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An Open Letter To The Luxury Watch Industry – Help Us, Help You

Blog Comic

There was an interesting article in the Financial Times recently which we found to be very encouraging but at the same time somewhat perplexing. The article is entitled “The blogosphere: Internet panders to watch geeks’ obsessions” and it was absolutely fantastic to see our very talented colleagues Ben Clymer, Ariel Adams and Robert-Jan Broer mentioned personally within the context of the piece. The subject matter centered on the role and importance of forums and blogs within the luxury watch industry, highlighting the fact that these outlets have become indispensable mediums through which to disseminate information to larger audiences online.

However, it seems that the key underlying criticism of these on-line editorials remains largely unchanged in the eyes of the major players in the industry: they are not written or edited by professional journalists, and therefore content quality remains an issue. The Financial Times spoke with Jerome Lambert of Jaeger-LeCoultre about this very topic, and it is clear that his personal experience with the on-line community indicates that there is still some ways to go:

“…there is a downside, and that lies with the fact that bloggers are usually not professional journalists and are therefore inclined to make mistakes, give wrong information and sometimes write about things from odd angles that are not especially beneficial – and once an incorrect statement is made or a mistake perpetuated then, even if it is subsequently corrected, the damage is done.”
Source: FT.com

His points are well founded and to a degree are indicative of the general blogosphere, however, by the same token many see this as adding authenticity to the publication. It is important to note here though that not all bloggers are completely oblivious of this fact. For example within the same article Ariel Adams seems to acknowledge that he doesn’t always get it right in terms of finishing:

“I admit there are occasions when it is a matter of quantity over quality and I have received various complaints about typographical and grammatical errors, but, generally, the comments are positive…”
Source: FT.com

Fair enough, he is only human after all.

However, he is also one of the most prolific, influential watch writers on the internet producing a consistently high volume of original content for a number of different publications in the on-line sphere. The question then for us is this: what is the luxury watch industry doing to help him become a better writer? And for that matter, what is the industry doing to help any of these bloggers become better writers?

This is not a criticism of the industry by any means, rather it is an open invitation to a discussion. How can we, as watch writers, work with you to better achieve both of our aims? It seems that Mr Lambert indeed believes this is possible, saying:

“More and more forums have professional journalists working for them and are becoming more like the traditional written press in terms of accuracy. Within the next decade, I think we will see blogs evolve in the same direction. Like it or not, they are now well and truly part of our reality.”
Source: FT.com

But will this just happen organically? So far the majority of the large brands have been incredibly reluctant to show any form of support to these blogs through the form of sponsorship or advertising, so how do they anticipate these publications will somehow be able to pay for professional journalists? Again, this is not a criticism, but an attempt to get people thinking about these issues so that they can be resolved quickly and effectively.

The Final Word
The challenges in addressing this issue will be many and varied, in large part because blogs are so highly prized by consumers for their perceived independence. Thus, advertising dollars from the big brands may not be the best solution as this could potentially tarnish these well won reputations. However, surely there are other options such as scholarships or grants, more open and direct channels of communication and a real commitment to working together, not just sending out impersonal press releases and then expecting perfectly tailored content in return.

If we can achieve this then surely everyone will benefit, right?

Tom Mulraney
Founder & Editor
Tom likes to write about luxury watches. So much so, that he created The Watch Lounge just so he would have an outlet for his passion. Together with his team, he is dedicated to bringing you original, entertaining (and maybe even a little educational) luxury watch and lifestyle content.

Comments 54

  1. I find the statement from Mr. Lambert that, “bloggers… sometimes write about things from odd angles that are not especially beneficial…” rather strange.

    I am interested in why watch makers do not find this feedback to be valuable to their future creations and marketing?

  2. I was going to write a whole point by point response and then realized the comment was longer than the article! 🙂

    Guys, this is an excellent, legitimate and timely post. Here’s the scoop (IMHO as they say):

    The reason all this is going on is because the watch companies don’t get it. They’re afraid of bloggers, they dont understand them, they don’t know how to talk to them, they don’t understand what makes them tick. The reason is simple: very few people in watch companies have ever blogged themselves. The’re not communicators. So they cant put themselves in blogger shoes!

    Too often, companies (barely) provide information, dragging & kicking, and when they do it’s often incomplete or erroneous. Then bloggers put it out, and the companies bitch and moan! I dont claim to have the answers, but as someone who blogs himself and has for several years, here’s my take on what I’d want to get from brands as a watch blogger:

    1. Consistency: don’t love me one month and ignore me the next.
    2. Never ever bullshit me.
    3. Information: give me one contact person, one contact point, 24/7.
    4. Access: give me access to your top brass.
    5. Scoops: every so often, throw me a bone. A big one.
    6. Help me grow my business (yes, blogging IS a business) – Boost me in your social media channels and help me drive syndication.
    7. Help me network (with other bloggers, other brands, other market segments).
    8. Every so often, ask me for advice! I have a much wider view of the market & customer than you probably do.

    This is what I strive to offer when working with bloggers (not only for Hublot). To me it has to be a win-win situation. If you have Talent (capital T), are knowledgeable, write well and often, and have real passion for what you do, then I want to talk to you. This is ESPECIALLY true if you are just a beginning blogger! Because if you’re starting out, I want to be there first, for you, and build the relationship from day ONE, not just once you’re already established! 🙂 – In the process I’ll help you improve, I’ll help you grow, I’ll put you in the spotlight. And we’ll be working together for a long long time.

    This is my vision of support for bloggers. I’m hoping many will take me up on it! 🙂

  3. @ JP

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Now I understand why Hublot has one of the most impressive press portals and provides such consistent news updates. You definitely practice what you preach and we couldn’t thank you enough for it.

  4. Thanks @Cyril,

    We are certainly far from perfect, and there’s plenty of room for improvement as always (matter of fact many of them are on the way) but we do listen and try harder 🙂

    Best,
    J.

  5. Jerome – well stated! I have a new blog site http://www.atimelyperspective.com — extremely new —- i just announced my site to the industry this week … and i come from a journalist’s side — it is a different view point from the other bloggers … so now it remains to be seen what the watch brands think of this take on time … i welcome support, advice and input as i continue to try to grow and meet demands of the reader and collector in the fine watch business.

  6. @Tom.. Excellent article!!
    @Jerome.. I fully agree with your 8 points.

    The thing is that many readers like blogs. The professional journalists mr. Lambert craves for, usually write exactly what a brand wants them to write. That’s why forums have become such large communities; people want facts and a real opinion. And that’s exactly what a good blog offers.
    Forums can also offer the that, but than a readers has to go through dozens or hundreds of posts and when time is an issue a quality blog is the better option.

    Brands just have to deal with blogs and their opinions. However i’m positive that when they look at how successful some brands have integrated blogs in their media strategy, much more brands find blogs a worthy addition to their means of communication.

  7. My take: bloggers ARE professional journalists. The distinction is made on a false premise that you have to somehow fit in to an antiquated “old journalism” model in order to be a professional journalist. Some of the content turned out by bloggers blows out traditional journalists and some traditional journalists are shamefully horrible. Of course some are fantastic and some bloggers are terrible as well.

