What Is The Future Of Online Media?

Author: Charlotte O'Shea

It isn’t just your recent comments and queries that have led me to compose this feature, although they did give me the impetus to get my arse in gear as it were.

For those of you that are aware of Rock My Wedding, our original blog and brand, I will need to put that to one side, at least in a metaphorical sense. Wedding planning is a niche and relatively short and intense period of time in our reader’s life cycle thus we have always remained successful in terms of popularity and growth. Visits to the RMW blog platform itself are slightly less frequent than they used to be, but brand presence is more than compensated for via Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Our RMW Pinterest account attracts in excess of 10 million unique users a month, sometimes I find these numbers difficult to comprehend.

Which brings me onto another caveat, I have a lot to say on the social media front, but I feel that needs to be a separate conversation, I’m still considering how I approach what I personally find a very conflicting subject to discuss. I’m the founder of a brand with almost 1.5 million followers, but I’m also a mother of two young girls and especially in recent years, no longer an avid user of any social media platform outside of my career.

What I want to discuss is how we consume news, reviews and entertainment online. And I want to discuss how we want to consume it going forward.

The Pool’s seemingly expeditious spiral into administration came as a shock to many, with an initial £4 million investment and over a million unique users visiting the site every month, the perception is that it must be a runaway success. But it wasn’t. At all. The Pool’s last annual accounts closed with debts in excess of 1.8 million. How could such a huge audience not be monetised effectively?

The main source of revenue was advertising, whether that was via affiliate links, brand sponsored features or collaborative events. It is a fairly straight forward business model – Rock My Style is based on the same principals. The readers have access to free content, the team of writers are able to provide that content by being paid to research and produce engaging blog posts. They are paid a fee by the business as revenue is secured via sponsored collaborations, whether that’s working with brands to style their products and promoting them to our readers, or taking commission from homewares, fashion and beauty products via affiliated url links than are input within the text of features and used to create our shop-the-post functionality.

The beginning of the influencer phenomenon coincided with the launch of Rock My Style, we are offered “gifts” on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day. Navigating the blurred boundaries of influential brand and influencer has always been challenging for RMS, equally Rock My Family before it was put on hold last year. We don’t accept gifts except in very specific circumstances – ie when we are working with a brand and are required to feature certain products on a photoshoot. We are paid to produce the imagery and the associated editorial and more often than not we get to keep the goods.

I don’t expect my team to write in exchange for candles. Fancy or otherwise.

More than 50% of potential collaborative requests receive an immediate no thank you, we know the brands and products our community will genuinely be interested in, we know what brands we are genuinely interested in. From the remaining 50% of enquiries that evolve into further discussion, more than half fall at the first hurdle – either the allocated budget is derisory vs the expectation of what the potential sponsor believes they are entitled to receive or the angle of the collaborative project isn’t the right fit.

We accept considerably less than we are offered, yes we want to build a successful profitable business, but not at the cost of our integrity.

This isn’t some wanky attempt at justification, it’s an explanation of how the business operates.

The increasing negativity surrounding not only the lack of transparency over advertising and the fact readers of online media (some of our audience included) voice their dislike of sponsored posts and affiliated recommendations in general and on a frequent basis, equates to a lack of motivation to continue.

Instagram whether you are a fan or not, is the fastest growing platform. As a business it made sense for RMS in both terms of evolution and additional revenue opportunities, to allocate more resource and apply a more innovative strategy to grow our audience and increase engagement. In recent months our micro blogs posts in particular, reach considerably more people than we ever have before.

With an over saturated influencer market, and a constant stream of hashtag AD hashtag GIFTED hashtag GIFTED/AD…. I’m not surprised there is a huge question mark over authenticity. But where does that leave us?

Did you watch Panorama on Monday? I hadn’t even considered the opportunity for gambling or alcohol related brands to be potentially marketed to children in such a callous and direct way. The “Skinny Coffee Club” – how do they still exist ASA? And how can the people promoting them sleep at night?

There has been discussion over The Pool going into administration simply because their business model wasn’t feasible. That if they had introduced a subscription model, they could have been extremely successful. And I don’t mean huge monthly fees, I mean minimal amounts – let’s say one million readers paying the equivalent of the price of one small Starbucks flat white a month. They cost about three quid. You do the math.

