NEW YORK, United States — “For me, it was a business from day one; I did it as a job,” said the ambitious Swedish style blogger Elin Kling, recalling how she first began blogging professionally for Stockholm-based media site Stureplan, back in 2007. “In Sweden, every third girl is running a blog,” said Kling. Indeed, in a country ranked first in the world by the World Economic Forum in its use of computing and communications technology, a staggering 39 percent of young women (aged 16-25) write or have written a blog, according to an annual report by Sweden’s World Internet Institute. “If you do it, you need to do it 100 percent,” explained Kling. “And to do that, I had to make a business of it.”
Kling began chronicling her outfit choices, fashion inspiration and other aspects of her daily life, and success came swiftly. “It became Sweden’s largest fashion blog in two days,” she said, attributing these results to Stureplan’s existing traffic and the popularity of a weekly column, also called Style By Kling, that she had been writing for the site before she began blogging in earnest.
Kling got her start in fashion working at Swedish lifestyle magazine Solo, contributed to Stureplan, and worked her way to head of the fashion desk at Expressen, Sweden’s second-largest daily newspaper, when national broadcaster TV4, the country’s largest television network, started hosting her personal blog on their website, earning Kling local fame.
In fact, Kling’s blog has almost always been hosted by commercial media companies. “I never had my blog just on my own platform. It’s always been hosted by different TV stations or the newspaper I was working for,” explained Kling. “I felt like I needed to reach out to more people than only the crowd that reads fashion blogs. That’s why I started to work with TV and daily newspapers to promote myself and my blog.”
The income Kling derived directly from blogging came in the form of a regular pay check from the media sites where her blog was hosted, with a bonus for generating strong traffic. “I was paid a certain amount of money every month — and then depending on how many visitors I had, I got more,” explained Kling.
In 2009, on the back of her growing celebrity, Kling became the head stylist for reality TV programme “Swedish Idol.” In 2010, she appeared on “Let’s Dance,” a Swedish show based on the BBC series “Strictly Come Dancing.” Then last year, Kling joined forces with Sweden’s largest publisher, Bonnier Tidskrifter, to launch a new fashion magazine called StyleBy, where she is now the fashion editor and creative director. “I’ve been a long admirer [sic] of how Elin works with her brand and has been able to create interest in what she does, both here in Sweden and internationally. Plus she has great contact with her readers,” said Jonna Bergh, editor-in-chief of StyleBy, in a statement that coincided with the magazine’s launch.
“I have a strategy for everything,” revealed Kling. “The way I write [on my blog] has to be professional, but at the same time it’s very important for me to make the readers feel like it’s very personal,” she said. “That’s what Bonnier wanted to bring to the magazine,” she continued. “Because of blogs, readers are so used to knowing the person who says ‘I love this top.’ They don’t want a magazine to tell them that, they want a person to tell them that,” she added. “That’s what we’re trying to get from the blog industry into the magazine: you can feel like a friend of the magazine; my magazine is your friend.”
In February of this year, Kling launched her first line of clothing: Elin Kling for H&M. “It was like a dream,” recalled Kling. “I’m originally from a farm, a really small city; I’ve always been interested in making budget pieces.”
While the line was only distributed in Sweden, Elin Kling for H&M was the retailer’s first ever collection designed in collaboration with a fashion blogger. “For one year I worked with H&M, two days a week,” said Kling. “I made a percentage of the sales and, of course, money to work with them for a year as a consultant.”
But at the centre of Kling’s growing business activities is Fashion Networks, a digital media company she co-founded in 2009 with business partner Christian Remröd. “I’ve been running [Fashion Networks] for a long time, but I’ve never been the face of that until we decided to do this in the States,” she revealed.
In March of this year, Kling moved her blog yet again, this time to Fashion Networks property NowManifest, a website that packages Style by Kling, Bryanboy, Rumi Neely’s Fashiontoast, and Industrie magazine’s blog together to create a kind of one-stop shop for fashion blogs.
