Why Is The Luxury Watch Industry Still So Afraid Of Bloggers?

| June 20, 2013 | 32 Replies

I love blogging

This is the question I found myself asking after reading a less than inspiring opinion piece on World Tempus yesterday on the role of bloggers in the watch industry (click here to read the article for yourself.) Now normally I would just roll my eyes at this arguably outdated way of thinking – as I’m sure many of my fellow bloggers would – and simply move on with my life but for some reason this time I just couldn’t let it go. Not only did it seek to attack the integrity of bloggers and cast aspersions over their relationships with the industry, it also suggested that you, the reader, are incapable of differentiating between a well-written, well-researched article (regardless the author) and tripe produced by someone with little or no familiarity with the industry or its products.

What perhaps bothers me the most though is the implication that the luxury watch industry, by and large, is still (to use the author’s own words) ‘leery’ of bloggers, which is quite simply not true. If you need proof just check out the jury for this year’s GPHG, arguably the industry’s most prestigious awards. Sitting on the panel alongside noted expert journalists (and other highly respected industry players) will be Benjamin Clymer, owner and Editor-in-Chief of possibly the most well-respected watch blog out there, Hodinkee.com.


Worn-out Stereotype

At its core the article seeks to perpetuate the worn-out stereotype that bloggers are something to be wary of (as opposed to embraced). Unpredictable couch commentators, we supposedly shoot from the hip first and check the facts later:

‘Bloggers have the freedom to write whatever they want to – to talk about what they like about a watch, why they like it, what they don’t like. No one checks their work, so it’s often riddled with typos and inaccuracies, and the pictures and videos are not that professional.’

However I would challenge the author, or anyone else for that matter, to draw up a list of five watch blogs that are considered influential whose work is often riddled with typos and inaccuracies and whose videos and pictures are not that professional. The fact is it can’t be done, for the simple reason that you as the audience would not suffer such incompetence.

blog

Major blogs like Hodinkee, Monochrome and FratelloWatches (among others) command huge followings because they provide high quality, up-to-date and most importantly relevant content to their readers. We all lead busy lives and so in an increasingly crowded online world the choice of where to spend our leisure time (and get our information) has become a critical one. Bloggers know they can’t afford to waste your time with sub-par quality work, those that do don’t survive or fail to ever reach any sort of critical mass. Similarly, blogs with huge social media followings such as Watch-Anish (62,000+ followers on Instagram at last count) have achieved this by providing high-quality, original and above-all shareable content that people actually like and want to see.

Earned Not Given

This brings me to my next point. Too often I hear professional journalists lament the fact no one is checking a bloggers work but for some reason people are still silly enough to follow them anyway:

“The challenge with bloggers, in the watch industry and elsewhere, is that – unlike  journalists, who have editors, publishers, proofreaders and fact checkers (the so-called “gatekeepers”) supporting them and overseeing what is published – bloggers are on their own, writing what they want about whatever they want. Once they have a following, however, a group of people who read them, they become important to the brands.”

blogging

There seems to be this perception out there that somebody one day just has the idea to start writing a blog and then, as if by magic, an engaged audience appears. This is not the case. Many of the best watch bloggers have been doing this for years, and it’s taken a long, long time and an incredible amount of hard-work and resilience to carve out a place for themselves in this unforgiving industry. More than a few ‘real’ journalists I’ve spoken to (both inside and outside of the watch industry) are starting to discover this for themselves, after starting their own blogs and finding that very few people actually read them.

Sure, you can say that bloggers are not journalists if you feel the need to draw specific distinctions but at the same time you also need to acknowledge that they are more than just writers, they are entrepreneurs. There’s no marketing department, there’s no business development managers out there getting our content in front of more eyeballs, it’s up to the individual to build credibility, respect and above all an audience that wants to regularly read and watch what they have to say.

