Of all the things I expected to find in the WHSmith in Clapham Junction, this was not one of them:
Blogosphere? (Top shelf, right hand side.) There’s a word I haven’t heard – or used – in a long, long time. It’s a magazine that is
for bloggers by bloggers
Well, nearly 15 years in, I’m pretty sure I count as a blogger, so I picked up a copy. A £5 gamble based on nothing but a much-mocked piece of jargon. Get in there.
An indy mag at a mainstream price
It’s a curious beast this magazine. It has the feel and heft of an independent magazine – the sort of thing you’d find lining the walls of magCulture, and which you’d expect to cost around a tenner. But it’s very much priced as a mainstream mag. There’s a limited range of adverts – but some big brands are represented there, including Canon and Olympus, who seem like a good match for the target audience.
Talking of target audiences – who do they seem to be? I’d say it was clearly targeted at blogger and would-be bloggers, with a side order of blog readers. It’s a stark reminder that lifestyle blogging has become so pervasive that the audible of creators and wannabe creators (however oxymoronic that may seem) is sizeable enough to be a targetable niche in its own right.
If you want an example of this in action – check out a post on a major fashion blog, where all the commuters seem to be bloggers themselves. For example:
There’s an interview with the editor and founder on Passion Pods which I listened to this evening while preparing dinner for the family. It wasn’t a great surprise to hear that Alice Audley probably identifies more with the label “journalist” than “blogger” – she started blogging because she was told it was a good route into journalism, and she worked at The Telegraph before quitting last summer to run Blogosphere full time. The whole enterprise is a very journalistic take on blogging – right down to the absence of the magazine’s content on the website. That’s intentional, it transpires – Audley subscribes to a variation on the “original sin” theory about the tribulations of journalism: we shouldn’t give away what we expect people to pay for in another medium.
Regular readers will know what I think of that…
A slice of the blogosphere
Despite the title, Blogosphere is very much just about a small slice of the blogosphere. Don’t expect to find any trace of political, business or science blogging between its quality stock paper pages. This is lifestyle blogging all the way. In fact, I wonder how aware of the wider history and role of blogging the core team are. Audley describes a blogger who kicked off in 2006 as a “pioneer” in the Passion Pods interview – I wonder how the 1999-era pioneers whom inspired me to start back in the early 2000s would react to that idea.
But, this really doesn’t matter. This is a quasi-independent magazine with a mainstream price, targeting that band of aspirational lifestyle, food, fashion and travel bloggers that are much of the growth in blogging at the moment. It’s almost like Bloglovin’ came to life, and was then incarcerated in the pulped corpse of dead trees.
And the general design ethos of the magazine reflects that audience. There are some lovely sketches used to differentiation some sections:
It’s got that young, urban, almost-hipster-but-not-quite vibe of lifestyle blogging, even if some of the featured bloggers are nearly as old as me…
Blogging with ink and paper
A surprising chunk of the magazine is taken up with single page profiles of various bloggers. On one level this is fascinating – each is a mini-interview in its own right, and so you get some interesting insights into motivations and interests. On the other, it’s slightly frustrating. You end up sat there with the magazine in one hand and your iPad in the other, typing in URLs to check out the sites. This is where I longed for better online version of the content. It would allow you to separate the “lean back” enjoyment of reading the print product from the “lean forwards” checking out links.
The majority of the content is as lifestyle-y as its target audience – profiles of significant players. for example. This should give you a taste of the general tone:
There’s some advice on blogging, too, of variable quality. Some of its is sound and good practice while, for example, some of the SEO advice is at the very least, questionable, if not actively wrong.
It’s split into six sections:
Each is curated by a blogger know for their work in that space.
But the surprising thing about it is the sheer heft of the magazine – this is a 162 page behemoth, with only a small number of ad pages. It’s published quarterly – and that’s probably a good rate given the sheer amount of content on offer.
Will I buy more of Blogosphere? Oh, yes.
Look: I’m not in anyway part of the target audience. The tag line “for bloggers by bloggers” would be more accurately rendered as “by a subset of bloggers for a subset of bloggers who aspire to be like that first group”, and I’m not any part of that. But the magazine sits at the heart of that cultural zeitgeist in blogging, and it’s useful to me in my work because of that.
Plus, it’s a bloomin’ lovely magazine. And magazines were my first love, personally and professionally. It’s nice to see my two passions, one former, one current, mingle in this way.