We live with a freedom that few have known, especially here in the UK. Our democratic nature has gone hand in hand with world changing use of technology and the self-publishing revolution. The internet age has led us to the point where we own the recording of our time.
These may seem bold words as an opening statement but allow me to elucidate on the point. Since time began the ability to communicate with the world was controlled by the few, even with Caxton and his printing press that ushered in the era of the pamphlet or after the first computers appeared publishing was still the realm of the few. Controlled by media barons or publishing oligarchs. You couldn’t hit the masses without them.
Then all of a sudden up rushed the web and more importantly the affordable access to it, and even further the smart phone. It opened the door for us and boy have we rushed through it as bloggers.
We have torn the foundations of the publishing and information houses down around them by being able to say what we want and put it in front of our audience when we want. We can fire our opinions out into the world.
To show an example, I write mainly about fashion, and in my teens we relied on the magazines and a TV programme called The Clothes Show to get our fix. Now at the click of a button or the swipe of a phone screen I have access to millions of sites talking about it.
While there will always be a place for the magazines and media, times have changed.
Gailiano is an example, no longer could a story like that be controlled or dropped, the blogosphere lit up and it played a part in generating pressure, Rana Plaza led to such shared outrage the rules on production had to change, and of course the positives, we help make and break collections a little.
We can watch and comment on NYFW from a sofa in suburban Surrey, or from a beach side house in Palau.
To show more extreme situations, the Arab Spring showed the world how even in murderous dicatorships bloggers could still show the world what was happening. Iran switched off the net in the country during the Green Revolution such was the fear of self-publishing. Did it stop people, it certainly didn’t and they just clicked onto other routes and still got their content out. Even ISIS the repressive militant group threatening an entire region has its own people blogging and talking via social media.
Because of the situation we have created, PR & Marketing people have learned that an ad in a glossy is great, but getting product out in front of people has a channel through our sites. It has become one of the tools of many industries plans to increase sales.
However in all forms and subjects there is a fear that we will kill this beautiful thing we have created. That actually those who embrace it will destroy it as a form.
Again you may say that’s a bold claim, but is it?
It comes down to integrity, honesty and trust – and to lose those is to lose the format. If people can no longer trust what they are reading they will stop reading. That may seem extreme but I know people on both sides of the blogger/companies divide and the increasing traffic on these issues is more than hearsay, it’s a trend.
Just in the last few weeks I have heard from both sides of people claiming to be at shows, claiming to have relationships with labels who have never heard of them, and of course going the other way companies offering cash to do adverts as posts and hide it.
It is really simple, we need to police ourselves, we need to say we love this thing of ours and we must protect it. We have to be seen to protect the things that make it so popular and relevant. If we don’t draw lines about appropriate behaviour, advertising regulations are upheld and that we do not mislead.
Trust is the currency and value we have, it takes a lifetime to build and maintain but can be irrevocably destroyed in an instant.
Could you carry on reading a blog if you knew the blogger had demanded free product and cash to post good reviews from a company or they would get a negative review?
Could you trust any review of a product if you found out they had targeted bloggers with incentives to provide a glowing review?
The answer is and must remain no. It will always be easy to be swayed by cash or flattery, these are conclusive parts of the human condition. But and it’s a big but we must err away from such things, we must be the ones that act as the guardians of self-publishing and maintain its beautiful freedoms and importance. We must never forget that this is supposed to be fun, it isn’t about adulation over ethics.
We must be the ones who in this new place set the rules for the future, to echo a wise man, President Kennedy:
If Not Us, Who?
If Not Now, When?
But then again he also said Ich Bin Ein Berliner which translates as I am a donut so I guess it takes some thought.