Readers of The Pool, would you have paid to still access their content every day? In the knowledge you would avoid any kind of sponsored features?

I believe The Guardian was the first digital broadsheet to charge an online subscription fee, and they have as a result, been very profitable. I personally subscribe to The Times. I read considerably more articles now I can access the app on my phone and everything is so well designed and easily accessible, than I ever did when I bought the physical newspaper.

It’s interesting how there is such a backlash against advertising online/sponsored content compared to print media. Or perhaps it’s simply perception again – or the fact folks can voice their concerns online in a way they never could with a magazine, unless you were prepared to compose a letter of complaint in the hope it would be acknowledged.

Advertising in magazines was/is never any different to how most blogs and influencer platforms operate now. Home Tours are often littered with product placement (I only became aware of this myself in recent years) with the couple’s home being subject to many a lamp, rug and vase that they wouldn’t choose themselves in a million years. Why? Because March’s issue of My Authentic Artisan Abode* has been sponsored by Interiors 4 U. Alan and Barbara haven’t even heard of Interiors 4 U, yet here they are in their recently renovated kitchen, all decked out in unfamiliar sheepskin throws, macrame wall hangings and sprigs of faux eucalyptus across the glossy pages.

The beauty section (my favourite!!) where you are told about the miracle results achieved from various new release serums, creams and light reflecting foundations – all these products are sent to the editors for free. I interned at a magazine once, I witnessed first hand a trolley arrive laden with all sorts of sexy, shiny pots of allegedly epidermis improving magic. Do the beauty journalists really rate them all? Do they genuinely change their skincare routines on a monthly (or weekly) basis? Does this realistically even give enough time to see results?

I really don’t know what the future holds, but I don’t believe it can continue as is. If you have watched American Meme on Netflix (and if you haven’t do – it’s fascinating, and really does show the darkest side of fame and fortune found via the internet) then you will know the global instagram sensation @thefatjewish cited that the influencer market has a very short shelf life and that the day it all implodes is right around the corner.

It’s a veritable minefield.

Do you want to know what I would like? I would like an app where I could access positive and useful content, genuine reviews of products tested by real people without any kind of sponsorship bias. Where I could join in with intelligent and thought provoking discussion with other folks in a similar life stage to me, be that a parent, a business owner or someone considering remodelling the garden. Where I felt safe in the knowledge other users were closely monitored for trolling, abuse and deliberately judgemental opinions. Where I could network if I felt like starting a new creative project or potentially meet new people if I was considering moving to an alternative county or town. Where there were no likes or followers or adverts.

And yes I would pay to be a member of that community. And I’d be more than willing to stump up the cost of a Starbucks flat white per month.

Do you subscribe to any online media resources?

What is it you would like to experience in terms of a news/community/review app/platform?

Would you be prepared to pay a subscription fee?

And if anyone knows of anything remotely similar to my dream app that already exists – let me know!

*My Authentic Artisan Abode magazine is a fictitious publication. And if it isn’t then Alan, I hope you at least got to keep the sheepskin.

{Contributors}
Author
Purveyor of short shorts. Make-up junkie. Hopes to grow old disgracefully.
Follow Charlotte on instagram @charlotte.oshea
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102 thoughts on “What Is The Future Of Online Media?

  1. Personally I suscribe to the Times (we have the cheapest option! Which is mostly the Sunday Times and costs £8 a month). I also adored The Pool and had read it from the beginning.
    I would totally pay a subscription for something like The Pool if it was as you say something that covers where I’m at in life!
    I’m expecting baby 2 imminently , I’m 40 next year and I’m still trying not to spend my entire salary on make up (it’s been a lifelong pursuit!)And I struggle to find magazines that fit me and both RMS and RMF work for me as did The Pool.
    It annoys me when you see brands (usually ones I like) gifting so much to Instagram ‘influencers’ I get that giving stuff away is easy advertising etc but honestly it annoys me seeing people constantly in new clothes they haven’t paid for! Or bloody Hello Fresh, if it’s such an excellent idea (which it is) and value for money why is it constantly promoted in Instagram with massive discounts on boxes? It isn’t that cheap at £40 a week for 3 dinners for 2 (I can Plan and buy a weeks worth of dinners for not much more!) and whilst I have subscribed in the past it’s not a sustainable option at that cost.

    Um not sure what point I was making any more!

