn hard. Personally I find it very confronting, and I always post my outfitpics and afterwards never look at them again. Because I too, am a modest West Fleming. Posting pics is scary, instead outfit bloggers should be rewarded for their bravery (I’m joking obv).

But then again, I also agree with Ingeborg on the fact that a lot of bloggers tend to post 20+ pictures of the same outfit in more or less the same pose. The golden rule is to keep it short and simple, with a maximum of 8 pics that show us both the entire outfit and the details of the garments. The idea is to tell a story around your outfit, so focus on the look and not on how you look.

Lost in Translation?

“I have an all-consuming horror of ‘dt’ errors, childish sentences – including sentences of less than five words – and English idioms which I ten years ago repeatedly ventured to with my own girl group.”

People please keep in mind that not everyone is a writer or a journalist or has some sort of education that involved a lot of writing. Have a look at some of the biggest fashion bloggers (whose mother tongue isn’t English) like Chiara from ‘The Blonde Salad’. Makes about 20k (!) a month and gets tons of designer items delivered at her doorstep. Is it because of her fluent and exquisite English? Hell no. People aren’t visiting her blog to read about new collections or whatever. They want to be inspired by her outfits, they want to see the fairytale she’s living in etc.

Is that a good excuse to neglect every spelling or grammar rule out there? Of course not. But spelling mistakes aside, let the bloggers just have their fun. It’s not like ‘Twilight’ was a friggin’ masterpiece either, but it got the message accross. And isn’t that the most important thing? Isn’t fashion all about expressing yourself in a creative way?

And as for the literally translated idioms; they might irritate you but for me, they just crack me up.  “What great is!

Product Reviews

“…shameless advertising for products that don’t work.”

I have to disagree when people say bloggers always write the particular product is fantastic and definitely a must-have. On my blog, I do prefer to write about the products I do actually like. For one, because I don’t have the time to write about everything I get/buy since this is not my job, and second, because I don’t have that much time on my hands I like to use it on products that are worth my time.

I have to admit there have been times I saw some products on other blogs that were highly recommended and I got the same ones and they didn’t do anything for me at all. Does that mean these bloggers are fooling people, by saying this product is fantastic? Perhaps. But keep in mind that what doesn’t work for one person can perfectly be another’s holy grail.

On the other hand, I do have little faith in blogs that don’t mention whether they have received the product for free. There has to be some sort of transparency towards your readers imo. I’m always going to put honesty with my readers first by adding a disclaimer to the post or a mention that I’ve got the product from a PR company or brand, or when I got paid for writing the post. And even if I have approved of the product by writing a post about it, I’ll always list the qualities of the product that I didn’t quite like. It’s up to the readers to determine what weight they attribute to those qualities and make up their own mind whether or not the product is relevant for them to purchase.

The Quality Label

The quality label for Belgian blogs is something I started thinking about around year ago, when I first learned about a similar initiative that already exists in the UK, named ‘Handpicked Media’. It’s a platform that unites bloggers that have a certain standard and supports them in getting deals with companies. I’ve discussed it with some bloggers, journalists and pr peeps and most of them agreed there might be something there. The big question is however, how do we implement it? How can this be translated to the Belgian market? And who should decide who gets to join? “A neutral person“, suggests Ingeborg. But who can be regarded as a neutral person in this business? No matter how I see it, there are always going to be some hidden agendas. There are so many different kinds of blogs and to like or not to like is still a subjective thing.

Another thing that kind of troubles me is the idea of a good blogger that should get the quality label. Who ever said blogs are only great when they are run by talented writers? I for one, am a very visual person and I think Style Scrapbook is a great blog, even if Andy writes jack. And I’m sure her other gazillion readers would agree. I don’t go over there to read stories, I go over there because I want to be inspired by her outfits. People with a journalistic background probably pay more attention to the writings than the actual visuals. And let that be the point I’m trying to make. Everyone is looking for different things when they are visiting a particular blog. So why should we narrow down the candidates for the quality label to ‘talented writers’? Do you see where I’m getting at here? It all comes back to subjectivity.

The quality label is not the solution, my dear friends.  That is, if you consider the quantity of bad blogs as the actual problem. Even with a quality label, there are always going to be crappy blogs, and that number will still keep on growing. Another thing is that what might start out as a crappy blog, might turn into something totally different after a while. It’s a learning process. It’s about searching, trial & error.

So “why do some crappy blogs get a lot of products from companies?”, was another question that was posed on Twitter. I think this is because the companies in Belgium are new at this, not only when it comes to blogs but to social media in general. They have yet to find out what works and what doesn’t to promote their brand on the level of the consumer. I think it’s up to the PR’s of those brands to choose their bloggers more wisely, by considering the bloggers’ identity and check if they match with the brand they’re trying to sell. The best way to get to know them is to just meet with them in person for an exploratory interview. Both parties should explain what their brand is all about and what they expect from a possible collaboration. I’m well aware of the fact that this method asks a bit more effort from the PR’s, who are already up to their asses in work, but I’m pretty confident this would pay off in the long run.

Criticism

To conclude my massive rant (I could write books about this), I provide to you the real solution: FEEDBACK. Every blogger is looking to improve their blog, and that includes me. So tell me how can I improve my blog if I don’t know what you like to see, read or what you specifically pay attention to when you’re visiting a blog? Just like I said earlier, it’s a learning process, but you can’t do it alone. Just like students are getting feedback on their papers and journalists on the articles they hand in, I want to get some feedback and learn from my mistakes too. So next time you decide to make all kinds of general comments on Twitter, at least have the guts to tell the blogger you’re referring to what they can do to improve.

And if you really are concerned about the better blogs being burried under a pile of shitty crap, I have another solution: STOP focusing on the bad ones and talk about the good ones instead! Feature them in your magazines and on your websites/blogs, talk about them on Twitter or over lunch with a friend. Like their FB pages, follow them on Bloglovin’, retweet interesting things they say, post links to the blogposts you find interesting or inspiring.. In other words; spread the word! I’m sure the help would be very much appreciated!

Namasté.

 *this article was based on tweets by @eva_vd,  @anne_elle_be & @irisagogo

(I’m also open anytime for feedback on what you think of the blog in general. The good, the bad and the ugly..  You can comment on the particular posts or drop me an email at ste.dejonghe(at)gmail.com . I’ll be happy to hear from you anytime!)
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