Jennine Jacob is the founder of Independent Fashion Bloggers (IFB), the world’s largest collective mentorship dedicated to helping fashion bloggers develop their personal brand and business goals. With the digital fashion realm experiencing the rise of the blogger, Jacob’s expertise in nurturing relationships between brands and the blogosphere is more desirable than ever. The NYC based entrepreneur is also CEO of influencer marketing agency Coveted Media, and responsible for the bi-annual IFB Conference, which has garnered speakers such as Iman, Proenza Schouler and Tavi Gevinson.
You launched IFB in 2007 before some of today most popular blogs even launched. Which of your first members are bloggers we are reading now?
We had a lot of great supporters from the very beginning; Style Bubble, Gala Darling… then we’ve had some heavy hitters join along the way, like Bryanboy, Tavi, and The Glamourai.
Who are some of the up and coming bloggers we should pay attention to?
There are some really great bloggers out there who have been blogging for a long time and are making great strides within the past year, particularly in “niche” verticals, like the Curvy Fashionista, GabiFresh and The Lingerie Addict. They really stand out in terms of how much influence they’ve grown in the last year. I would say pay attention to bloggers in niches because the trajectory of their influence has increased significantly.
The IFB conference features lectures on “how to run your blog like a small business.” In a nutshell, what’s the best way to do that?
I think a lot of bloggers start out by tinkering around for personal reasons, and then realize they love blogging and want to become professional. However, making that transition has proven to be difficult time and time again, as people’s expectations that they keep the blog personal come in conflict by the very real fact that in order to survive, a blogger must treat their blog as a business.
The best way to do run your blog like a small business is to make the choice. Are you doing this as a personal project, or are you looking to make a living with this? Once that choice is made, it becomes clear that you can’t just leave your blog derelict for months on end or rant about the fight you had with your boyfriend or mom on Twitter. Unless your blog is about fighting with your boyfriend or mom every couple of months, in which case, that’s your jam and keep doing it.
How can a blogger make money and stay clean of advertising?
They can’t. Unless, they offer other services, like hosting events, or styling, or photography, in which case their blog is an advertisement for their services.
Over the past 5 years bloggers have truly changed the fashion media space. Do you think it can be sustained at this pace?
Absolutely. While the blogosphere is maturing somewhat, we’re still at the very early stages of development in digital media. There are still a lot of unresolved issues plaguing the industry, i.e. how do you monetize and retain editorial integrity? How do you produce quality content that is somehow profitable (investigate and create original content)? How do you keep up with technology? Right now bloggers are making enough money to give one or two people substantial incomes, but how do you generate enough revenue to sustain a whole team through purely editorial content?
Also, technology is changing rapidly. Within the last year, mobile content consumption has spiked, and continues to grow. What does that say about how people are consuming content? As people consume content in a more seamless transition between digital and real life (i.e. reading on the bus, or showrooming during shopping trips), the type of content and the purpose of the content will shift. A new crop of bloggers will emerge from this, and the fashion media will continue to evolve.
How can bloggers really differentiate themselves and offer original content?
I feel like bloggers are getting more and more afraid to step out and be different. And I can’t blame them; the Internet has become more and more harsh with their judgment. However, it hasn’t been more important to step out of the boundaries and say the things most people are afraid to say and find the niches that haven’t been addressed. Sure, you can be a skinny blond girl with the entire J Crew collection and amass a pretty sizeable audience, but how much longevity can you have with that unless you go beyond what is expected.
Can you comment on the Suzy Menkes’ article about bloggers and their relevance within the industry?
To be honest, I was disappointed. Not because what she said was not true. Fashion Week had indeed become a circus… though just as many of the people caught peacocking in front of shows were not bloggers as there were bloggers. And in the case of bloggers accepting gifts, it really just showed that she did not understand the business, and did not care to. I found the whole piece nostalgic, which is fine, but she didn’t say anything new, and nostalgia really shouldn’t be deserving of the New York Times, especially if it’s not particularly researched.
Leandra Medine, or The Man Repeller, recently wrote that bloggers’ reputation and credibility is constantly challenged in this industry in a post titled “Blog is a dirty word.” After so much success between brands and bloggers, why is this still the case?
Personally, I think the criticism from the traditional media comes from making snap judgments paired by the likelihood that the reporters have never tried to run a publishing business themselves while creating their own content, and marketing it to get the traffic it needs to sustain their business. They don’t understand the work that goes into monetizing a publication today, and the uncertainty of the business models available now. If they did, the stories would be very different. The very fact that bloggers can amass the influence and the revenue they have, often through their own dedication– as blogs are rarely funded from the beginning– (Business of Fashion just received funding a few weeks ago after five years of publishing) should be an inspiration to anyone.