The Problem with the Blogging Business

August 19th, 2015

Fashion blogging has changed dramatically over the past couple of years.

I started blogging six years ago as an outlet to share my personal opinions on menswear and style. The original site is still online. It’s crazy looking back at how much has changed, but also how much has remained the same. From my first post, dated March 10, 2009:

“Hello and welcome to my Men’s Style Blog. Living in New York City there is certainly no shortage of fashion all around, but I’ve come to notice over the years that the best style is not found on the racks of department stores or the mannequins of high-end boutiques, but rather on the unique and interesting people in the city’s streets. Therefore, as a fashion & style enthusiast, I started this blog not only to share my thoughts on the subjects of fashion and style but also to share photos of the stylish people that I came across in the street. I also hope that, one day, this blog can grow to become a meeting place for other enthusiasts to discuss their opinions and share tips about their personal style.”

If you’re really ambitious, you can read the original site in it’s entirety here, and continue by going through the AoS Archives in the right side column ->

In 2009 the “business of blogging” hadn’t started yet. Blogging was new. Nobody had a custom site optimized for banner placements. Blogging was simply an outlet for people to share their experiences and opinions on a topic that they were passionate about. It was genuine and honest, for the most part…perhaps with some embellishment. This was also a time when most of the specialized content that the public was consuming came from editorial magazines mostly owned by the same parent corporation, which were starting to reveal their advertorial-heavy hand in a world that was quickly becoming fast and transparent.

The thing about magazines is that they are full of paid advertisements. Not just the pages and pages of “ads”, I mean the articles and editorials themselves. I have a colleague who works for a major magazine (both of which will remain nameless) who was in LA about a month ago for a celebrity interview in Hollywood. As we usually do, we had a long dinner and drinking session where we shared our thoughts and practices on all things regarding the business of editorial and publishing.

Over some fire grilled fish tacos he basically tells me that (at the major menswear magazine) they don’t begin a story until they have a paid sponsor. “We have a list of high-level editorial ideas, lined with fitting potential sponsors, and the sales team hits the phones to see who’s willing to pay the most for the product placement or mention. Once the money is there and we the product from the brand is confirmed…then we hire the stylist, model, writer, etc. to bring the story to life”.

I guess I always knew this, as magazines are businesses, but I never really thought about it like that. The vast majority of the content we were consuming, before blogging and social media, was sponsored by major corporate brands.

Fast forward a few years, and let’s just say the advertisers have adapted faster than the magazines in this new world of grassroots “experts” with large followings and one-day turnaround times. Now that more and more eyeballs are moving from print to online, the blogger actually has the advantage. Blogging is fast, blogging is cheap, blogging is green, and blogging is “real”.

In response to the “blogger boom”, there are more and more bloggers every day, and a whole new industry known as “Blogger Management”, to serve them. If you reach a certain number of followers, it’s not unusual to have a manager, agent, assistant, a couple interns… The thing is, the money that gets commissioned by these “brand developers” has to come in strong, and keep growing. For the majority of bloggers, all of this money comes predominantly from one source: paid sponsored content from major brands published on their websites and social media accounts.

With that said, the past year or so has been difficult. We’ve been in transition and development mode. We’ve turned down a lot of money to do advertorial content for major brands. But shooting mediocre product that we don’t care about and pasting advertorial text is just not the reason we began this project, regardless of the price.

For a while I struggled with the idea of adding a clothing component to Articles of Style. I could see the reactions coming; “how can you remain unbiased when you’re shilling your own products? How can you keep an honest editorial voice?”. Well, the truth is, developing our own products is the only way to keep our editorial message genuine.

With the launch of our new collection we can completely drop all advertisements and advertising agreements. We can also create custom garments to improve our editorial content, while more importantly, creating a full-service experience where our readers can become our clients and we can custom make their wardrobes.

So I guess my plea today is this: if you’re a blogger, or you’re creeping up over 10,000 followers, and your goal is to monetize your following, think about the longevity of how you do so. Sponsored ads only come along so frequently, and your readers lose a little bit more interest in your “expertise” with every ad piece you publish. You are an expert in what you do. Learn as much as you can, and think about how you can provide something tangible that is in line with the reason all of those followers appreciate your work. A great blog can be a conduit to a great brand, not just another source to find advertisements disguised as artworks.

Thanks for reading. The team and I are very excited to present our collection and make our Articles tangible.

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier

  • Sven Raphael Schneider

    Dan, I had that same aha moment when GQ approached us a few years ago wanting money for mentioning us in an editorial.
    The funny thing is, small bloggers need to disclose their material relationship according to the FTC while big publishing companies do not because that’s what people expect… or so they claim.
    We started our own brand 2 years ago, and we are really glad we did because we have a growing team now and things are good.
    We still accept advertisers and work with companies but only the one’s that are 100% in line with what we do. We have been doing that since day 1 and we will always do that.
    At the end of the day, our readers come first and if we can provide them with products that are valuable to them, it’s a win-win for everybody involved.

  • Chadwick

    Magazines of the most exclusive private clubs have no advertising whatsoever.

  • A Poor Mans Millions

    Music to my ears, well done brother. I too don’t care for the money if it ruins my integrity of the blog.

  • Miles

    Bravo Dan. I look forward to purchasing something from the new collection. I had planned on it, but hearing your honest perspective on the evolution of the space, and how you and your team plan to craft a solution into the core of your business model is what ultimately sold me. Innovation in simplicity, and a promise kept.

  • Darren

    Having followed you since 2009, I’m sure we can check the twitter history.
    Well done and here is to you for staying true to your word.

  • Gazman

    One of your biggest fans, Dan. Came across your blog by accident about 3 years ago and have been an avid reader ever since. I’ve learned so much especially regarding fit. Can’t be easy running a blog. So many start up with great hopes only to close within months. Not easy coming up with content. I’d say I am well outside your age demographic as I’m in my mid-50s, which goes to show you can teach an old dog new tricks.

  • AdamE

    Great to see the approach you guys are taking to balance business and objectivity.

    I see huge potential benefits to the readers when Dan get’s the AoS line to the market, since it provides the unique opportunity for more behind the scenes educational pieces on construction of clothing, and what goes into creating and sustaining a clothing line…

    I’m also sure a lot of the content we love will continue (profiles of dudes with unique style, educational pieces about construction, fit, and history of clothing pieces, and practical pieces like the capsule ones, inspiring us on how to the get the most mileage out of our wardrobes…).

    I won’t fully hate on the blogs that “sell out” and run sponsored content, since I have never read a blog or magazine to tell me what to wear, only to be inspired by looks to take small elements to refine my own style… as such, I look for ideas, rather than to be told to buy a certain jacket or shirt (even if I see something I like, there’s no guarantee I’d buy it from the piece’s sponsor)… That said, it’s refreshing to see the ones that don’t go that route, and do their own thing…

  • AFH

    I agree broadly with the article. It’s funny, Dan wrote a rather acerbic response to me once when I analysed his business model. At the time, I was working on a tiny side project with friends that got delayed by foreign travel on my part – then #menswear got boring. We will likely still launch a tweaked site before Xmas, with basically the same business model as we always planned – the business model that Dan has now elected to move to (albeit he is being much more innovative and the scale is much bigger). These articles have a whiff of the Don Draper open letter about the tobacco industry – which was ultimately motivated by the fact that they wouldn’t give him a seat on the gravy train.

    That said, I think concentrating on making his own gear is the best way for him to add genuine value – I hope it’s a big success.

  • Genuine Men’s Mag

    Great post. Def commend you for staying true to your audience and not selling us whatever brand put you too it. I think we’re like most. We’re just trying educated and enjoy the community as it grows. Don’t feel like we’re competing as much as we’re all trying to help one another. Making a little money makes great entrepreneurial sense if you love what you do. Keep working hard and producing great content. We all get smarter and learn from blogs like AOS.

    -Steven of GMM

  • Ethan W.

    Fantastically written. I like to blog in my free time about my own ideas on fashion and I just want to focus on educating guys in my circle. My friend has been pushing for me to get sponsored or monetize my site, but I do feel that it will affect my bias, as I don’t adhere to one company for my clothes!

    I can’t wait for this next phase for AoS! You’re living my dream Dan!