The Final Word

Instead of dedicating time and energy to the hopeless cause of trying to discredit bloggers and the important role they play in the luxury watch industry, or worse still trying to find ways to ‘deal’ with them, why don’t you just embrace them? Many brands have already come to this realization long ago and so actively work with bloggers to incorporate them into their digital strategies, to great success. Failing to recognize blogs as a legitimate media source or perceiving them as a passing fad simply means that you as a marketer or a journalist or whatever miss out on another opportunity to connect with your audience in a meaningful way.

As the great Jean-Claude Biver, Chairman of Hublot, is fond of saying; you must go wherever your customer is.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this often controversial topic, for or against, so please help me to continue the conversation in the comments section below.

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About the Author ()

Tom is the founder and editor of The Watch Lounge. Together with his team he is dedicated to bringing you the best, original content you won't find anywhere else on the net.

Comments (32)

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  1. Elizabeth Doerr says:

    Extremely well-written piece, Tom. It was a pleasure to read.

  2. Tom Mulraney says:

    Thank you Beth, I really appreciate the support!

    Apologies I missed out on the conversation yesterday but kudos to you for getting the discussion going! :)

  3. Roberta Naas says:

    Bravo Tom! Concise, accurate and just the right amt of opinion. With a Masters Degree in journalism I have also become a blogger and am proud to say there are many Professional Blogs whose founders are not journalists. Embrace the future!

  4. I have to say that as a new brand we would be very keen to work with reputable bloggers and embrace this principle wholeheartedly. Blogging, whether liked or not, now forms part of the social media landscape so cannot and should not be ignored by any serious marketeer. This is a great article.

  5. Tom Mulraney says:

    Thank you Roberta!

    I absolutely agree with your comments about bloggers and the future and wish you all the best of luck with your own blog! :)

  6. Tom Mulraney says:

    Thanks Barry, very true!

  7. Joshua Munchow says:

    I have to agree with everything you say, blogs are a new media format that many in traditional media are afraid of because they don’t quite understand how it works. I agree that many watch companies are embracing this new outlet, but the people who consistently prove to be “leery” of bloggers are those that have journalism degrees and are still finding it difficult to get readers. They were taught an old model that is quickly changing and morphing into something new. Being on the outside of this industry, and knowing many that are the “Bloggers” and having met many of the “Journalists” as well, I can see the different approach they both take to the problem. It’s just an arrogance (to put it bluntly) that keeps journalists from accepting blogging as a valid form of media, since they have to work within boundaries placed by their employers and sometimes the law, and bloggers are working in direct response to what actually works in the “real world” of the internet. It’s a brave new world out there. It’ll be interesting to see how everything moves forward. Great read Tom!

  8. Imran says:

    Hi Tom…. I think the most important part you mentioned is that they assume and blindly follow what people say… There are many people I follow online as I appreciate the detail that they go into… But to assume I or te majority of readers would purchase something because someone said so?? That’s insuring the audience… The beauty about watches is that every opinion is personal and while you might agree with 90 per cent of what people right, there are ten per cent of the times where I think… ” what are you smoking??” :) but that’s the beauty if this hobby and amongst wis ‘ s everyone knows that we can happily 100 per cent disagree and we are all still friends!! So to me, it shows a lack if understanding of the audience that reads the blogs

  9. You know what my good lord ? I saw your post ….in the train, back from a lunch with Michel Parmigiani. Train will remain a source of inspiration for ever !!

    Once again, words of wisdom : bloggers are above all entrepreneurs.

    You & I had an extraordinary partnership quite a while ago in these very same columns. And now I manage a 4 people company working in 5 countries to provide watch content to….

    ….to who, by the way ? I don’t care. I don’t even pay attention to the nature of the client : on line, print, blog, webzine, etc. Who cares ? It’s all about, again and again, finding a good angle to write a good story. Full stop.

    Merci mon ami !

  10. Tom Mulraney says:

    Great comments Josh and Imran, thank you both so much for sharing your thoughts!

    I absolutely agree Josh that it is an entirely new model with an entirely new set of parameters, and to make things even more difficult they’re constantly changing! It certainly is a brave new world out there :)

    And you’re right Imran, I don’t always agree with everything I read online either but that’s the beauty of blogging! I can easily check three or four high quality sources and then draw my own conclusions and I am sure I am not the only one doing this!