The site pays its bloggers a regular monthly paycheck, which, for the bloggers, is perhaps the most appealing part. “I get paid every month, and I get my 20 percent bonus,” said Kling, referring to additional pay earned for generating strong traffic numbers. Of course, the bloggers who participate also hope to benefit from the cross-traffic NowManifest helps them generate for each other.
“Rumi has more traffic than me and that’s great for me, because I get the cross-traffic,” said Kling. “But she also gets new readers from my blog,” she continued, adding that 20 percent of NowManifest’s overall traffic comes from cross-linking. According to Fashion Networks, NowManifest has approximately 950,000 monthly unique visitors.
But which bloggers are benefiting most from this arrangement remains unclear, as Fashion Networks declined to share traffic numbers for individual blogs. Market sources suggest that the lion’s share of NowManifest’s traffic comes from Fashiontoast, which has been reported to have had around 1 million monthly unique visitors even prior to the NowManifest consolidation.
NowManifest takes this traffic and offers a variety advertising packages to luxury and fashion advertisers. “NowManifest takes care of all the advertising, so the bloggers can focus on their content,” said Kling, pointing to a roster of advertising clients including Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, Kurt Geiger and Net-a-Porter. “They don’t know where to advertise,” she continued. “They have Style.com and Vogue.com, but we’re bigger in terms of unique visitors.”
At press time, there were no ads visible on the NowManifest site. But traditional display advertising may not be the only answer. NowManifest also offers a number of “premium advertorial” options that allow advertisers to integrate their brands directly into the site’s content flow.
In June, Marc Jacobs ran a targeted advertorial campaign on NowManifest in which Kling was photographed in Marc by Marc Jacobs clothing and published the images on her blog, alongside links to MarcJacobs.com. “We wanted to explore new ways to attract people to our site instead of relying on the usual boring banner ads we’ve all conditioned ourselves to ignore,” said Daniel Plenge, web and social media manager at Marc Jacobs.
The campaign performed well. “The day of the launch, we served over 94,000 impressions, drove over 2,000 unique visitors to MarcJacobs.com, and for the two week duration [of the campaign] we saw a two percent click-through rate,” continued Plenge, citing a figure that is many times higher than average display advertising click-through rates and underscoring the potential of this model. “We definitely feel that advertorials are more effective.”
But the benefit to the reader is less clear and the site’s concept of grouping bloggers together under a magazine-like umbrella has been met with mixed reviews. “The concept for the site is awfully precious,” said one reader, and “I love Elin…though her blog used to be a lot more actual outfit of the day posts and so on… now its mostly promoting Styleby and the Nowmanifest deal,” commented another on a Fashionista post announcing the site’s launch.
Fashion Networks has ambitions well beyond NowManifest, illustrating how Kling has leveraged her success as a blogger to work on a number of other businesses. “In Sweden, we have a website where you can show your outfits (Minoutfit), we have the blog website (Freshnet), and we have a website where you can actually sell your outfit (Seconds),” she explained.
Now, Kling and Remröd are planning a big US expansion. Indeed, both have relocated to New York in recent months to run the operation. Up their sleeve is a “stylist community” called Style of Today, a global version of Freshnet and Seconds USA.
But will what worked in Sweden work in the much larger and more diverse US market? “You really need to learn the market in different countries,” Kling acknowledged. In fact, she also has her sights set on China. “Me and Christian are going to Shanghai this fall,” she said. “I’m very into Asia.”
In October, the duo are also launching a new brand called Nowhere. “I’m putting out a clothing line this fall with Christian, but I’m not the designer,” said Kling. “The designer worked with Acne – I’m more about how will we make this sell, because I learned so much from H&M.”
With so many growing business interests, does Kling still consider herself to be a blogger? Or a businesswoman? “I’m not scared of being commercial, but I’m totally a blogger, it’s such an important part of what I’m doing,” she said. “I guess on my business card it will just say Elin Kling.”
Vikram Alexei Kansara is Managing Editor of The Business of Fashion
The Business of Blogging is a series on the rarely discussed business side of fashion blogging. Previous articles are listed below: