In today’s society, a new type of celebrity has risen. Whether they attained their fame through their beauty, fashion sense, or even their homemaking hacks, a new species of bloggers has taken main stage creating a sustainable life through their online posts. Because of evolving technology, blogging has taken on a bigger role in society, transitioning from a journaling hobby into a full-time job utilizing visual mediums and multiple social platforms. Rachel Parcell, the author of the popular blog Pink Peonies, is evidence that the signifier, a blogger, has evolved and taken on new meaning in the past 20 years.
Although the title “blogger” is still used, the definition of the word and what it signifies has changed drastically. Understanding what bloggers are is necessary because they have a wide range of influence in today’s society and can create change. It’s important to understand where our influencers came from, and how they achieved their elite status.
Before the internet existed, the closest thing to blogging was citizen journalism and diary keeping. As technology evolved, journaling began to move online. In 1994, Justin Hall created the first blog called Links.net. At this time, he referred to this site as his personal homepage, where he shared what was more like an online diary. In 1999, according to a list compiled by Jesse James Garrett, there were 23 blogs on the internet (https://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2011/03/a-brief-history-of-blogging/). At this time, political and news blogs were the most popular, giving political candidates and news networks a place to share. It wasn’t till the early 2000’s that opinion blogs hit the main stream. By the middle of 2006, there were 50 million blogs according to Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere report (http://technorati.com/category/knowledge-base/). Blogging continues to grow, and doesn’t show signs of stopping any time soon.
Bloggers From The Beginning
Within the blogging system, many have started small and found success through writing and posting about their lives. The first site that opened the door to the bloggers of today and began the transition was Heather B. Armstrong of the blog Dooce. In her introduction section, she talks about that turning point when blogging became profitable.
“In February 2001, I launched dooce.com as a place to write about pop culture, music, and my life as a single woman. I never expected more than a couple of dozen people to read it. A year later I was fired from my job for this website because I had written stories that included people in my workplace. In October 2005 I began running enough ads on this website that my husband was able to quit his office job. That’s when dooce.com became my full-time job” (https://dooce.com/about/).
Many other bloggers have a similar story, like Amber Fillerup Clark of Barefoot Blonde. “Not so long ago, Fillerup Clark was a broke student in Provo, Utah. Today, at age 26, she is the equivalent of internet royalty: a “relatable influencer,” someone whom hundreds of thousands of women trust as a friend and whom companies pay handsomely to name-drop their products” (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/03/instamom/513827/). Naomi Davis of Love Taza says, “While I originally began blogging to document my newlywed life in NYC for just family and friends, I feel fortunate to have gained a readership over the years. because of this, this blog has been able to support my family as we’ve partnered with different brands and advertisers that both josh and I feel work well with our lifestyle and are a good fit for my readers” (http://lovetaza.com/about/). Olivia Gochnour, a younger blogger who runs Willivia, stated “I started my blog in 2008 when I went to Africa on a humanitarian trip. Blogging was the best way to post pictures and write to my family about what I was doing out there. After returning home, I realized how much I loved this space as a creative outlet and have kept it up ever since! I run advertisements and endorsements for things I love and believe in” (http://www.willivia.com/faq/).
Rachel Parcell gained her popularity based off of the outfits she wore. “I started Pink Peonies in 2010 as a hobby as a way to document my first year of marriage to my husband Drew. It was more of a life journal for my friends and family to follow. I started receiving fashion questions from women not only in Utah, but from around the entire country. That’s what sparked the idea to start taking photos of my outfits and labeling where I got each item from” (http://pinkpeonies.com/about/).
All of these bloggers started in the early 2000’s, using their blogs as a way to document their lives. As companies began to take notice of these women and their large online audiences, the money began to flow in. With an income and growing popularity, it was easy for these women to transition their hobby into a full-time job. These early adopters have set an example for many looking to break into the industry. As some of the first in the business, these influencers had a big part in defining where blogging began and where it is going.
What Does Blogging Mean?
Rachel Parcell’s blog Pink Peonies is evidence that the blogging world has moved away from an online diary, as her blog mainly showcases pictures of the products she endorses and her personal clothing brand. Parcell’s blog has brought her popularity, wealth and influence. Parcell shares her pictures not only on her blog, but on social media as well. Her posts have gained her over 928,000 followers on Instagram and an income of about $1 million a year.
Parcell has become the talk of the town, getting mentioned in articles by Financial Fashion Blogger, Women’s Wear Daily, The Observer, The Richest, and many more. Her financial success has been a shock to many, as she attracts thousands of viewers from her small home in Utah. Her high income was motivation for many other bloggers to head down the path to fortune and fame.