    But any way I love RMS and loved The Pool and like you if anyone finds the perfect alternative I’m up for subscribing too!

    1. Vicky this is really useful feedback – thanks so much. I love my TIMES app, I get so much more enjoyment sitting down with a cup of tea for 10/15 minutes than I ever did scrolling through any social media app. It makes me feel as though I have half a clue what’s going on, rather than just being submerged in nappies and washing! What do you feel is an acceptable amount you would pay for say, the pool – if there was the option?

      1. Right, nursery run done, midwife done, quick sneaky internet browse before starting work (I’ve got 2 weeks until mat leave starts so my workload is lighter than light-which I am loving!).

        Subscription wise somewhere between £5 and £10 a month would be fine with me. Especially when you tot up how much a magazine costs and I sometimes buy a couple a month then get annoyed with how they don’t really have the content I want or the interactivity. I would’ve gladly paid for The Pool if that had been an option.

        I have no real issues with paid collaborations/advertorials on blogs etc, especially when the rest of the content is free or it is in keeping with the blog. To be honest if I don’t like the look of something I won’t read it. And I agree that ‘traditional’ journalism has much greyer links with brands and that bloggers and instagrammers are sometimes unfairly targeted. Sali Hughes has pointed out in the past that in order for her to do her job as a beauty journalist fairly and properly she needs the free samples etc so she can try pretty much every brand and price range and give a fair review of products (which makes total sense and I am also very aware that some beauty bloggers/magazines etc don’t give fair unbiased reviews) but its when a brand does a blanket PR drop to every blogger/influencer and you see the same products hyped up that really annoys me and the push to the general public to spend their cash on the products which they may or may not be able to afford just because someone was sent it for free and said it was amazing.

        I subscribe to Beauty Pie but have found nothing so amazing that I will be continuing with it so I’ll have a spare £5 a month soon if you’re planning a subscription version of RMS!

        1. Absolutely Vicky – you couldn’t buy every beauty product and try it, it would cost a fortune (although ahem…I do buy a lot). I like Beauty Pie – have you tried the cloths? They are like flannel on one side and muslin on the other, I bought a few palettes for Christmas presents and they seemed good value for the price. I’ve not tried the serums yet but I do have a tube of unopened retinol hand cream that I have high hopes for.

          And yes, if it’s not for me, sponsored or not, I don’t read it. I think it’s these blanket PR drops you mention that assist with the confusion over what’s genuine and what is JUST because the person/brand has been paid.

          1. Those cloths sound great Charlotte. I have a Pai one that’s flannel one side and muslin the other and quite like it. I’ve tried a couple of serums and they were fine, just nothing special and definitely not worth the non members price. They have a lovely cleanser which I would buy again but it seems to be constantly out of stock (the japonesque one)! It may just be my pregnant skin doesn’t need much in the way of actives at the minute! I might just have to hold on a bit and try some more things 🙂

    2. Just chiming in to say I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds it a bit annoying seeing loads of stuff being given away on Instagram. I understand the reasoning, and I don’t begrudge the individual influencers. But (and sorry for naming names), I’ve been an avid fan and customer of Elemis for about 8 years and I often see them gifting their new products to multiple influencers on Istagram. It feels a bit disappointing to think of how much money I’ve spent with them over the years and my loyalty to their brand to see them giving their products away to someone who might use them a few times, post about them, and then essentially continue shopping elsewhere. Like Charlotte says, I’d much prefer to see “genuine” reviews and the current influencer model on IG makes it difficult to tell the difference.

      1. Hi Kitty! It’s difficult isn’t it – I would never begrudge anyones choice on how they make a living, whether that’s being able to fill their bathroom cabinets with lovely creams or preferring the cash to pay the bills. But it does make it seem very disingenuous from a brands perspective – especially when a large group of influencers are all advertising the same thing at the same time. Skincare – they can’t all have the same skin type and think it is AMAZING…after only having used it twice? But it’s no different to an advert in a magazine, making ridiculous claims, it’s influencing us to buy the damn thing in the same way (marketers dream me!). I love Elemis – coincidently we did a survey on RMW stories on Monday and it was by far our brides favourite skincare brand (genuinely – there were no biased responses). But there are brands I personally avoid now, because I just don’t agree with how they are promoting their products.