    To assume that somehow bloggers have no checks on their quality because they are not hired by an institution and subject to an editor is tremendously short sighted. Bloggers are held accountable by the most powerful force of all: the market. A great blogger will build and sustain an audience, a bad one will either not build one or not be able to sustain it. They do not have the luxury of riding the coattails of other journalists in the organization or the reputation of the publication.

  8. It is an interesting problem. As a blogger, I can say that some of us are lucky enough to have watches sent for testing/review by both large / established and small / emerging companies. In other words, actual watches are actually being worn and reported on by the actual writers – this cannot always be said of the print media. Seems like an honest criteria for evaluation. Moreover, some of us – and I include myself in this group, have been particularly blessed by the willingness of companies and personalities to work with us providing us exclusive content and interviews.

    However, you will also receive responses back from companies saying that they do not send out “samples”, they’ve never heard of you, etc. I will agree with my colleagues – some of these folks simply don’t get it. But the strength of the blog is something that will probably continue to evolve over time. Remember this – a few years ago Longines and Tissot would never have opened up online sales options. And now a company no less than Bell & Ross has followed suit. So the way the industry sells watches is shifting and changing, and therefore the way that the watch industry works with the media will shift and change as well.

    I think the whole concept of a “professional” journalist is at best, a presumed level of competence/integrity. There are several watch magazines out there and it is safe to say that some are clearly better than others. Employment with a watch magazine is not a guaranteed measure of ability.

    Let’s keep something important in mind – it is still early days for watch blogs as members of the “mainstream” watch media. There are many blogs out there, and the ones with quality, content, original or unique perspective – these are the ones that will not just survive, but thrive. The Sartorialiast has emerged as THE fashion blog, but remember that it didn’t happen overnight. The next few years promise the emergence of even more high quality, informative and (dare I say it) professional watch blogs – stay tuned.

  9. Post
    Author

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you for all your great comments, that was exactly the purpose of this article, to facilitate discussion! Certainly I think this media platform is still very much in its infancy, especially in this specific industry, however, it is fantastic to see so much passion and I believe the only way we can move is forward. It is obvious to me that those who have already commented above (as well as a number of our other fellow high-profile bloggers) are firmly committed to the continuous improvement of their publications and I sincerely hope that the key players in the industry will also come to the table in terms of providing support and open lines of communication.

    It’s great (although not altogether surprising) to see Jerome voicing his active support on the behalf of Hublot. Certainly he has shown himself to be one person in the industry who really seems to ‘get it.’ Hopefully we will get some insights from other members in the industry and further enhance the richness of this discussion for the benefit of all! 🙂

  10. Hi Tom,

    Interesting post.

    Frank, agree with your point on M. Lambert. What does he mean by this?

    “sometimes write about things from odd angles that are not especially beneficial”

    Sounds to me like all he wants to see on blogs are his “professionally” written Press Releases reprinted.

    dc

  11. @Roberta – thank you I will be visiting you over at the new blog and congrats!

    @Steve – right on!

    @James – good piece on the MIH! I love this watch – under-reported IMHO 🙂

    @Tom – What I am waiting for is input from other brands as well!! I know they are reading this. However if silence persists, then I suppose that’s also an answer on its own isn’t it? 🙂

  12. As a professional journalist, blogger, and a creator of content for brands, bloggers and journalists, I agree that Tom has brought up a very interesting point, but I am surprised that he asks the industry for help. The reason that professional journalists and magazines are generally perceived as being more “professional” (and I am not saying that equates with being “better”) is based on the fact that somebody is putting their hard-earned cash down for the content and will only do that if they get what they feel is value for money. The vast majority of blog readers contribute nothing to the blog (except of course their time), so high viewer numbers is more indicative of being better than most of the free competition than of quality (in terms of accuracy, punctuation, clarity, etc). Experienced and demanding editors – and they have a right to be demanding when they are paying for your text – teach good writers how to be much better writers and challenge the writer to make sure that the facts support the views.

    Good bloggers – and I am proud to call many my friends – are popular because they know their subject and can offer strong opinions that advertiser supported magazines (or blogs) would not risk. But bloggers cannot have it both ways: bloggers are independent because they don’t get paid by brands (advertising, sponsorship or whatever) and they are widely read because they cost nothing to consumers. It is easy to work for nothing, but long term quality content costs money and where that money comes from will have a major influence on the future of blogs.

    When the good blogs are supported by brand advertising/sponsorship/free trips then their inclination to bite the hand that feeds them will move towards that of most magazines. And as newspapers and magazines are finding out, it isn’t easy to get consumers to pay for content online – especially when so many give it away for free. It’s a hard world out there and bloggers have to start seriously asking themselves if their is a viable business model in what they are doing. I suppose asking the brands for help is one step, but I don’t think it is a solution.

    One way that bloggers could easily and cheaply improve the quality of their work is by peer checking each other (before publication). An informed second opinion is an incredibly valuable tool and you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours is win-win for all parties.

  13. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the article. It is true that people such as myself aren’t professional journalists, and neither are you for that matter (as far as I can understand). I have a great deal of respect for professional journalists and if anything strive to be more like them, rather than force them to be more like me.

    As I grow I find myself more interested in working closely with brands to offer the best content and coverage in the interest of providing assets to consumers as well as outlets for my own opinions. I am grateful to Simon de Burton as well as the Financial Times for taking the time to graciously feature me in an article in the paper.

    I feel as though it is important to clarify one point on the topic of mistakes. In the quote that was in the FT on the matter of mistakes was or less in reference to typos – not necessarily wrong information. While the latter does occur from time to time, it was not my meaning in the statement. Pro journalists also can succumb to such mistakes given the inconsistent amount of info we are given a lot of the time from the brands. On the plus side, I can also make swift changes (like you) online when I learn of mistakes.

    I agree with your points on how the watch industry can work better with us. These issues are many of the same ones that traditional watch writers have – so it is a larger issue with the industry having to adjust.

    All in all the work I and my colleagues do is positive in nature and is helping the watch industry far, far more than it is doing any damage. I regularly hear from traditional watch journalists how they feel inclined to adapt to what I do, rather than suggest the opposite. Thanks again for the thoughts.

    -Ariel-

  14. Interesting thoughts, based on a strange comment of M. Lambert, indeed. I just wonder when the two related jobs – PR Manager and Community Manager – will merge.

    Nevertheless, I don’t agree when some said that bloggers are professional journalists. Having the privilege to work for brands and gathering content from all horizons, from bloggers, from journalists, from PR agencies, etc. , there is a clear distinction between the work of a professional journalist and of a blogger.

    These are two different jobs. The question is not to say, at one point, that some bloggers write better than some graduated journalists – that’s a fact, sometimes !

    I think we should remind that a professional journalist, banker, driver, etc. lives, at the end of the month, by the income generated by his daily job. Bloggers don’t (well, 95%).

    Again, the point is not to say that Mr X, blogger, is an influencer, while Mr Y, journalist, is not.

    There is no competition between the two. The fact is that they both require the same information, most of the time at the same time, with the same content, but what you get doesn’t make what you are. It’s not because you receive press releases and because you have more readers than a print publication that you are a journalist. But it means than you deliver a better content for the readership you target.

