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Style bloggers aren't the new kids on the block anymore. They go to Fashion Week. They have advertisers. They partner with brands. In a word, they've made it, proving that independent voices are just as influential in fashion as magazines are, if not more so. So is it weird that as fashion blogs grow, they're beginning to resemble the traditional print magazines they're supposedly supplanting?
A handful of the most influential style blogs around have become so successful that they're expanding into a full-fledged web magazines.
Tavi Gevinson took the success of her personal blog Style Rookie, where she shared outfit posts along with thoughts on fashion, and used it as a platform to launch an online magazine for teenaged girls. Rookie updates daily, but has monthly themed content complete with feature articles, celebrity guest spots, and even an old-fashioned letter from the editor.
Leandra Medine recently told Ad Week she is auditioning new talent and "parlaying Man Repeller the blog into Man Repeller the website." She describes her future web destination as a cross between Vogue and Jezebel.
Into the Gloss, a beauty blog started by Emily Weiss as a side project in 2010, just poached Elle magazine's senior news editor Nick Axlerod as part of a major expansion. In addition to ramping up daily content, the site plans to launch a newsletter, add contributors and features, and continue to develop video.
And it's not just independent style bloggers who are expanding. Professional online media outlets are starting to look pretty magazine-y, too.
Who What Wear, the LA-based online fashion and beauty magazine founded by former Elle staffers Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr, recently added Laurie Trott of Lucky magazine to the roster as the site's first-ever fashion director. Britt Aboutaleb, formerly Elle.com's fashion news editor, is now the site's first-ever beauty director. Power told WWD that these were the first of no less than 25 new hires the site is planning this year. "We will be expanding WhoWhatWear.com's daily fashion content, as well as introducing new mobile and tablet content, and are also launching two new websites: one is a beauty spin-off and the other will be announced later this year," she said.
The Cut, the online component of New York magazine's fashion coverage, also announced this week that they will be relaunching with an expanded site. Several new hires—including Maureen O'Connor from Gawker, Kat Stoeffel from the New York Observer, and the site's first-ever beauty editor, Christina Han—have been tapped to expand The Cut's content focus from fashion to general women's issues. Relationships, sex, health, and politics will be covered when the new site debuts on August 13. There will also be a new (very print-like) emphasis on photography.
Interestingly, New York executives told the New York Times they consider their competitors to be web sites like Vogue and Jezebel, the same publications to which Medine compared her future site.
In short, it seems fair to say we're entering a new era of fashion blogging. Call it the era of the blogazine. As websites expand, they're becoming less quirky, less scrappy, and more polished, more professional. Bigger. In a word, more magazine-like.
Of course, expansion means different things for personal style bloggers like Tavi Gevinson than it does for professional media sites like The Cut.
Independent bloggers who are ambitiously growing their audience must create more content while still maintaining their personal voice. This isn't easy. "If one person's perspective or tone is what made a blog interesting, then it is extremely difficult to scale and grow the content without diluting the tone," says Michael Williams, the blogger behind successful menswear site A Continuous Lean.
Judd Apatow's "Ask a Grown Man" spot on Tavi's web magazine, Rookie
Tavi has managed to pull it off, though. John Jannuzzi, the blogger behind Textbook and a contributing digital editor at Lucky magazine, told us he thinks Rookie is "one of the strongest and most compelling examples of growth" around.
How does that work, business wise? According to Rookie's advertising page, New York media (the entity that publishes The Cut) is Rookie's exclusive advertising representative. Like most everything about Rookie, though (starting with the site's teenaged editor-in-chief), that's an unusual situation. Blogs, like other media, typically make their money off of ads and usually work with with many partners. That in turn has implications for the resources required when a blog decides to expand.
"If [independent blogs] expand big, they'll eventually have two arms: one for edit and one for publishing and ad sales," says Jannuzzi. "It takes a team to run a website that commands millions of pageviews, fulfills campaigns, and works with brands. As they grow, perhaps they'll need to hire somebody specifically for beauty, somebody for fashion, somebody for accessories, and so on." In that way, he adds, blogs are becoming similar to magazines.
Similarly, as professional media outlets like The Cut attempt to grow traffic in exchange for advertising dollars, many seem to be adopting the practices of traditional women's glossies: more beauty coverage (i.e. more beauty advertisers); a strong emphasis on original imagery (something print has traditionally done way better than the internet has); and a masthead straight out of Conde Nast. Sometimes literally.
So, will all that help them compete with Vogue.com, as The Cut hopes? Not necessarily. "Magazines have high standards (in most cases) and generally put much more consideration and care into what they do. Bloggers just churn and burn content because the web is much more perishable. I'm generalizing, but it seems true that content on the web is nowhere close in terms of quality to print content," Williams told us.
Emily Weiss, via Into the Gloss. "With the impending expansion of Into the Gloss, I'm sure we'll see all sorts of new content, but it will still have Emily's refined eye for detail, design and integrity," says John Jannuzzi.
That may be especially true when it comes to imagery. Original imagery—Vogue.com imagery—is time consuming and wildly expensive to create. The exceptions to that rule can be found on sites like The Sartorialist and Garance Dore. As early adapters on the street-style scene, blogger-photographers Scott Schuman and Dore have been remarkably successful at creating powerful images on a relative shoe-string: Their subjects do their own wardrobe and makeup, and there is no set, lighting, or crew required. However, they are not cheap to hire, and unless you personally have the Sartorialist's skill set in your own back pocket, good imagery is going to cost you.
Which doesn't mean bloggers—both indie and established media alike—shouldn't try. Style blogger Susie Lau of Style Bubble sees growth as a good thing. "Blogs should be improving as they grow because of the wider access to content, to PRs to develop stories, and in the case of personal style bloggers, to a wider scope of product," she told us. "Design wise, bloggers are certainly taking more care with how they present their content, which can be likened to magazines. However, whilst the means of communication and some methodology have become similar to how magazines function, the content and tone of a blog should stand apart."
Maybe that's where all those Jezebel comparisons come in.
Jezebel has a fashion component, but is essentially a lifestyle blog centered on women's issues. As part of the Gawker network, the site also espouses the famously glib, frequently snarky tone Gawker pioneered, which originally set the site apart from traditional media. It's proven to be a successul formula.
"When we first launched Jezebel, our goal was to have a space that was reacting to the world at large without underestimating women," Jezebel founding editor Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy tells us. "As in, you could care about Violet Affleck's Crocs and the war in Iraq, both, and be able to read about both in the same place. I think this kind of thinking is what's driven the continual increase in readership on the site."
Jezebel has expanded in scale since its launch in 2007, but hasn't changed much in terms of content, tone, or imagery. In other words, it's a blog that has stayed relatively bloggy, and it does seem to make the perfect online counterpoint on the women's interest spectrum to Vogue's image-driven fashion content. It's somewhere in the middle, somewhere in Blogazine Land, that everyone else is headed.