Susie Bubble is one of the most recognisable, most respected and most widely-read fashion bloggers in the world. Her quirky style suggestions, honest reviews and friendly voice make her blog a must-read for thousands of women everyday. To use Malcolm Gladwell's vocabulary from his best-selling book, The Tipping Point, Susie is the ultimate maven, and the blog has provided the perfect platform from which to share her expertise.
Not surprisingly, fashion brands, online fashion media and ecommerce retailers have been looking to get in on the action. Banner ads have recently begun to appear on her site from the likes of Net-a-Porter and Diesel. Susie is regularly invited to conferences and events so others can draw upon her expertise. Almost by accident, this London-based style expert has turned her passion for fashion into a bonafide business.
The BoF caught up with Susie to understand a bit more about the genesis of the Style Bubble, get her views on the business of blogging, and find out the pros and cons of monetising a fashion blog.
1. It may be a question you are tired of answering, but what inspired you to start Style Bubble?
I started writing Style Bubble in March 2006. It was mainly out of frustration at the time with my own career in digital advertising whereby I wanted to keep up my interest in fashion which I've had since forever! I had also been participating heavily in fashion forums like The Fashion Spot where I liked to share outfits, information about new designers and opinions and having read blogs previously, I thought it would be an easy-to-manage platform to let people into my 'fashion bubble' as it were. The name comes from a childhood nickname 'Susie Bubble', given to me because I always seemed to be daydreaming away in my own world and with regards to fashion, Style Bubble is about presenting how I interact with fashion, what I see, what I have discovered, what I feel; ultimately everything that I post is highly relevant to me. A selfish endeavour if you will....
2. Your posts include rich writing, images and self-styling, all with that now iconic Susie Bubble mirror-in-the-camera pose. Where do you find the time to put so much effort into your blog and what inspires you to continue blogging so actively?
The one subject that I could blog about so obsessively is fashion because of the changes and developments within the fashion industry, what is happening on the streets, underground fashion scenes, online phenomenons, in retail.... there's often too much to blog about! Blogging about my outfits has become part of my routine and I've managed to incorporate everything into my life. So if I'm out and about in London, my camera will be with me always in case I see something blog-worthy (real life fashion on the streets provides much blog fodder!). Or I'll be messing around with outfits and I'll think to take pictures. So in fact, taking pictures is just an afterthought to what I would normally be doing anyway. Then the actual writing part takes no time at all due to the candid/informal way I write.
3. How many people come to Style Bubble everyday and what do you know about these people? Who are they and how do they find your site?
It really fluctuates but it varies between 7,000-10,000 readers a day and through Google Analytics, I know by and large where they come from. The majority of my readers are from the US but their consumption of blogs is far greater than in Europe. Other than that though I have no other demographic information. A lot of traffic is directed by Google as I seem to rank quite highly in search due to the frequent posts. So a lot of people randomly stumble onto the blog. A lot are directed by links from other blogs such as Fashionologie, Fabsugar and other bigger links like Elle.com and Style.Com.
4.You've recently started putting banner ads on your site (e.g. Net-a-Porter). What contributed your decision to do this and do you have a media partner that helps you secure advertising or do you do this on your own. Could your blog become a business in its own right, allowing you to focus on it even more?
From the very beginning, I was urged to monetise the blog through banner activity and you would think that because I work in digital advertising, I'd be very enthusiastic about it. I resisted for a long time and to date, I have only had a Diesel banner and this new NAP banner there because I feel the aesthetic of my blog would be marred. I don't have a media partner and don't plan to have one and I have enough knowledge about banner/affiliate activity on my own to go about monetising the blog if I want to. The NAP banner is a temporary experiment to see how much the blog is 'worth' in terms of click-throughs but I have no plans on fully monetising it yet. Blogging full time is not an ambition of mine but perhaps allowing it to earn a bit of revenue to fund my other side projects (freelance writing, styling etc...) may be an option in the future. At the moment, it's tentative testing with banners ads.
5. Have you had any feedback from brands or retailers that you have mentioned on Style Bubble on the impact of your endorsements? How do you think fashion blogs are impacting the fashion industry.
Whenever I do link to a brand/label's website, of course, it increases their traffic so in that way, I've had positive feedback saying that Style Bubble increases brand/label awareness. With e-commerce sites however, a blog has the ability to drive sales in a very direct way. For instance, a blogger could rave about a pair of wet-look skinny jeans on Topshop, linking to them and of all the clickthroughs to the Topshop site, 10% of them could result in sales. Impressive result for one link but a blogger and reader creates a dialogue between them wherby a blogger can become tastemakers, influencing their readers. It's not something I set out to do as I feel I have tastes that are very much my own but if it has happened, there's no harm in it either.
6. What blogs (fashion and non-fashion) do you read regularly and why?
I read Diane Pernet's A Shaded View on Fashion as it's informative in so many ways and she really gets beneath all the Vogue/glitzy stuff. Mrs Fashion is quite hilarious for her commentary as a fashion editor. On the Runway by Cathy Horyn is both amusing and informative and the comments are sometimes far more interesting than the actual post. Spork Fashion offers a great insight to LA fashion. Then there are online blog friends like The Coveted, Kingdom of Style, Style Bytes which I love to catch up on.
7. Finally, any advice to other fashion bloggers on how to manage a full-time job and a blog? And, on how to build a business through blogging? (Even if you may have ended up here by accident!)
Type at 80wpm! Seriously, I think my fulltime job has been very forgiving for my blogging as they rather like that I have this extra curricular activity. I would try and see blogging not as another job but a hobby and that way, you'll give up those nights out willingly to stay in and become a homebody blog geek! If you used a blog as a platform as a budding journalist, then perhaps you end up killing off the beauty of the blogging medium which is its ability to connect with readers quite quickly. So if writing well researched posts are taking up too much time then perhaps you can pare it back a bit to make it a bit more relaxed.
I would be be very cautious about monetising your blog too quickly. The key thing is to build up a readership, a following first and establish yourself amongst the blogosphere. Then when you feel you have the traffic to be commanding good advertising partners, start to seek out affiliate programmes (a lot of e-commerce sites have them...Nap, Matches, Browns, Yoox etc...) and test them out on your blog. If you get approached by agencies for flat fee ad arrangments, read the terms carefully but if you are being approached at that level willingly by agencies, then you're pretty much on your way to monetising the blog successfully without the help of CPA/CPC affiliate programmes.
Photos courtesy of Style Bubble.