    Olivier Müller

  15. This is a really great discussion, folks. Everyone has made some great points, but in my opinion, Steve and Ian have it MOST right. A good blogger is absolutely a journalist, or at least every bit as much a journalist as those who publish their work in print outlets. I spend several hours each week considering what real journalism is, and I can assure you, having your work printed in physical form does not a journalist make. Journalism is about presenting things fairly and openly, considering both sides to every story and representing all parties without using directive diction that can lead the reader towards one opinion or another. A journalist presents the information, the reader decides for him or herself. Do any of us do that? Not often, that’s for sure. (People want curated content, not journalism – but that’s a different discussion for a different day.) The media on which the message is sent should not matter and does not matter.

    To group all online watch writers together does those of us that take this profession seriously a considerable disservice. As Ian noted, the vast, and I mean VAST majority of watch bloggers have nothing to offer the consumer, but some of us do, and I think the FT’s article really missed a lot of what makes those that are good at what we do so exciting for the industry. New ideas, new ways to reach consumers, new ways to tell stories. We are connecting people who wouldn’t be connected otherwise and bringing in new fans of horology each and every day. I would estimate less than 10% of Hodinkee’s readers would ever crack the spine of a watch-trade magazine, but they come to our site every single day.

    I also personally don’t know any brands that “loathe” Hodinkee, but if you read Simon’s piece, you would think that was the case. Also, if you read that same article, one may assume that it was FratelloWatches, Hodinkee, Or AblogToRead who caused Jerome Lambert such strife by publishing inaccurate information – i don’t know who it was, my guess is it wasn’t any of us – but by not calling attention to who it actually was, the article paints us all in a negative light. Is that fair reporting? Also, where are the quotes from brand CEO’s who have nothing but shining things to say about online watch writers? Again, just because it’s published on paper, an article is not journalism. If one is to critique online writers for not being journalists, it’s only fair critique print writers too.

    Many of us who started with blogs have since transitioned to writing in print, so where do we fall? Are we all of a sudden journalists because we have our work in glossy mags? Hardly. We’re journalists because we’re good at what we do and people trust us.

  16. So…_is_ there a sustainable business model behind watch blogging, and given the rough & tumble competition among watch bloggers, is it even imaginable that an established blogger would act as a mentor for an upcoming one? Seems to me you guys all protect your turf religiously, which is one of the issues I’ve dealt with being on the other side of the fence so to speak.

    Lots of talk here about bloggers vs. journalists but how about the original question? What can WE as big (or not so big) brands do to help you out besides put you on retainer which, as pointed out earlier, clearly put objectivity in question!

  17. Hey everyone,

    EXCELLENT discussion! I have enjoyed reading every single point in Simon’s and Tom’s articles and all the commentary here. A discussion well worth taking the time to take part in, and a relevant one in today’s journalistic landscape. IMHO everyone has a fair point to make; though I would say Ian probably makes it most concisely. At any rate, if I may add one particle of food for thought, it would be this: Why, Tom, is it the watch industry’s job to make better writers out of bloggers? In professional journalism, where I make my living, we have all spent considerable time, money and effort on education in every sense of the word: educating ourselves on how to write, educating ourselves in watches, educating ourselves in business practices, etc., etc. Why should this be any different in the blog world? I do not think it is the industry’s obligation to make us what we are; that is our own obligation. A well-researched and well-written article, regardless of where it is published, remains just that: something that people want to read and something that somebody is willing to pay money to support. The industry does a whole lot for all of us, probably much more than other industries do for their related sets of opinion-makers. The rest needs to be up to us. And, by the way, there is a lot to be said for propagating editing and copyediting skills. The old adage goes: the more eyes that have looked something over, the better the end product will be. I think all wordsmiths could take that to heart and not skimp on that important step, which SHOULD be a mainstay of all publishing.
    Keep discussing, this is good!

  18. Hello,

    Interesting discussion, and although I think most people who commented on it have very valid points, I would like to state my viewpoint on – at least – my own blog. I don’t think I’d lie when I say that I was one of the first people with a weblog on watches (started in 2004). My decision to start one, was actually a result of the various watch forums. False information about watches was taken for granted, forums have (or had) a lot of ‘censorship’ from their moderators.. stating critical (but valid) comments on – for example – brand X forum would lead to a deleted or edited forum post, as brand X was one of their sponsors.

    So, after hanging around for about 6 years at various forums, I decided to start a blog so I would have my voice published regarding watches. Later on, blogs like Hodinkee and aBlogtoRead started out as well and being very successful at it I must say. I am not a commercial talent, neither do I have some sort of business model or master plan with my blog. I just voice my opinion on watches, as I did 6 years ago. Although I write about watches, the watch industry and think I know my stuff pretty well, I don’t consider myself to be a journalist actually. I am a blogger. Although I also write for other web initiatives and a Dutch magazine (‘WATCH’) in print, I still don’t consider myself a journalist. I am a contributor / editor of watch related topics. Of course, I cannot and will not speak for Hodinkee and aBlogtoRead.

    It seems that a brand or Mr. Lambert in this case sees me as a journalist, I don’t and never did. Even my LinkedIn profile states “Independent editor/blogger on Horlogerie at http://www.fratellowatches.com“. That’s what it is. I am independent, I voice my opinion on whatever I want regarding watches, without being disrespectful towards people and brands. My guess is that integrity is the thing that counts most, and I’ll have yet to meet the first guy or gal that will be able to doubt my integrity.

    If I want to be a journalist, my guess is that I should work on my English a bit more (as it isn’t my native language) and perhaps by start doing this ‘job’ full time.

    Reading the comments of Mr. Lambert, I really wonder who stated wrong information about his brand on a blog… I suspect he either made it up or just heard about wrong information given on a website or forum and we are getting the blame since we are mentioned in the same article. I am with Ben Clymer on this.

    Having advertisers on my blog pays my bills for my passion for watches (traveling, tickets, hotel costs, web hosting), but it certainly is not my primarily source of income. There are only a few brands sponsoring my website with advertisements, most advertisers are resellers (authorized and non-authorized) of watches though. Although I would welcome any brand to sponsor a blog like my own, it does not and will not mean I can’t be honest and critical about their watches anymore.

    The only thing I need from brands are their collections on display at events like SalonQP, BaselWorld, GTE, at jewelers and I will do the math myself, of course with the help of useful press releases with back ground information and technical specifications. I am not running a blog to publish press releases, I have an opinion and it seems that there are a lot of people who like to to read them to either agree or disagree with them using the comments-system. If brands want to help us bloggers out by inviting us over to their facilities or special events, than that’s a great gesture and will help us getting a good idea of the brand, watches and people behind them. This way, we (bloggers) are able to be more spot-on, have scoops and inspiration and it will help the brand to get (more) exposure. However, free tickets/banners/sponsorships should not interfere the way I write about watches. I would like to prevent my blog from getting an over-moderated platform that does not allow to be critical towards brand X or watch Y, as this was the reason that made me decide to start a blog in the first place.

    RJ

  19. Ha, this is getting all quite heated.

    In reference to the Ft article and statements made in the comments here – I was not the blogger who upset Mr. Jerome Lambert. I have not had the pleasure of writing about Mr. Lambert that much, and to my knowledge, was not responsible for the actions which the FT article referenced as upsetting him. I believe Mr. de Burton was only referencing the fact that not everyone is happy with the statements bloggers say. This is true to all people who write on anything.