  2. Create is Charlotte, if anyone can, it’s you. I’d certainly pay a subscription and I’d also pay as a company to be a part of the influencer side and/or advertise. Everything is leaning towards subscription now with facebook groups making this easy. I belong to about 5! 3 photography ones and two women’s networking ones.

    1. Lisa thanks for your feedback! Which women networking groups are you part of, if you don’t mind me asking?

      1. Girl tribe gang (amazing) & mumla club (pr focused although I’m not on the paid part of that!) , the other have a photography basis, clickin moms, unravelled academy, and a photography posing one. A lot offer in person meets or online courses or support in someway as well as opportunity to guest blog etc…
        I’d be super interested in a sort of ‘super influencer’ collective where I can go to see all my fave people in one place guest blog!

  3. I’m going to come back and make a proper, considered comment later – when I’m not about to battle with a half dressed toddler – but just want to say it this is excellent and thoughtful and I applaud your openness about a fairly thorny topic.

    1. Thanks so much Rebecca – I look forward to your response, good luck with the battle (just finished mine) 🙂 x

      1. Toddler was successfully delivered to nursery, fully clothed in the end 😉

        Still trying to properly think my way through this, but here goes…
        1. I’ve never objected to well considered sponsored content, as long as it is clearly labelled as such. In the end we come back to blogs/follow people online because we enjoy their content – their style, their pictures, the voice that they create. There is a level of trust that is created, and I think when people start to feel iffy is when they feel that sponsored content is out of place, and I’ve certainly never felt that with RMS (or RMF when it was around). I do agree though about the frustration of mexican wave style advertising sometimes seen on Instagram (milk and more was a recent one).
        2. I completely get your ambivalence about social media, especially reading the damage it does to young people. I like Instagram for the pictures, and that it gives a decent amount of text if you want it, and there are some people who are great at stories (and there are some who post them at length but who aren’t actually that great). It’s a time sink if you let it be though, and I’m aware sometimes that I’m scrolling past the point of caring. I don’t have the energy to post regularly and I can easily understand how it can turn into a full time job for those that do.
        3. I love the idea of a more limited community for sharing ideas/products we’ve discovered/books etc. I’d probably happily pay for such a thing. I’d also be fully in support of meet-ups etc. organised through such a platform. Ironically it’s Instagram that has alerted me to the existence of such things: I’m a member of a group called Creative Countryside, for which I pay £10/month, and is all about seasonal/slow living. I also follow IndieRoller, who supports creative businesses with a similar community, and although I’m not a member, I do think that looks fab.
        4. I would totally have paid a subscription for The Pool. I was a more than daily reader over there, often checking it in the morning and then again at lunch, or during a bored 5 minutes.

        1. Thanks for such detailed feedback Rebecca, Creative Countryside sounds amazing, I really don’t feel we have made the most of our move to a more rural area so perhaps something like this would give me some ideas.

          Well considered sponsored content is key – and as you say, some do it really well and others don’t. The recent transparency controversy has created a bit of a blanket negativity which is a shame as there are those out there who have always endeavoured to highlight what is paid for and clearly work really hard at creating engaging features/beautiful imagery.

          Off to look at Indie Roller! x

  4. Hi there

    I couldn’t agree more with this – I work in the media and find it interesting that people are so anti Instagram when all journalists are sent free items constantly and I know from experience, with the exception of a few very serious top tier media, publications, the line between editorial and advertorial is uncomfortably close.

    A good example to look at I would say is the Economist and the Economist Intelligence Unit. They have a really strong divide between what’s paid for and what’s editorial, and a huge committed fan base willing to pay a premium.

    If you can find a way to take the principle into your market you’ll be on to a winner.

    1. Elizabeth this is really interesting – I’ll take a look at the Economist. I think the obvious divide is so important to highlight integrity, readers can then choose what they want to engage with – and pay if that’s the requirement.

      1. It’s such a tricky one, good luck with it. Out of everyone banging the drum right now it’s a change to read someone who gets it!

        I have done lots of work in this space so if your plans progress or you need a sounding board I’d be happy to help.

  5. It’s very interesting to think that if the million or so readers of The Pool had paid just 50 pence a month for the privilege then the company would be up 2M on their 4M reported investment after year one alone. I know that is vastly simplifying things but it’s certainly food for thought.

  6. Hi,Just need to say how refreshing this is to find someone involved voicing concern.I too find the gifting a tad annoying.Especially in instances where it is not genuine.An example last year infuriated me where an ‘influencer raved on about some outdoor furniture,then in a later story let slip that they actually bought something else as it was cheaper. A lot of these people’s content is now advertising and I am just about ready to throw in the towel with Instagram.I tend to read posts with a touch of cynicism now,wondering if they are angling for business.
    I would pay up to about £5 per month for a site where none of the posts are affiliated.

    1. Thanks Margaret, the outdoor furniture blip was a bit embarrassing wasn’t it – I wonder if they even realised? Adam and I were talking about the element of angling for business/a post being essentially an AD even if it isn’t. It’s such a grey area – I’ve seen folks bang on about products to the degree where they must be angling for a freebie, as if they have entitlement in some way – a follower count perhaps?. Why don’t they feel confident enough in their success to be able to earn the money to pay for the product themselves? I could go on. Imagine if The Pool had received £5 per reader! x

  7. I’ve been feeling very disappointed with instagram recently. I’ve had to have a massive clear out of who i follow because my entire feed was #ad. I do follow some brands on insta so expect that sort of thing from them but individual “influencers” make me feel a bit sick. Some have really gotten the balance right (only working with brands they genuinly like, only doing a few #ads and disclosing fully when they do) but most just take it all and every other post is #ad #gifted. I didn’t join insta to be sold to every minute of everyday or watch already priviledged people be showered with free stuff. Sorry bit of a rant there and feeling much better after a following cull. In regards to paying for a service it may just have to be the way forward. However i don’t think i would subscribe to more than one unless they were each VERY affordable. If that is the case with others will it make it too difficult for brands to gain a slice of the audience? I’m not really sure. I do believe however that this year is going to be pivotal to the future because if many more people feel like me then influencer culture can’t have a very bright future.

    1. Hi Lucy, I feel the same, I don’t look at the app even daily any more and I scrolled my feed over the weekend (Sunday I think) and thought something weird had happened to the algorithm/I had pressed something inadvertently – literally so many ads and gifted items. I am vehemently against any kind of beef given to influencers personally & publicly (If they are guilty of advertising inappropriate products to a known young/impressionable audience then that is possibly a separate matter), it’s their choice what they do. Like you I think some do it really well, others just need to be unfollowed if it feels disingenuous/boring/doesn’t resonate etc. I think any subscription platform needs to give the subscriber real value for money, and ensure they are listening to what their community wants x

  8. I totally get how influencers make money and as long as they are open about what’s gifted then fine. Cant say im not jealous about the endless clothes that fashion bloggers get, but then i wouldnt want to earn my money how they do either (not from an ethical point of view but i just dont have the motivation to do all the styling of the photos that they have to do) I do find the wording of most blog and instagram posts that are sponsored a bit scripted in general, so i never really trust that the love for the product is genuine!
    In terms of Rms, i tend to skip over the sponsored blog posts, mainly just becauae i dont find myself really interested in the brands you have teamed up with (mostly too expensive for me) but i dont grudge you writing them as i get this is how you make a buck!
    I do like some of the aff links on your insta stories, i just have to avoid spending too much £££ on them!
    I tend to just skip content that im not into, i only subscribe to readly for trash magazines mainly! I would happily pay a small monthly fee for a blog like RMS if it made sure all product reviews/features were genuine
    Hope that helps 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Rachel – so interesting! I think a lot of the issues with influencer marketing stems from jealousy, and a rose tinted view of what their lives must be like. A fashion shoot (or styled shoot for that matter) is incredibly time consuming and often quite repetitive, it wouldn’t be my choice as a full time job.

      I think more than ever folks are looking for value for money – I know I am x

  9. As both a reader and a writer I find this whole thing fascinating. One of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed writing here is the complete free reign of topics and lack of editing of my posts. I’ve never been told to write about anything in particular, so even the affiliate posts are of my own interests. I personally don’t mind seeing round up affiliate posts with loads of different products from different shops (maybe that’s because I enjoy writing them though), but I do dislike heavily sponsored posts that appear everywhere at once online (Hello Fresh I’m looking at you).
    As for subscription, I would LOVE an app. And would probably pay up £3-£5 a month for one if there was daily updates, varied posts and an engaging intuitive comments section.
    The comments here are already so interesting. It seems we’re all mostly on the same page?

