Heads up: This is a meta post about the business of blogging. Steer clear if you're not interested in media, brand-consumer relationships, and advertising. Also, a note for newcomers: X is the guy I've been dating.
Yesterday X and I went grocery-shopping in search of ingredients for tomatillo salsa and mango salad. While we waited in the checkout line, I picked up a copy of Womens Surf Style Magazine [sic]. After I flipped through a few pages, X surprised me by suggesting that we buy the issue. This guy is a manly man, not in the general demographic of publications with holographic pink logos. I couldn't tell whether he was joking, but when pressed he admitted, "I want to look at the girls." Ah, that explains it. There were plenty of cute bikini-clad ladies on the cover. And X actually is a surfer, so that's enough of an excuse, right? ;-)
Ogling aside, X wanted fodder for a discussion about effective brand strategy. Lifestyle marketing involves selling people an identity that they can participate in through your product. "Vicarious" is the key word. For example, Womens Surf Style Magazine depicts a carefree exploration of tropical paradise: gliding through clear blue water with dolphins, drinking fruity cocktails, doing yoga on the shoreline at sunrise, etc. I don't doubt that most of the readers are truly surfing enthusiasts, but the magazine's pull is the fantasy it provides, rather than any practical resources. This publication allows people to feel like they're part of a world that is out of their everyday reach. Advertisers buy space in WSSM because they sell products that fit that image, and readers may be prompted to make purchases because they buy into the illusion of being a hippie surf diva.
I don't consider this dynamic to be bad or inordinately manipulative. Escapism has been around forever. It's okay to want a break from your own unglamorous life--I often do! It's also okay to charge for providing that opportunity. Putting a fantasy together takes work, and there's no reason why that work shouldn't be compensated. Hopefully, consumers are grownups who can mitigate their urges with reason when deciding how to use their money.
Blogs are basically online magazines, created and/or curated by an individual. Profitable blogs make money in the same way that a magazine does, by espousing a lifestyle concept and then running ads related to it. This is easily demonstrated when you examine commercially successful blogs: A Beautiful Mess is about the indie-but-yuppie lady of the manor who has copious free time for home improvement. The Clothes Horse involves poring over vintage photographs while wearing an elfishly whimsical frock, all with an eye to Rookie-esque feminism. Both blogs are sponsored by ModCloth, because that e-tailer can capitalize on any "quirky girl" aesthetic. Do I sound cynical? I'm not trying to mock these endeavors, but to encapsulate the images that they sell. Elsie, Emma, and Rebecca don't present fake versions of their lives--"selective" would be a better word.
Now, let me abruptly ask what you think. Is my analysis correct? Any feedback/commentary is welcome.