    Personally I am not very interested in categorical debates on what it means to be a journalist or not. I write about watches online and in magazines. I speak about watches, try to educate people on watches, and engage closely with the watch industry. Call that what you will. People people are professionally trained writers, others are enthusiasts. While I do not have a specific education in journalism, I am still a trained writer – just in the legal field.

    The only thing that matters moving forward in terms of what it is that we do is the consumer reaction. We write to get read. If we can influence in the process, then the watch industry will work with us and support our activity. I will continue to offer the general public interesting content, that to my knowledge is factual, based upon my own understanding and interpretation of my passion, wrist watches and the industry that creates them.

  20. What is really at the heart of this is not really so much a matter of print vs. web or even journalist vs blogger – although I do not buy into or accept the supposition that those in one realm of the watch media have spent more time and money to educate themselves – be it formal eduction or time spent researching. The high quality of several blogs, and the poor (sometimes sloppy) level of research, fact checking and editing put into some articles in the mainstream watch media (read watch magazine) do not bear this out. What is really at the heart of this is a shift in how the world is now beginning to communicate. Web sites are now viewed as gateways, Face Book and Twitter help to disseminate information on a much greater scale than any one magazine or blog could ever hope to do on its own. Neither format can try to exist in a vacuum.

    As the concept of the watch blog is still an evolving one, it will take time to see which blogs will rise to the top, and which will not. Remember, not so long ago there were five or six different watch magazines in the US – now there are really only two with a third working to reinvent itself as a quarterly publication. Men’s Vogue was perceived to be one of the hottest men’s magazines around – and one of my personal favorites – and now it is gone.

    Ultimately, blogging is communicating. And communicating is a “relationship business”.
    The watch company and the blogger can help each other. For the watch company – take the time to read some of the various blogs and determine which of them are in line with your companies products and outlook. Then make sure that you keep those bloggers updated in the SAME news cycles that you update the more traditional watch press. Extend them exactly the same courtesies that you extend to the print media. It is not a one-sided proposition of helping the “online journalist”, it is the company and the “online journalist” developing a mutually beneficial relationship. As a blog owner-operator, it is my responsibility to be open to every watch personality and watch company that is willing to participate – because ultimately that is what will make a good article, and a good blog. And along with this, the watch personalities and companies need to be willing/able to participate with me. I need to respect those that take the time to read what I put out there, and also respect those who take the time to participate.

  21. This is a wonderful topic and one that is long overdue. Thanks Tom, for tackling these issue that have been lurking for quite some time. Really insightful and stimulating comments by everyone who participated so far. I continue the discussion to include readers in my post today. I’m interested to hear their viewpoints on the debate. You can reach the post through the following link:

    http://www.meehnagoldsmith.com/blog/open-letter-readers

  22. Journalism is “for the people, by the people”. Blogs are “for the people, by the person”. Its OK, even beneficial to have an opinion in a blog, not so in journalism. Bloggers serve a valuable purpose and, as long as they are honest and do not have an agenda, I believe they are extremely useful to all of us– a kind of free market research. But a blogger with a vendetta is tantamount to propaganda….

  23. Post
    Author

    Wow! Fantastic comments everyone, thank you so much for your participation! I am really happy to see the level of discussion this topic has generated 🙂

    Personally my intention was not so much to debate the merits of professional journalists over bloggers, etc as I think both have an important role to play and do a great job of disseminating information through their respective mediums. My point was more on how a more mutually beneficial relationship can be built and maintained between the on-line community and the industry.

    Regardless of whether it is a viable commercial business model or not, it is undeniable that blogs (watch blogs included) exert influence over the consumer decision-making process when it comes to purchasing products. Now, I think it is fair to say that whether the information is freely available or not, there will still be bloggers sharing their opinions and experiences and there will still be quite a number of successful outlets which attract a large audience. That being the case, what is the disincentive then from the brand’s point of view to work more closely with these non-traditional forms of media to ensure that they have all the information and access required to enable them to formulate well-informed commentary on the subject matter.

    The key point I am trying to convey is that whether the brands like it or not, they cannot silence these voices and they cannot stop people from reading and being influenced by them. Whether they would actually like to or not is a different topic altogether. That being the case doesn’t it make sense then to facilitate open relationships where both sides have access to all the information and can then make better informed decisions?

    If anything, the internet makes on-line outlets more accountable in terms of accuracy and relevance of the information presented. Traditional print media outlets don’t have to deal with the issue of instant feedback which the comments section of an on-line blog allows. Sure, they may have a “letter to the editor” section which is carefully screened and selectively published, but they don’t have to deal with the real time responses of someone pointing out an error or expressing strong disagreement with their point of view. Similarly the comment function also gives brands the opportunity to interact with the blogs and their readers in real time, allowing them the chance to clarify their position on certain areas (as Ariel did above, ensuring it was clear what he was making reference to in the FT article) as well as contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way. Certainly some of the younger brands are becoming more active in this area, but by and large generally we only see comments from a manufacture when they are attempting to address an issue that has gotten out of hand (such as Tag Heuer’s handling of the Seiko movement debacle.)

    Whilst I take to heart Carol’s comment that a blogger with a vendetta can be very destructive, I also think that a brand should be strong enough to stand up to this criticism and that by embracing this medium rather than ignoring it, they may just discover that their fans stand up for them too, in a very vocal way.

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  25. Hi everyone,

    Very interesting points raised and an interesting discussion. As someone who actually went from being primarily online (as a moderator with what’s now PuristsPro.com) to being both in the print and online worlds I’m personally inclined to see more similarities than differences between those two worlds. I don’t think quality issues are confined to blogs, certainly –if you want to lament things like poor or nonexistent fact-checking, repetition of marketing cant without any real understanding, or, conversely, criticism based on educational naivete, I think there is plenty of blame to go around, both in print and online. Quality is quality, online or in print, and I am sure we can all think of examples of both wonderful and atrocious writing in both domains. I do think that each domain tends to have its own habitual errors –online media and blogs often mistake reflexive pejorative and plain old fashioned nastiness for a point of view, and print is often so lazily anodyne as to be worse than useless to a consumer looking for something resembling a perspective. What we do have in common, as Ian has so succinctly pointed out, is that no matter where we write, we necessarily sacrifice some degree of quality, and some degree of editorial independence, to temporal and financial constraints. The question is, how hard are each of us working to minimize how much quality we give up?

    The watch industry has no particular obligation to help writers become better writers. I agree with Beth that that’s our job. If you don’t try to write well because you feel an imperative to try to write well, I humbly submit you’re in the wrong business. What I do think the watch industry, and the luxury industry as a whole, should beware of, is an expectation that editors and writers should be no more than extensions of PR and marketing departments. Not all luxury brands feel that way, of course. The best understand that that they are ultimately best served by an editorial environment that has credibility with its readers, and I don’t think readers are dumb, ultimately –they can smell a rat, whether it’s a print or a digital one. Neither the dull-eyed automatic applause that print tends to fall into, nor the vulgar and equally automatic negativity to which online media is prone, serve readers, or the craftsmen and women who make fine watches particularly well.