After creating a name for herself in the fashion world through her blog and a thriving fan base, she was able to create her own jewelry collection as well as a full online clothing store. Stitched with her name inside each dress, Parcell was able to mark up the price because of her personal brand. She posts daily endorsements of expensive brands like Gucci and Prada, gaining both free product and payment from these companies. As a young mother of two children, this lifestyle should be seen as unusual, but seems to be the case for many bloggers in our society.
Many people support this new form of blogging, and others object to it. Lauren David Peden of The Observer wrote, “I’m all for people working hard and getting paid for what they do. But in the case of these bloggers, I think they’re being obscenely overpaid for doing a whole lot of nothing. I mean, seriously. Forty thousand dollars to show up at a store opening or sit front row at a fashion show (to which they’ve already been flown in, all-expenses paid, and put up in a five-star hotel by some deep-pocketed designer)? All so they can take a few photos, which will be accompanied by a hastily written caption—or, in some cases, just a detailed list of product credits so viewers can replicate the look themselves with the push of a button (ka-ching!)” (http://observer.com/2014/06/million-dollar-bloggers-give-fashion-a-bad-name/).
Blogging wasn’t always a profitable industry. Bloggers began as a group of people that used the internet as their personal space to share opinion or information that mattered to them. Blogs were easily accessible but hard to find, creating the perfect place for many to document their lives. As technology evolved and introduced hashtags, key words, and other methods of making information easily found, blogs became more public. Some of the most popular bloggers in today’s society, people like Rachel Parcell, Amber Fillerup Clark, and Naomi Davis picked up the journaling hobby at the perfect time, as websites became more accessible and easily found.
Next, social media came along. Instagram was a helpful tool for these people to utilize, as it gave sneak peaks of the blog and places to share more visual content. Snapchat was another important medium where bloggers could share even more updates of their life, giving up close and personal interviews and behind the scenes looks of their day to day situations. Bloggers post frequent updates and interactive posts, spending of their time creating their brand and advertising themselves. The more content available, the more likely new followers will see it and join the fan base. With pictures, videos, and live streamed videos, it’s made it easy to stay up to date with what the blogger is doing.
Social media and the internet are continuing to influence our generation, as many strive to join the blogging community. The word blogger continues to transition as many are beginning to skip the writing part entirely and build their fan base on social media. As visual mediums have taken over, pictures and video are necessary for bloggers to generate traffic. Amber Fillerup Clark said, “Before we post a picture, we can usually tell how good the engagement will be based off the content. If it has the whole family in a pretty place, traveling, that’s going to do the best! We always have to think of our life as ‘Where can you take the prettiest pictures?’” (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/03/instamom/513827/). This new form of blogging through social media only shows that anyone with a cell phone and the internet can become a celebrity.
This shift to the all intensive blogger shows the changes in our society’s values and what matters in today’s world. The switch to visual mediums was an indication of more efficient technology and a less patient audience. As our cell phones become touch screens, our cameras become more accurate, and wifi is available to everyone, our society expects instant gratification. By posting short snippets of information on social media, bloggers can disseminate information quickly. Instagram, a popular platform, is perfect for instantly posting visual content to keep bloggers top of mind and to drive traffic to their websites or those of companies they endorse.
The high number of readers following along with bloggers shows the change of allegiance and trust in today’s society. Influencers are now people “just like us” instead of the typical political figures and celebrities. Society has chosen to idolize curated bloggers because these people seem normal and relatable. The bloggers buy things in the audience’s price range, and participate in activities that can be enjoyed by people in all social classes. Their lifestyles seem beautiful and comfortable, something for all to aspire towards. Although these bloggers are rarely famous for their money or talent, they portray their lives to be enviable but attainable. Often the information they release seems more credible, as they are like a friend giving advice instead of someone trying to sell their product.
The bloggers of today often showcase their beautiful vacations, expensive clothing and fancy cars, showing that their followers enjoy seeing those things and aspire to have that themselves. With the high standard of lifestyle that these “normal” bloggers have online, society is becoming trained to set the bar high and assume that the average family lives similarly to that lifestyle. With bloggers as examples, many others are sharing intimate details of their life, curating their content in a way to make others think that they may have a flawless lifestyle. Bloggers display all of the beautiful parts of their life, training society to believe that they must do so too.
The evolution of technology has been the main change in the world that opened the door to the blogging industry. Without the internet and social media, these self-made celebrities would not have the endorsements or the popularity to sustain their lifestyles. These technology updates have greatly changed what blogging has become, and they will continue to shape the industry as society continues to move and grow.
Being a blogger has shifted from someone that shared their opinions online in a diary fashion to express themselves, towards someone who uses their self-made fame to create an income based on endorsements, free products, and companies created under their name. The signifier, the “blogger” has changed dramatically and has become an important term in today’s society. Although the signified is different, it is beneficial to analyze how this transition happened and what it means for our world. In the case of bloggers, a new world was opened up for average, normal people to make a living off of the small talents they have or the photographs they take.