    1. Now Naomi if you could just do a post on what to do with my bloody garden…. 😉

      I am currently eyeing up this pair of leggings on Sweaty Betty – only looked at them via the Sweaty Betty website, on my laptop.

      Now they are in my instagram feed EVERY DAY as a sponsored post. That’s probably another conversation altogether. Who the F is watching me?

      My penchant for bum lifting lycra is my own business.

      I also like round ups – quick easy reading/shopping that takes the pain out of me searching the web (I’m lazy) x

          1. They definitely make me feel better about my sadly flattened (since pregnancy) rear but it’s more that they are just so comfy & good for both running & Pilates. Definitely recommended!

          2. Totally recommend ODLO leggings – I’m a Pilates instructor and also run – they are the best leggings. They hold you in, don’t move when you move and wash well.

  10. I think the problem with Instagram is that a lot of influencers (well, those who I follow), started out as just woman posting their daily lives / interests / house renovations.Some did it really well, followers increased, they became successful, and THEN the influencer bit started – their follower numbers meant they started getting sent free items, they start to promote #gifts, a new ‘career’ is born… and consequently authenticity is compromised because they don’t seem ‘genuine’ anymore. Its almost like they are a victim of their own success. I’m not sure I would pay to subscribe to a site – I am aware that platforms such as RMS can only exist through advertising so I just accept those ads or sponsored posts. I still love a glossy magazine and am happy to pay for that – the internet just doesn’t seem to cut it (for me, anyway) in the same way as a magazine.

    1. Which Glossy magazines do you buy and rate Nicola? I buy Good Housekeeping – some of it is aimed at admittedly older ladies, but I “trust” their reviews and their articles are mostly insightful and well written.

      I also like 25 Beautiful Homes magazine – although I have noticed it’s become a lot thinner recently and you don’t see anywhere near as much of the “beautiful” home. Odd. x

      1. I’ll confess that I enjoy Good Housekeeping too (turning into my mum!) plus Red magazine. I subscribe to several house mags – Country Homes & Interiors, House Beautiful. I used to read 25 BH but I agree – its definitely getting thinner and some of the houses are strangely hideous / hilarious to say the least! Me and my mum often share magazines & my mum is queen at spotting carefully placed (aka styled) furniture & extras – eg a chair put in such a daft position you couldn’t open the oven door! Classic over-styled giveaway!

        I find some house mags annoying too as the houses are frequently owned by interior designers – presumably in cahoots with the magazine editors? Gosh I sound cynical don’t I, but is nothing authentic any more?!!

        1. Ha ha! your Mum sounds great! I read my Mum’s “Woman & Home” when I’m there, that’s pretty good. A lot of homes are owned by architects I’ve noticed, I’m always surprised by how they have such talent with small spaces in particular – ideas for me to steal!

          I think a lot of us are guilty of cynicism at the moment, it’s difficult not to be with all the controversy over transparency and platforms like instagram being viewed as the be all and end all of life. I hope folks enjoy RMW and RMS – but that they see it as a small window of escapism, not rules to live by. What happened to living in the moment? x

      2. Charlotte I too buy Good Housekeeping and read my mum’s Woman & Home whenever I’m there! Red is the only other glossy that comes close to having what I’m after in it and one of their columnists has moved to Woman & Home!

        I am essentially turning into my mother… who owned a Charlotte Tilbury lipstick before I have!

        1. Vicky & Charlotte, I’m exactly the same, reading my Mum’s GH or W&H, and lusting after a CT lipstick! I do like Ideal Home too but why are the houses always owned by interior designers or architects?! 🤔😂

  11. I found it pretty amusing yesterday when people on Instagram started complaining about followers being missing. They were so specific with their numbers with some people saying 10 or 30 or 400. It just goes to show how carefully they monitor their following. It reminded me when people used to complain about people not engaging with their posts and asking why people hadn’t liked it. I think sometimes they forget that Instagram isn’t a business for everyone so we don’t necessarily feel the need to like every post. What will happen if the Instagram bubble bursts – what will happen to these women who have make this their job?

    Also it is so off-putting when everyone is advertising the same product at the same time. Especially if they don’t offer a discount code along with it. I’m definitely going to have to clear out my Instagram account, remove the things that annoy me!