    -Jack Forster, US Editor, Revolution Magazine

  26. Thank you for your comments Jack and Elizabeth. I appreciate the nod to those of us who have invested years in honing our editorial craft and strive to maintain high standards. No, it is not up to the industry to help those who write about it be better at it. Being better requires an investment of time and effort. This is a career for many of us. Launching a blog based on a passion for watches and cultivating a following does not necessarily endow someone with instant credibility and expertise in the industry. According to the FT article there are now some 300 watch blogs and forums. Whether writing for print or web, ultimately, the audience decides if what you offer has value to them, whether they enjoy reading your work or tune you out. And the industry makes its own judgment as well.

    While I am planning my own site for next year, which won’t be limited to watches (as I was never limited to watches), I really can’t compare what I do to what the bloggers do. I have my own vision, as editors must. And there is room for all of us at the table. I do recognize the role bloggers play, their appeal for the impassioned enthusiast who craves a volume of fast information and opinion. But there’s a distinction between story telling and editorializing. Writing “stream-of-conscious” opinions about this or that watch is akin to an editorial column–i.e. “I think the case is awesome”…”I hate it!” And sometimes, this can remind me of going to Trip Advisor or Yelp for guidance–“worst hotel ever”…”loved it!” I need to understand the source and their qualifications to judge for the opinion to have genuine value for me. And I have seen factual mistakes in blogs that I would attribute to a simple refusal to spend the time to check the facts you are reporting if you are not sure about them. “I think this is the case” doesn’t cut it.

    Journalism, on the other hand, involves research, experience, perspective, attention to detail, cultivating a network of sources, interviewing them–taking notes! Then comes the craft of framing all the information you have gathered into an informative and entertaining story. Creativity doesn’t hurt either. But doing all that requires an investment of time and labor. I’ve always favored quality over quantity. Ah, I realize I sound like a dinosaur here.

    In the end, we all have different styles and voices, different approaches, different purposes, different audiences. As Jack says, “Quality is quality, online or in print.”

  27. Hey everyone

    What a dull post and boring subsequent discussion.

    Ooonly kidding! Great stuff Tom, thanks for the post. Clearly you’ve hit on an issue close to many of our hearts.

    For my part, I think it all comes down to this: content is king.

    The distinction between journalists and bloggers is a red herring.

    The channel is irrelevant. The FT has a great website. I know at least one blog that issues a printed ‘highlights’ newsletter regularly. In 2010, journalists blog and bloggers produce newspapers. The channel is nothing.

    The business model is irrelevant. Whether you’re the FT or a humble ‘one-man band’ blogger in your spare time: you’re after the same thing: eyeballs. People may pay to read your content; they may not. Advertisers may pay to associate themselves with your content; they may not. All that matters from a writer’s perspective is content, because that’s what attracts those eyeballs in the first place.

    So, when a writer sits down to write, what they should have at the back of their minds is how to attract readers.

    If they’re writing a piece that is supposed to be reporting, that means being as factually correct and fair as possible. If they’re writing an opinion piece, that means being as interesting, provocative and one-sided as they want to be as long as, for the sake of their credibility (and therefore long-term readership) it is cleverly reasoned and based on facts.

    I’d also like to add just a small point on accuracy. When it comes to watches, I’ve read more factual errors in the mainstream press than I ever have on blogs and forums. The reason is simple: the writers and the readers in the mainstream press are not committed to the subject matter. Online, in specialist blogs and forums, on the other hand, the whole thing becomes far more self-correcting. You can rest assured that if you make a mistake in front of an audience of watch nuts, they’re going to correct you. That’s exactly as it should be.

  28. Folks,

    Excellent discussion. Some observations and a practical suggestion:

    1. Quality is its own reward, and there’s not enough of it online. We all can and must do better irrespective of what watch brands believe. Objectively, there’s a huge amount of crap online precisely because it doesn’t cost a dime.
    2. More access and understanding deliver more high-quality information and better informed opinion. But guess what? Opinion sells both on and offline and everyone is free to agree/disagree. You like what I blog? Let’s talk. You don’t? Move on. Simple as.
    3. Watch brands need to figure out who can’t be ignored because of their readership and their desire to embrace what are very real journalistic qualities (objectivity; accuracy; research; writing ability; etc.).
    4. The watch industry resembles many other industries (automotive being a prime example) whose media following is nothing more than a PR extension of the brand. Read: uncritical and entirely reliant on being fed by the industry they cover. It’s a tough one, I grant you, as many of us would like nothing more than to obtain and dollars from these same brands. Creating that objective space should be the ultimate goal, with all the pros and cons behind it.

    My practical suggestion? Let’s see if 20 or so watch brands would like to come together with a grouping of watch bloggers and hash this one out. See what we can agree on, and what we don’t in order to move things forwards. And that is to everyone’s advantage.

    You up for it, folks?

    All the best and thanks again for the great kick-off, Tom.

    Eric.

  29. I come from an internet generation where the written press was the enemy!

    I was on Time Zone starting 1998 then started the VC forum on The Purists (2001) then the Lange forum also on The Purists (2003). At the time it getting into Basel or SIHH was not difficult but brands never let us in their booths once we told them we were “internet”. They considered us either as grey marketers or counterfeiters!

    At the time I felt as if I the good guys were on the internet because we did this for free and it was our passion but the written press just made copy/pastes of press releases called them articles and got paid for it!

    I would like to eat my hat.

    There are many journalists who write about watches because they genuinely like watches and know about them!

    I don’t think that we can oppose blogs vs. magazines and bloggers vs. professional journalists. Let’s face it what we want when we read an article on line or in a magazine is a well written article: content, content, content. If possible with some personal comments, well written and not too many superlatives which seem to have jumped directly out of a press release.

    If I enjoy the article I don’t really care if it comes from someone who’s paid or who’s doing it for fun.

    One major advantage of a blog is that space is not an issue and the article can be as long and detailed as the writer wants it to be.

    There are many brands that are open and willing to support blogs and bloggers and I’m not sure just because certain refuse to see a changing world that all brands are like that and same with blogs, just because there are some sloppy ones with poor content doesn’t mean that all should be put in the same bag. According to FT there are 300 blogs its up to us to decide which ones we want to read and for the brands to decide which ones they want to work with.

    just my 2c

  30. I am by no means a journalist and have a great amount of respect for anyone who can write, but some aspects of this debate remind me of the tension between photographers when digital cameras came out… Which is best, which makes a true photographer… I think most would agree its actually the finished product and nothing else.

    Its never easy to be confronted by an uprise of competitors who didn’t necessarily need to get hired to be heard, or to watch new tools come out that make it easier for virtually anyone to become a player in your area of business, but that’s EVOLUTION.

    This is (IMHO) true for journalists Vs Bloggers and watch brands in their choice of medias / people they choose to work with. And to answer Tom’s original question, I think brands should have people in-house who actually understand social media. I’ve seen luxury (textile) brands pay fortunes to get “Web 2.0” training for their employees and at the end of the day, they all come out confused or scared of the big bad blogs and forums where people will taint their glorious “image de marque”. So why not create a social media department and hire some bloggers or social media saavy people to run them? This will help a few bloggers make a living doing something they are passionate about, provide better results for brands and facilitate their relationships with bloggers. Some brands have already done it and you can tell by how visible they are on-line.