  11. Joshua, I do not agree with some of your assumptions. It IS a brave new world, and blogging in my opinion is to be embraced to an ever greater degree, but to say that it is “arrogance” that keeps some professional journalists from doing it is sheer (wrong) speculation. The reality is that we have made our living in a much different way than you can possibly imagine up to the advent of Internet publications. The reality of today is so much more than perhaps readjusting. Today, it is exceedingly hard to make a living as a professional journalist in the classic sense — whether in print or online (where, might I add, the prices for a story are beginning to drive us to the poor house and have driven print prices down even). While journalism has not always paid top dollar (I always say that I am rich in experience), today it has literally become hard to even make a living. I’ll be glad to give you examples in private. All I will say in public is please do not judge a book by its cover. There are background, behind-the-scenes things happening that you cannot see or understand. And it is these things that I believe Keith refers to in his op-ed piece.

  12. Tom Mulraney says:

    I absolutely agree with you Beth. Having had the opportunity to run my own site as well as a work as a freelancer I have experienced first-hand both sides of the divide, so much so that I hardly do any online freelance work these days as it simply is not worth the time. With that in mind I can’t even begin to imagine how challenging it must have become for those who have carved out careers as shall we say more traditional journalists.

    That being said I wrote countless articles for free for three years before any brand was willing to take a chance and invest some money into advertising with The Watch Lounge. And even now, as many of you know, I still work full time in addition to running the site in my spare time.

    The media industry is currently experiencing a great deal of disruption, which extends well beyond the luxury watch industry, and it is happening at an incredibly rapid pace. There are a few constants required for success, such as quality, credibility, originality but by and large it is still incredibly difficult to build a successful blog that reaches a large audience on a regular basis.

  13. Jack Forster says:

    In terms of quality I don’t think you can generalize. I’ve read really great and really bad pieces by print writers and bloggers; the industriousness, taste, and sense of integrity of the writer matters more than the format. That said, it’s not entirely untrue that writers can benefit enormously from editors (good ones, who are thin on the ground these days) copy editors (virtually extinct) and fact checkers, and if you write without other (skilled and trained) eyes on your work, you easily fall into complacency and bad habits. I’ve read –on major watch blogs –errors in matters of fact as well as a fair bit of writing that’s at a _much_ lower standard than you would be likely to find in a widely read, reputable, properly staffed print publication. On the other hand, I’ve also read incredibly careless and uninformed coverage of watches in major print publications as well, where a lack of knowledge about the subject is tolerated to a degree that it would not be for any other specialist subject (at least here in the USA.) Beth’s point about compensation is a somewhat separate issue; my perception is that it’s certainly true that quite a lot of companies simply don’t want to pay for content anymore, or pay minimally –especially for online coverage; and as we all know this is not a phenomenon confined to watch writing.

  14. Don’t you think, Jack, that the fact that prices are getting lower, is compensated by the fact that now we have way more publications calling us to get a few pages about watches ?

    I’ve noticed that at Delos, these past few years. 5 years ago, we had a very limited numbers of ‘publications / clients’, paying quite well. Now, articles are paid less, but we have a wider range of clients, coming from the *non watch* related areas – mainly lifestyles and weeklies.

    So, in the end, we’re still growing (4 people now, 5 by the end of the year, I hope).

    What’s your opinion about that ? Is it different in the US ?

  15. Olivier, it is true, you are right. But as a freelancer, how am I supposed to work more for less money? After twenty-plus years doing what I do, shouldn’t I be earning more for less work? Isn’t that how that conventionally goes?
    And, may I add, that the wider range of clients does not make it easier or better — they often just do not “get it” making more rewrites and explaining the norm. You may be able to compensate by hiring more people, but I am a simple freelancer. Every minute is precious.

  16. Ian Ellery says:

    Well Tom you certainly seem to have attracted some esteemed company, there is nothing quite so fantastic as informed comment from people you respect.

