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Now normally I would just roll my eyes at this arguably outdated way of thinking – as I’m sure many of my fellow bloggers would – and simply move on with my life but for some reason this time I just couldn’t let it go.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.
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.
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.”
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.