    I am convinced you need to understand something and be open to thinking outside the box to exploit it to its full potential, so this may not be the only solution but i’m pretty sure it would be a good start…

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  32. I, for one, found a wee small bit of irony in Mr. Simon de Burton’s erroneous reference to “Switzerland’s Blog Perpetuelle”. Allow me to set the record straight that this seemingly faceless “Blog Perpetuelle” of Switzerland is actually the work of yours truly, and all rights are reserved, of course. 😉

    Perhaps Mr. de Burton didn’t have time to fact check his work…or maybe he was too busy to take the time to avoid this careless and casual reference…who knows! After all, it’s “just” the Financial Times — I think the employ “journalists” over there, but not certain.

    Cheers
    Kyle
    “Blog Perpetuelle” of the United States

  33. Kyle, you’ve just proved my point about accuracy of the main stream press perfectly. Thank you.

    Now, if you were a luxury brand rather than “just a blogger”, you could complain about journalists making errors when writing about your brand… 😉

  34. Very interesting discussion everyone, and thank you Tom, for bringing up the issue. I am surprised to se this much participation in the discussion so I thought I should contribute with my point of view also.

    As both editor of a specialized magazine (12, Exclusive Timepieces) and what I would call a watch portal (Relógios & Relógios in Portugal – there is also a Brazilian version edited by César Rovel), I see the question that started this discussion as a relatively simple one to answer.

    I only see one aspect that is central to all means of communication, be it blogs, magazines or portals, and that is represented by the intrinsic quality of it’s contents, an aspect I associate with page layout design, images and written text all together. They all converge to build up the contents a reader will truly appreciate. A good professional and writer will remain so whatever the means he chooses to communicate in. It’s not a difficult exercise once you really think about what attracts your attention to an article, be it printed or online. Having said that, I really don’t think that most of the watch brands will disregard blogs only because they are blogs, and in this perspective any other means of communication. Their main concern is accuracy of contents and an enlightened, positive and innovative perspective that will give their products added value. It’s up to the media to choose to criticize or not a given product, or to bring up its faults that are relevant to the consumer. But it has to be done with certain diplomacy in mind considering that it is not the objective of the watch industry and their best brands to deceive their customers. Some of you can consider this as a naive point of view, but it’s only my humble opinion based on more than 20 years of work in the sector. There is just too much at risk for any given brand. After all most of the brands are only now discovering the online media opposite to the printed media with which they are already familiar with for decades. It’s perhaps a question of trust, not only in the title but also in the people that are behind it. And as everyone here is well aware of, trust is something that takes time, and whether we want it or not, our role as communication professionals or amateurs is also one as opinion makers. Something I consider as a big responsibility.

    So back to the main question by Tom! To blog or not to blog? In the end it’s just a question of intrinsic quality (IMHO). Something that is becoming increasingly difficult to do because of the sheer quantity of information we have to deal with every day and that could bring up another question. Is quantity of information in the virtual media an enemy of quality? Back to you Tom!

  35. andrew, jack and beth are all correct — yes quality is quality — and those of us who have spent years working hard to perfect and hone our knowlege of the industry so we could produce quality articles did so on our own by garnering as much information as possible via research, interviews, note taking, travel and more. We deliver quality writing and typically take time to pull all of the materials at our fingertips together — and then some — in manners that are strong, factual, interesting and error-free — to the most part. But we are all human. We all need an extra set of eyes (or more) to review our work.
    But in reviewing all these comments I think , as Andrew said, this isnt about blogger against journalist. After 25 years as a watch journalist – i find myself with a blog, as well; and it is not about the channel — as i find myself printed in the finest magazines, newspapers and on line — and i am not alone in this. I think what it is about is figuring out how to bring the watch industry — the BRANDS — and the WRITERS OF SUBSTANCE covering the brands — to the next level to reach TODAY’S WATCH LOVER who doesn’t necessairily pick up the magaazines. This brings us back around to on line content and finding the best way to bridge the communication gap between brands and venue (blogs/online magazines/forums) to get the word to the public. Just as the brands have always been discerning about whom they shared information with in the past (which print magazines to share interviews/ editorial secrets / advertising with out of the tens of thousands of publications around the world), they have the right to be discerning with on line publications, as well. So in the end – in addition to creativity and relationships, it probably comes back around to quality and accuracy,

  36. What an absolute brilliant article and discussion we have here. But as well, how often have we seen this kind of fear from the traditional and conservative luxury industry before?

    I remember, on March 27, 2000, The Basel Fair presented a panel discussion dubbed “How will the internet challenge the traditional promotion and sales channels of watches and jewelry within the luxury market?” Nearly 400 people attended. Joe Thompson, Editor in Chief of American Time magazine, served as moderator. I was one of the panelists; follow the link for a full report of the discussion: http://www.timezone.com/library/tlines/tlines0007

    The discussion we’re now having here could easily be named “How will watch bloggers challenge the traditional communication channels of watches and jewelry within the luxury market?”.

    10 years ago the luxury industry was afraid of the internet sales channels and did see them as a thread more than an opportunity. Meanwhile – mind you over 10(!) years later – most of the industry has come to sense.

    Now we see the same happen again. The luxury industry is afraid to loose grip on their communication, which they until now had so nicely organized through the professional journalists of the printed press.

    As Ian Skellern adequately mentioned, due to the fact that most magazines incline to bite the hand that feeds them, the luxury industry has a firm grip on what is published in print and what isn’t.

    How different this is with watch bloggers. The drive for some of them to blog, like Robert-Jan Broer of Fratellowatches is indicating clearly, is their freedom of speech. Business models or not, they will never publish anything else than their personal impression of how things are.

    And the luxury industry has to find a work-around to deal with that fact. Mr. Lambert’s solution of positioning the bloggers in a low quality light (less worth reading than the professional journalists of the printed media) wont work for a long time. We had the same synopsis 10 years ago; the lower quality internet sales channels were not worth to buy your luxury goods.

    Even Mr. Lambert indicates already now “they now represent a significant aspect of our communications structure”. And I’m pretty sure that is because he understands the importance of the bloggers opinion. He exactly knows how many people read these blogs, and are affected in their buying decisions by them.

    Except for the brick and mortar retailer – as indicated in the Basel 2000 panel discussion report – which I still am, I’m a watch blogger for over 5 years meanwhile as well. Internationally probably hardly noticeable as I write my blog in Dutch – which is the native language of The Netherlands, not Germany 😉 Meanwhile even in The Netherlands my watchblog – or eZine which I like to name it – reaches more readers than the largest printed watch magazine in Dutch. Sorry Bernard it’s not to kick ass, but it’s a fact.

    Probably – as again Ian indicates – because my readers don’t have to pay for reading my content. But I can hardly believe that these people, spending vast amounts of money on their watches, have trouble with the modest price tag of a printed magazine.

    So let’s see if it takes 10 years again now for the luxury industry to come to sense, and see that the watch bloggers are an opportunity not a thread. If they write negatively about a certain product – something I hardly ever see on watchblogs by the way – DO something with it. Dive into the discussion and solve it. Don’t ignore it and state that it’s bad journalism.