    From my experience over the last few years the interest paid by companies over the last few years has certainly changed, certainly for the better but probably not total engagement. Of course I come at it form a different direction, radio rather than print so that is something companies tend to understand better.

    As I have said many times and bored many people, there is unlikely to be a significant shift until various bloggers come together, work co-operatively and improve the quality of our work we will always be limited in our reach and in the way we are perceived. Granted I married a sub-editor, who is now well versed in watchmaking, but we could all do with having our copy reviewed prior to publication.

    At some point we will likely each need to decide whether we stay “amateur” or “go pro”, and accept the decision with good grace. Frank G. should be applauded for “giving it a go” and I personally believe he is making significant strides and deserves to be successful. But as has been pointed out the money is not really out there at the moment but if you have a good idea and are prepared to carry it through then the money can be found, just be realistic.

    Great discussion

    Ian

  17. I’m just like you my dear, most of the content sold by Delos is still coming from my own, faithful, fountain pen. Not because I have to, but because I want to – that’s my primary job, and, to be honest, I don’t know anything else I could really do properly – but teach martial arts, maybe – wink to Jack here :)

    Still, you’re right, and as prices got lower and lower, I had the idea to hire additional staff, but not writers : one photograph, one social manager, one translator, and one admin / office manager / accountant. That’s what I guess you guys call upselling : same core item sold (editorial), but added with a lot of options : photos, two languages, etc. So far, it works. So far. And it’s nothing extraordinary : I just followed the trend of our clients, for which editorial became as important as pictures, as video, as the two languages thing, which allowed them to reach a wider audience – and then attract ads, etc etc.

    That’s what Tom perfectly wrote : we’re just entrepreneurs.

  18. Joshua Munchow says:

    I apologize if I offended you Beth or anyone with my comments. Maybe I should have checked my wording a little before saying it was arrogance that kept traditional journalists from accepting the blog culture. I know I have no experience but what I have seen online and from what people have stated in their own opinions. My comments were intended towards those that are outspoken specifically against blogs being media, and I cannot pretend to know why they are against it. I think the reality is that a majority of people now expect all of their news and information for free because of the internet and its pervasiveness. While that makes information available to everyone, it sadly puts out many who have made a living on a previous information model. The same goes with my field of design and manufacturing. Automation can really scare fabricators like myself.

    I absolutely love reading about watches, technology and anything else I can get my two eyes on, but I will admit I no longer purchase media very much. Every once in a great while I will buy a magazine, but I get a majority of my info from the web too. If you ask me I will be the first to champion print media, but the masses will have their say for cheap and easy. I of course wish people could be compensated for their hard work, in whatever field. That is what is really wrong with the whole picture, everyone wants everything now, the best, and for free. People need to start appreciating the effort it takes to produce articles and products. Maybe then people would complain less about cost and be willing to compensate others for their hard work (like you Beth!). Thanks for letting me chime in-

  19. Jan Tegler says:

    Elizabeth and Jack nailed it.

    As Elizabeth laments (agreed!), the value of journalism (monetarily) is undeniably diminishing. Couple that with a similar decline in writing standards and you have a situation to be concerned about. As Jack says (agreed!), you can find poor quality content in both traditional (print) and more contemporary (electronic) formats.

    And I’ll offer a wider perspective. As one who writes around the periphery of watches and more in-depth on a variety of other subjects, I think I can say fairly that the standards in blogging in no way match the professional standards that apply to tradition publications. How could they? There are effectively no standards.

    Yes, there are a top echelon of blogs on a variety of subject matter that acquit themselves well generally. And yes, there are major print pubs that get it wrong more often than they care to acknowledge.

    But blogging, unless some kind of professional standard for quality is uniformly applied to the practice, will always suffer by comparison. I maintain this because what is a strength for blogging is also a weakness. Anyone can do it. That is to be celebrated and also (quite properly) to be judged.

    Those of us on the print side are expected to meet a standard before having our work accepted for publishing – whether for the first time in our careers years ago – or for the piece we completed yesterday. That is not (generally) true for blogging.

