The growing danger of the blogging world



During my long absence from the blogging world I spent a lot of time on learning about journalism, as it’s one of my biggest passions and of course my bachelor specialization. 

Though the internet is an ever-changing outlet most professional academic magazines cannot keep up with, one thing has been obvious to me during my studies: the blogging world and news-world are not the same. They are not even equal in the eyes of journalism, as one of the key elements of it is independency. 

Before I continue I’ll make clear what independency is. Independency means not being dependent of any financial funds, which means sponsorships are off limits, just as receiving free goods in order to write about them and writing advertorials without making clear they were funded by others. A professional news outlet wouldn’t be trustworthy without being able to know what content was financed by a third party, as the highest bidder would have the loudest voice, and that’s not how it works - at least not in a free democracy as the one I’m lucky enough to live in.

If you’re a bit familiar with the blogging world I think you might see the dissimilarities immediately. The lifestyle blogging world is built upon advertorials, sponsorships, promoting items for money - without those things it’d cease to exist, at least in the way we know it. 

This might not seem like a problem. Though it’s easy to see that the blogging world is dependent of companies, it’s a transparent world. Most people know that a big part of what they’re reading is sponsored, and most rewarded bloggers make that clear as well. Transparency is another important value of journalism. So, in the blogging world it’s evident that the highest bidders have the loudest voice, and by making that clear bloggers are able to lead their sponsored lives while companies legitimize their way around full democracy. 

The rapid changes in technology nowadays make quick news freely accessible and profound, deep, and long-term news articles harder to reach, as in-depth articles cost a lot of money to be produced and the resources for those can only be found in successful companies. Like I said, most professional news outlets do not take sponsorships without mentioning the source. The blogging world, contrary to that, consists of aspiring writers who didn’t grow up with the elements of neutrality and the importance of independency in the back of their minds, so the danger of this is that third parties will ventilate their opinions and goals through this group of people. 

Though I don’t think it has not come this far yet as it’s mostly beauty and fashion brands that have been sponsoring this side of the media, it’s a possibility we as an audience and source of social media should be aware of. 

Today I read an article about one of the actions of the former mayor of Amsterdam. Radicalization and the consequences of that can be seen as a problem, and that’s something he wanted to fight by having a person make personal vlogs about the effects. Though the vlogs have not had any effect as the existence of the ideas was exposed just now and the idea behind it is highly doubted in mainstream media, I think it’s a perfect example of the dangers of journalism shifting in this direction. To summarize it - the people governing Amsterdam saw an effect they did not like, and they wanted to solve that by making ‘fake’ vlogs which would reach a younger audience through popular online media. This means a governmental institution would fund a project in order to strive towards the realization of their ideals, in an outlet formerly controlled by bloggers themselves, who were mostly funded by beauty- and fashion brands.

I think this is a big danger. What if political parties see the opportunity of dodging the old important elements of journalism by reaching out to bloggers and paying them to write a sponsored post, without accreditation to their financial resources - as this is not an ‘element’ as important in the blogging world as it is in mainstream media? 

I think that the rapid changes in the media world due to technological changes endanger democracy as we have known it for decades. This was just a quick example of what could go wrong, but I am afraid this shift might go faster than we expect it to as journalism is going in a direction that is hard to predict.

An example. Back in my ‘popular’ lifestyle blogging days I received money for writing about certain topics. I was working at a bakery at the time, where working one or two days a week earned me just as much a month as publishing one sponsored article would. Choosing between working at a place I didn’t like for 40 hours versus writing an article I did actually like and earning the same was a decision which was easy to make as a 16 year old girl without any former journalism knowledge. As the whole blogging world is built upon this I see almost no problem when transparent, but many companies ask you to not be transparent, to be positive about the product, and to basically lie to an audience for money. There is definitely a problem in this, but this problem is smaller in a superficial community based on fashion or lifestyle and being an influencer, than it would be in a political world. What if political parties get involved in this side of the internet and start taking advantage of aspiring writers whose passion it is to share their words, but who do need or want financial resources for that?

I do not think it has not come this far yet - at least, on the negative side. But, take PETA as an example. PETA has sponsored YouTubers to be in their ad campaigns to increase exposure. I think PETA’s a good cause, but what if the ‘bad’ companies start doing this as well? What if you as a blogger would receive thousands of euros to start writing about ideas fed to you by a party who doesn’t have just the superficial blogging interests as a goal?

In a world where technology are omnipotent and media are all-overpowering we need to be transparent, open, and always conscious of what we’re reading, especially because the fundaments of democracy and journalism are at stake.



1 comment

  1. Interesting topic and post! I didn't realize you were studying journalism, but what a wonderful track for you indeed!! <3

    I had not heard about the fake vlogs idea from Amsterdam. I actually recently heard about a few companies that were funding some youtube channels with fake vloggers who were just acting like relatable kids filming at their parent's house, haha. They used that channel to promote things without it looking like they were promoting things, that is scary and deceiving! I never thought about it endangering democracy but you are absolutely right. People trust the human connection, that is a powerful manipulation tool! I agree, it is more or less harmless when it's in the superficial fashion/beauty/lifestyle blogging industry, but even there I find it annoying. I have done sponsored posts myself and I can totally see at the time what I was thinking accepting them, but I ran away from blogging in part because I didn't like who I was becoming. I wasn't successful to the point of financially depending on my blog and that made my decision to break away from it much easier. ... Anyway, thanks for making my brain think on this Wednesday morning ;) ;) much love!

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