    You see, my point of view hasn’t changed in 10 years. I might label myself as traditional and conservative as well 😉

    Gerard Nijenbrinks – http://horlogenieuws.nl

  37. It’s fascinating how many of us are commenting here –clearly the subject touches a nerve. I was struck by this comment from Andrew:

    “If they’re writing a piece that is supposed to be reporting, that means being as factually correct and fair as possible. If they’re writing an opinion piece, that means being as interesting, provocative and one-sided as they want to be as long as, for the sake of their credibility (and therefore long-term readership) it is cleverly reasoned and based on facts”

    There’s an interesting and very far reaching observation embedded here, which is the distinction between journalism and criticism. Though the distinction may be a bit more clear cut in hard news media than in consumer journalism (at least it used to be!) even there, the selection of what to write about, where to place it, and what to pursue inevitably yields a viewpoint. I absolutely agree that readers want opinions and perspectives, not mere repetition of press releases. I do think there is a lot to be said, however, for having some sense of what constitutes an informed opinion, and having a healthy sense of humility about the limits of one’s own knowledge. Max Busser, of all people, said to me over dinner three years ago that he thought one of the biggest problems with watch culture in general was (and is) how little of it there actually is. Not only in watchmaking, but in many other domains as well, truly informed criticism is a very rare thing. Criticism is an art form in its own right (at least at its best it approaches it.) It requires exceptional writing skills, a willingness (and an ability) to think critically (both rare), and a sense of what criticism actually means in terms of the assumptions it draws on to generate perspectives. An art critic should be versed in the theory of critical discourse; I don’t think it’s too much to expect the same of a critic of consumer products, especially products like mechanical timepieces. Watches have a history close to a thousand years long in Europe alone and if you include things like Su Song’s water clock and the Antikythera Mechanism, much longer. They are not an incidental, but an intimate part, of everything from the high decorative arts to fundamental aspects of the history of science, the history of navigation, astronomy, and so on. It’s not too much to say that none of us should call ourselves expert on the subject (at least not with a straight face) and that if we are going to offer an opinion, we owe it to our sense of integrity as writers, and to our readers, to understand exactly what the standard for considering an opinion an informed one actually should be.

    By the way, I think the conversation has pretty much progressed to the point where the whole “journalist vs. blogger” point has been shown for what it is –a false dichotomy. In fairness to Jerome Lambert, whose remark as quoted in the FT led to the distinction being discussed in the first place, it seems clear to me that he intended to distinguish between those who practice according to certain professional standards and those who don’t, and that his comment can meaningfully be taken according to what was likely his intended sense.

    Kingsley Amis once famously said, “If you can’t annoy someone, there’s little point in writing,” which speaks to the pleasure to writer and reader alike of stingingly well-written criticism, and there is much to be said for occasionally roasting a sacred cow or exposing the flabby bombast of much of the luxury industry for what it is. But I personally think if you are going to puncture someone else’s hypocrisy, it is much more convincing if you don’t indulge in some of your own into the bargain.

    Jack

  38. In the spirit of full disclosure I should say before I wade in, that I am lucky enough to work in radio, my wife is a print editor, my in-laws both work for National newspapers in the UK, and of course I write occasionally for this website.

    My radio job involves discussing and bringing to the attention of the listeners new technologies and gadgets, but while the station is national and public owned most brands still don’t want to lend you items to review. There are of course notable exceptions, but these are items worth only a few hundred dollars, it has therefore never come as a suprise to me that a watch brand doesn’t want to lend me a 200,000 dollar watch. In fact I don’t think I have ever had the expectation that they would.

    I am lucky enough to attend a number of the shows throughout the year and while I have been treated with nothing but respect and kindness by other journalists and bloggers, the same cannot be said for my treatment at the hands of PR agents. Now there have been some that have been helpful beyond words, but others completely dismissive.

    Now I may not like this but with so many people to deal with it is at least understandable. However what I have never quite been able to understand is their lack of wanting to enter into a long term relationship this doesn’t have to result in some sort of “sell out” it becomes a learning experience that should lead to a better understanding on both sides and better information being diseminated to the audience. If someone wants to do that I am willing to put in the time and effort, but if one side can’t or won’t be bothered I have no option but to move on.

    And that is one of the reasons why the independent brands get my attention. With limited budgets they tend to be more motivated and open to different promotion methods; and they need and want to get the word out and that enables you to make a connection.

    But for them an independent manufacturer a bad review can have a significant effect on the whole business, but if you don’t like one model from a big brand it isn’t going to bring the company down.

    All we want in the end is to bring more people to our interest, we have to put some work into it, it doesn’t seem unreasonable it should work both ways.

  39. Hello Ian (E.),

    Thanks for your comment. Agreed : PR don’t all react the same way when dealing with bloggers, writers, contributors, journalists, etc.

    Maybe some explanations :

    – they never blogged and don’t have the slightest idea of what it is, the work it requires (for free), and the knowledge upon which each and every article is based upon.

    – they’re too traditional, not trained to new media & how to deal with them

    – they’re dumb : the only deal with those who can provide them with the maximum clippings per quarter, reaching the biggest readership, instead of thinking “influence” or even “relevance”

    – More subtle : they have a community manager sitting next to them, and work on a vertical mode, trying not interfere at all with what is seen as “a-completely-different-job-with-a-completely-different-audience”.

    One common rule to all these : troubles to get someone on the phone / get just an answer, grow along with the size of the company you’re trying to reach !

    Cheers,

    Olivier Müller

  40. Since I am not a blogger nor a journalist I will try to make it brief – and no offence intended. For the last few years we (Linde Werdelin) have worked closely with both online bloggers/journalists as well as offline journalists. I dont think there is a lot of difference between the two and clearly their roles are merging. Online bloggers seems to be younger, more opiniomated? and offer a fresh and direct view on this industry – and because of the immediacy of “publication” much more prolific.But that is natural isn’t it when a new type of media develops – i mean the youngness.

    What is so exciting about the online universe is that is dynamic, personal, risky and unpredictable – the watch manufacturer/brand is literally in the hands of the customer/aficionado/blogger/journalist and it should make us think harder about what we make and how we make it. That may make it more difficult but that is maybe not a bad thing.

  41. I don’t see the major brands seeking an open relationship with all but a few Blogs in the near future. The good Blogs are obvious and do get access for interviews but an infamous Rolex review stands out as what can happen at any given moment. With a professional who’s put in the time and commitment before ever signing their name to a piece the biggest risk just might be a homogeneous read. I think they enjoy that safety net and are reluctant to give it up.

  42. As I keep telling Ariel – watch blogging is facing the same issues tech blogging faced maybe six years ago. The old timers like PC Magazine (the print edition!) used to get preferential treatment and blogs were barely on the radar. However, with the decline in good watch magazines and good print watch writing, blogs will eventually rule the roost whether JLC likes it or not – “and that lies with the fact that bloggers are usually not professional journalists and are therefore inclined to make mistakes, give wrong information and sometimes write about things from odd angles that are not especially beneficial” is the worst thing Lambert will ever say and he will probably eventually regret it – and blogs will be defining the conversation.

    Watchmaking is self-perceived as a “luxury” industry and as such it feels it needs to control the conversation or else it will look as ridiculous as the fashion industry looks in Bruno. Watchmakers aren’t pursemakers. We want hard facts and we report on them. When watch companies can’t provide them, that’s where the “wrong information” comes in.

  43. Post
    Author

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you again for all your well-thought out and insightful contributions, this discussion really has blossomed more than I could have ever imagined!

    I think John makes a very good point that blogs will eventually move to a more prominent position in the media sphere and therefore this presents an opportunity now for savvy brands to get in early and ensure strong, mutually beneficial relationships are formed. Certainly from my own personal experience I can say this is happening already and I believe that in almost all instances the brands that have taken these bold steps (especially the smaller ones) feel that they have reaped a number of benefits.

    However, in order to ensure these blogs continue to develop successfully, I believe it will require a firm commitment from the industry. A number of people have disagreed that the industry should help bloggers become better writers (in reference to a question I asked in the original article), however, I believe that the point I was trying to make may have been slightly misunderstood. I do not mean bloggers on an individual level but rather the overall concept they are attempting to develop. I could be wrong here but I am fairly certain that no traditional print media watch magazine has achieved stunning market success completely on its own AND then gone to the industry to develop a relationship, get access to information and seek advertising dollars. It is these factors (as well as the highly qualified staff of course – which incidentally the advertising dollars pay for) that help the magazine as a whole become a professional, well written publication, and it is part this commitment from the industry that helps it deliver succinct, relevant and timely content.

    This is the point I am seeking to make. It is in the industry’s interest to work with these publications because they are promoting their message, and as we have already discussed, this is a highly technical and content rich environment. Therefore, doesn’t it make sense then to embrace this new form of media to ensure that they can be as successful as possible too, and in doing so will then attract more readers and further disseminate the brand’s message?

    At the same thought the issue of content control remains a key one, especially as blogs are highly regarded for their perceived independence, and I think this is going to be a major stumbling block for the industry but one that simply cannot be ignored.

  44. While I feel that what this discussion needs is essentially less bloviating, I think what everyone is one about here is the difference between journalism and blogging and how the industry needs “help” bloggers, as Tom suggested, grow. Bloggers don’t need the industry to grow – the industry needs bloggers to grow. As folks like Steve and to some extent Jerome understand, the real audience here is a plugged-in, savvy audience of aficionados that could care less about the thoughts of some watch company CEO in Zurich. The industry doesn’t need to help anyone but what the industry will quickly discover is that the prominence of the major bloggers will become a hindrance to their message and they will eventually have to play along. We as BLOGGERS can help the industry understand this not by worrying about some false standard of “journalism” and instead speaking our mind and calling out some of the fashion bull that gets passed off as watchmaking these days.

    Journalists are, as the name suggests, people who write. Whether they perform traditional journalistic “activities” like playing along to the company line is immaterial – it’s like calling out Picasso for not painting “real” people. Whatever perceived slights (some Rolex review, mentioned above, particularly stands out) you guys are feeling when it comes to access and industry acceptance is all childish posturing and I assure you with folks like Ariel, Robert-Jan, Tom, and Ben Clymer on the scene the rising tide will lift all boats. Chill out, do good work, and stop trying to “help the industry help you.” If they had it their way every watch magazine would be the editorial equivalent of the garbage they stick in the New York Times and FT every year around this time – advertorial with a benevolent message. We can’t let them have their way and THAT is the duty of the blogger nee journalist.

  45. For years the industry enjoyed the comforts of centralized PR and few (if any) threats from competitors, consumer advocates, or pundits.

    Like it or not- the status quo has changed. Need proof? Check out the comments above!

    As few as 15 years ago it would be virtually impossible for a startup watch company to survive without a massive budget and PR machine. Say what you will about the influx of competition- it has changed the landscape of both manufacturing, marketing, and journalism.

    If watch companies worry about misreported facts, “beneficia” reporting, etc – they should stop with the secrecy and embrace new media. By making information public and inviting discourse- manufactures make comparison and, therefore, informed judgements on purchases and value that much easier.

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  47. Great to see you chiming in, John. I actually covered this on my blog as well: http://www.ticktocking.com/bloggers-vs-journalists/

    While I agree with all your points in principal, there is one major difference between watch blogs and tech blogs and that is on the ad-sales side. Tech blogs draw MAJOR traffic in a great demographic and therefore offer amazing value propositions to tons of companies in many industries. Watch blogs will always be multiple orders of magnitude more niche and, as such, are almost completely beholden to watch brands for advertising. To compound this problem, there are only a handful of companies throwing around the lion’s share of ad dollars. The economics are, unfortunately, very different.

    That being said, you are spot on.

  48. With the risk that everything already has been said, I think one thing needs to be added.

    It’s not whether bloggers are professional journalists or not. It looks like the consensus is they are. Mistakes are probably made in both corners, like the example Kyle Stults of Perpetuelle proofs ironically.
    Also the style of writing is different, that’s only because the medium is different. My articles for a Dutch watch magazine are different from what I write for my blog. To me only a proof of professionalism that one can adapt style to the medium you’re writing for.

    The biggest difference in my opinion is the money! Advertisements in print magazines cost a fortune, while brands are very reluctant to pay for advertisement on blogs. It’s kind of strange when you realize virtually every post on my blog gets more views than a page in most watch magazines.

  49. I hardly ever read official press releases, since all they do is praise their products. The content is predicatable, the tone is dry, it lacks freshness.

    A number of bloggers are professional journalists, and the stories they publish are more honest and interesting to read. There are relationships with independent writers in nearly every other industry, why should it be any different in the watch industry?

    Watch makers could benefit from a collaboration; it just needs to be done right.

  50. To Steve in regard to the discussion of the economics of watch advertising in watch focused media. While of course I agree with you in regard to the current economics, there is no real reason it must stay that way. While the demographic of people that buy luxury watches is smaller than the demographic of people that buy cars or computers… people who buy luxury watches are often of a higher income level and of course buy many other things. Therefore, that audience is interested in watches, among many other things. So I don’t think the niche nature of the content should designate a strictly niche pool of advertisers.

    With watch ads finding homes in publications all over the world that have no editorial watches, I believe that clever advertisers will in turn learn more about watches, their potential buyers, and that special places exist to discuss them. Soon see should see watch media as a new places to go for highly engaged and interested consumers. We will see how things develop on that.

    -Ariel-

  51. #Jorn Werdelin – I agree with you and wanted to say that it was nice to see at least one other brand chiming in what turned out to be the hottest convo online this month so far! 🙂

    Best,
    J.

  52. John is definitely right about the brands needing blogs, as opposed to the other way around.

    Whatever type of writing you do, whether it is paid or unpaid, blog or magazine – it really doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is quality, accuracy and integrity. For example, if you are a writer that is constantly making errors, especially factual errors, then maybe you should look at yourself and determine if you are going more for quantity over quality. If this is the case, then please consider reducing your work load. Raise your rates and do less articles. Why? Because your writing can make other serious writers in the same niche look bad. And, please, don’t call yourself an expert if you don’t have at least 10 years of experience and know what you are talking about in every regard of the industry. This is a difficult industry to write about, watches are complex, experts are watchmakers, high level editors, CEOs and so on…. Not somebody with three years of blogging experience who proclaims himself the expert, the best this, the best that, etc….. Get over yourself, you’re not a celebrity and most people in the industry don’t respect your arrogant and misguided behavior. Just because someone proclaims some title doesn’t make them the best.

    Does the best watch blogger in the world really need to freelance with 4-6 other publications, I think not. If they were really that good, that popular, that knowledgeable and that respected – then I think they could survive off their blog alone – without the need to freelance. There are definitely bloggers out there who can survive without freelancing their life away. Those bloggers are the best of the best. And they don’t need to proclaim their superiority over and over, all across the web, they know they’re the best – and don’t need to clarify – it’s assumed.

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