    This is a long-winded way of saying that until there is a uniform standard for blogging, the genre will only be as good as its worst practitioners.

  20. Boris Pjanic says:

    Yesterday, I was exchanging opinions with Beth on Facebook about the possible difference of journalists and Bloggers. I think in the end, it Comes down to the same Thing. Bloggers tend to be entrepreneurial though while many journalists may try to work for big Publishers.

    The Quality of the writer has nothing to do with Blogging or being a true Journalist. It has something to do with curiosity, with competence, with knowledge. Knowledge cannot be acquired by formal education alone. It takes curiosity and eagerness to learn and adjust to Change.

    I run a less known watchblog which nevertheless generates real sales. It helps me attract buyers for vintage watches which I sell. What better could happen to me? In a next step, I plan to invest more into my blog and get it to a professional Level, it may take me a couple more months, but I will get there. Blogging is a constant force of Change and adjustment, and means constant learning. I blog alone, sometimes I have a guest writer who is a very knowledgable Young man. It grows along as I grow. While some Blogs try to just do this: Blog, my blog Blogs and generates sales and attracts real customers. So I think I can say that I have developed a blog into another venue to attract real Clients, and that is what the Swiss Watchindustry should understand as well, Blogging can get you real Clients. It just takes time, and it takes someone who possesses enough Passion to use the blog as a true communication tool. Just my two Cents, for what it’s worth. Sorry for caps, they are caused by my German Computer. Pleasure reading this contribution.

  21. Boss Bailey says:

    Keith says bloggers are refreshingly honest but “nobody knows what agenda they have.” Well, at least everyone knows his agenda, he is a “real journalist” after all. It is not his job, for example, to “tell you how beautiful or amazing a certain watch is.” He merely presents the facts.

    “I don’t know what the future holds for blogs, but there is no denying that they are influential and have to be dealt with.”

    Really? They have to be dealt with? Why do you care so much about people that, according to you, cannot even spell correctly or take good pictures?

    It sounds to me like you have a lot of animosity towards bloggers. Is it because you feel they have disrupted your livelihood and so you feel the need to take cheap shots at them?

    The premise for your entire article, that very few companies know how to “reckon” with bloggers, could not be any further from the truth. What are you smoking Keith? The Purple Haze?

    You want to beat us at our own game? Bring it!

  22. Tom Mulraney says:

    Wow, so many great comments, thank you everyone for sharing your thoughts and please keep them coming!

    There seem to be some interesting recurring themes throughout the comments section, and one in particular is the idea that’s it bloggers vs journalists, which in my opinion is not actually the case. I don’t operate this site on the basis that I’m trying to steal readers away from magazines or because I couldn’t find quality content elsewhere, I run it on the basis that I love watches, I love learning about them and I loving sharing those learnings with my readers. I of course am not the only doing this, in fact I would suggest most bloggers at least started out this way, however there is no denying this had led to mass scale disruption in the traditional media industry.

    The thing is bloggers aren’t the cause, they’re just one of the outcomes of the major shifts in technology and consumer behaviour we’ve seen over the last decade. Much like applications like Instagram has changed the way we view and share photos, blogging is changing the way we view and share ideas. It’s not a fad, it’s a reality, and like any major change those who learn to leverage it to their advantage (especially those with pre-existing skills in the area, such as journalists who understand the importance of storytelling, etc.) will reap the most benefit.

    Thank you again for all taking the time to share your thoughts and I hope we can keep the discussion going!

    Cheers,
    Tom

  23. Always interesting discussions about the difference between bloggers and conventional journalists, and between blogs and print magazines.

    Unfortunately not much is changing quickly in this matter. Which is probably understandable because of the impact of changes in such a vast industry as publishing and advertising. Certainly in the important and high figures luxury industry.