  • Nick_L

    As a long-time reader I think this a great story of a hobby evolving into a functioning business (which I guess is still a “hobby” if you love what you do) and takes the idea of what a fashion blog can become to a new level. I am genuinely curious though if you will remove any Skimlinks / rewardStyle tagging from old posts with the launch of this line. And whether the affiliate channel was able to provide a noticeable lift in revenue to compliment what the other advertising you were engaged with was offering.

  • Bronello_Cucinelli

    When will the #menswear bubble burst?
    Feel like people will be taking wheelbarrows full of skinny sweatpants to the store to buy a single loaf of bread, à la post-WW1 Germany

    • Michael

      That bubble burst in 2008, when people stopped buying True Religions and Versace. The majority of menswear enthusiasts dress better now than in any decade since 1940 and shop more frugally than any decade since the ’60s. I have a wardrobe full of quality garments from USA, UK, Italy and France that I picked up from thrift stores. As Dan states often, menswear is about making investments in long term clothing, where a smaller, classic and better quality wardrobe will go further than the tasteless fast fashion trends that upset the industry so many years ago. This isn’t a bubble, if anything it’s a contraction, a refining of style and quality, whittled down back to the basics.

      • Dan Trepanier

        Very well said. Thanks Michael!

  • Miguel

    Great article Dan, I started visiting your blog about two years ago and the unbiased opinion, articles, clothing and different guests that have pass by have change the way I buy, wear and think about clothing.

    I’ve been to other blogs but like you said, they went the fast money way and sold they’re original ways.

    I hope you guys continue your fine work and what’s to come, I mean I’ve always wonder with all the knowledge and people you know how come you’ve never decided to enter the bespoke game…good luck…hard work pays off.

  • Shawn

    That’s one thing I’ve always found ‘questionable’ about blogging (not only menswear, but almost any subject): the legitimacy of the blogger’s opinions. I’m always wondering wether he/she is really standing behind the quality of a product or he/she is simply shoving more shit down my throat for paid advertisement. If I wanted to get biased opinions, I would read GQ while on the toilet. When I’m researching for products reviews online, I want un-biased, truthful, honest opinions.

    That, and with the rise of social media, anybody can get a platform and have followers. Even without proper education, knowledge, some kind of legitimate background, etc. These days, with Facebook, Tumblr and micro-blogs, mostly anybody can become anything. I’m always amused about the quantity of “photographers”, “stylists”, “nutrition counselor”, “fitness coach”, etc. I see popping everyday on my Facebook feed.

    My pet peeve of the day. That said, I’m really happy to see you dropping out of the paid advertisement programs. That’s really a plus, in my book!

    Good luck with your online bespoke program, launching soon!

  • Geezer

    I think that many bloggers have been grappling with this same issue for a while now. You can see how A Suitable Wardrobe has become an online store (I rather miss the blog of Will though), the Fine Young Gentleman with Jay Butler Shoes, Castleberry (What? I like him. His neo-prep got me in to tailored clothing ;) with what he is doing, there are probably others as well (see below). I think being in the industry, but on the outside as well, gives a unique perspective. You hear a lot about the ‘I wish someone did this’ and ‘I wish I could get this at a bearable price point’. Instead of a lot of dictating, you listen as well and see a lot of other peoples ideas. With your following, your knowledge and your contacts, I think you would be remiss not to pursue something you see as a hole in the market. I also have no fear that you will not be honest in the future. You are making this line because you believe in it and see the space in the market for the people that you interact with. I might not be the easy way, but that is how good things get built. Best of luck and we all await to see the results.

  • Francois

    Great article Dan. It goes straight to the heart of your readers. Your moral question has been resolved in France by a blog called Bonne Gueule. It was created by two guys who loved menswear and style but who sometimes were upset by the offer of the clothing market. So they finally decided to create their own clothes. But they also keep on writing about menswear and other brands without losing their impartiality.

  • Kennith T.

    Great comments Dan. Thats one of main reasons I follow your blog. Thanks.

  • Alex Trambitas

    A lot of great points Dan, but I also hope that you’ll continue to offer unbiased opinions of other brands, etc.

    • Dan Trepanier

      Of course! The other key is balancing the content with the commerce… We will always strive to create the best possible articles. Content is king.

      • Alex Trambitas

        Dan, Having a problem – can’t see the information about where the looks are from on the style guide. I also can’t get the captcha image to show up on my browsers to email you guys about this.

        How can I get in contact with your team to find a solution?