    Already back in 2010 the Financial Times published an article which touched above mentioned ‘problems’ as well. Most of you will probably remember the discussions then. For others here’s a link to the content of the article: http://www.in2watches.com/the-blogosphere/

    All ideas about the difference in quality of bloggers and conventional – I wouldn’t straight away name them worn-out stereotype – journalists have been said and mentioned many times.

    I think that in the end it are the customers, the clientèle, of the luxury industry which decide what they want to read and see, and in which way they like it to have it brought to them.

    In the end the luxury industry will – as Jean-Claude Biver says – go wherever their customers are.

    So in fact I think it’s not up to us to worry about nor to decide what is right or wrong. Let’s just look carefully and listen to the market. And then make sure the way you choose is the way the market wants it.

    Regards,

    Gerard Nijenbrinks

    ps. English is not my mother tongue, so I’m sure you’ll be able to find it riddled with typos and language inaccuracies ;-)

  24. Imran says:

    One thing I would like to add to the comments so far….. For me timepieces are a very personal affair…. And personally I would rather read a personal heartfelt review of a watch, with spelling mistakes et al, than a formal publication that has to be proof read… Why??? Because horology is not logical…. We pay x for a mechanical timepiece whereas logically we could have more accuracy from something costing 1% of the price…. It’s just not a logical industry, it is about passion, history and so much more…. So for me personally, I want to read and I will make my own decision….

  25. Jason says:

    Tom, I don’t think the watch industry is still afraid of bloggers like they were.

    A lot has changed in the past few years. I think Keith’s article incorrectly mixes his personal opinions on bloggers with that of the brands. For him to suggest that watch brands do not know how to interact with bloggers, in the year 2013, is ridiculous.

  26. Tom Mulraney says:

    Hi Jason, thanks for the comment and I absolutely agree. That’s what I was trying to convey in the 2nd paragraph of my article :)

  27. Jason says:

    Hi Tom, I agree with what you say in the 2nd paragraph 100%. Nice takedown of an opinion article that was, in my opinion, very arrogantly written.

  28. @Jason

    This year at Basel I was invited by Tudor for the first ever bloggers press conference coming from the Rolex company. It was held inside the Tudor booth on press day, and even before any other press conference was held.

    The Tudor management is convinced of the importance of bloggers, however it seemed a try-out for Rolex (as a brand) as well. They still think bloggers are a no-go and were interested to see where such cooperation with bloggers would lead to…

    Not to hold Rolex responsible for the thinking of the whole watch industry ;-) however to me it still looks like the watch industry (certainly the larger and more conventional brands) is still reluctant to cooperate with bloggers.

    Not, as indicated by Keith, because they don’t know how to interact with bloggers, however it might be that they don’t know exactly which bloggers they want/need to communicate with.

    I agree with you that Keith’s article was probably mainly led by his personal opinions, and I agree with you that (some) things have changed in the past few years.

    However, indicated by the first lines of my reaction, I have the feeling that we’re still at the beginning and that a lot more could change in the future…

    Regards,

    Gerard Nijenbrinks

  29. Jason says:

    Hi Gerard,

    Rolex is literally the only major watch brand I know of that is still antiquated in their treatment of bloggers, or digital. They did not even have an official Facebook page until earlier this year. But now they do…

  30. Simon says:

    Great post and great commentary. The big issue that I see as the main issue is generalization that bloggers are less reputable and journalists more. This statistically is probably true (I’m also assuming) but it can only be judged on a case by case basis. It’s kinda like the study that found Wikipedia doesn’t have much more errors than the Encyclopedia Britanica: http://news.cnet.com/2100-1038_3-5997332.html The Encyclopedia was still more accurate, but the perception that wikipedia was not reputable and the encyclopedia was 100% accurate is what needed the most fixing.

  31. Faisal says:

    What do the worldtempus guys know, they’re not even on my list of daily readings.

    I’m a blogger, I occasionally write about watches but mostly cars, and the way I differentiate myself from the “journalists” is by saying that I give my opinion of the product I test, not just sound like a spec sheet… something worldtempus thinks is a bad thing.

    The average person wants to read an article about a car/watch from an average person’s point of view, not some snooty journalist!

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