    1. I caught up with that late on Suzy, I thought instagram was simply culling fake accounts (which must occur so often I guess) but then I saw they have come…back? Bizarre. Why would anyone want fake accounts following them? Creepy. It just highlights how followers are seen as a sign of popularity/success. And if it’s a business account then fair enough, lots of people have worked really hard at building their brand/presence. But I do hope everyone has a plan B. And a plan C. x

  12. Fascinating post Charlotte. I’m actually not convinced that the influencer market is going anywhere – mainly because there is SO much that needs sorting with the way the internet currently works, and (to me at least) those are more pressing priorities…if we look at the issues around fake news or online bullying – these are huge problems and while Facebook is saying they’ll do something about it, forgive me for being cynical! Yes there’s been some backlash to the murkly influencer advertising issues but it seems like the ASA’s response has been “Uh, pls put the word #ad or #spon in your post but we aren’t forcing you”. Which shows a certain lack of interest in REALLY doing anything but pay a bit of lip service so I feel like, unless there’s a huge backlash from users (and let’s face it, most people like me say it’s annoying and roll their eyes but just scroll on by), the status quo isn’t going to change.

    That does leave online publications in a difficult place because it’s hard and unfair to expect them to navigate in a market where it’s basically okay to be totally shady but it also (very unfairly) devalues the content that you do produce.

    Your app sounds awesome and I would pay for that but, I’ll be honest, I won’t pay very much because the only other thing I subscribe to online is Netflix and I only pay about £8 for a huge amount of on demand content. For the app that you describe, I would be happy to start off paying £3 to see if it could become something that adds a lot of value / support / entertainment / JOY to my life. If it really did (to a similar degree to netflix, OMG I AM SO SAD) then I’d pay a little bit more – and I think that’s key – this isn’t the ‘norm’ for people but all it would take is one excellent app to change the way people view paying for stuff on the internet (thanks facebook for making free stuff seem like The Only Way while secretly screwing us all with our own data, harumph). I can see why no one has done this yet: putting an app together with all of the up front investment costs + no REAL knowledge of how well it’ll do as it’s somewhat unchartered territory makes it a big risk. I definitely think there’s a key space for it in the market if people are prepared to make the jump, reach into their pockets and give it a go (and uh, other people are prepared to create it and stuff…hint hint).

    1. The bullying, the fake news, the images of self-harm – it’s just so awful isn’t it Kate. I just can’t comprehend how FB/Insta (basically Mark Zuckerberg) doesn’t take more responsibility? And work quicker to resolve the issues.

      I bloody love Netflix!!!! and absolutely any kind of subscription app HAS to have value.

      As an aside, I wonder how many people would unsubscribe from instagram if they had to pay for the app…now there’s a question! x

      1. any kind of subscription app HAS to have value.

        This is an interesting point because we’ve been living in an internet world where people expect quality and content for free…but that’s not really working out that well – and so we’re right on the cusp where, having lived the ‘free’ life for a while, people are slowly realising that they will pay a certain amount to really get the value that they want. I definitely think this trend will just continue to grow because, yes, people are still on facebook and instagram, but more because there’s nothing else (or nothing better). I would definitely jump ship and would LOL at Zuckerberg for daaaays if he tried to get me to pay for the privilege of harvesting all of my shopping habits and general data – nah man, sit down. You’ve done quite enough.

        I really hope that things change in the next few years because this isn’t the internet that I want our kids to still have when they’re in their teens.

        1. That’s it Kate, the thought of my kids having a FB/instagram account makes me feel ill. Yet I don’t know how it can be avoided, and parents with children of a certain age now must be finding it so difficult to monitor, I really feel for them. There are some excellent things to come out of living in a digital age, obviously. But there is also so much scary and very accessible shit. I would love to know what Zuckerberg thinks about his own children potentially having a FB account 🤔

          1. I read an article in the Times the other week (we don’t subscribe as I still like to have the weekend papers at the table to dip into across the week and online wouldn’t have the same impact…that’s probably why I still buy magazines even though they aren’t VFM given how quickly I get through them) about how a lot of the Silicon Valley execs send their kids to a school which is almost off-grid and doesn’t have technology etc and their kids don’t have phones. Says a lot doesn’t it!

  13. Great and thoughtful piece. I quit Instagram a couple of months ago, for various reasons and don’t really miss it – although I do find myself going and looking at a couple of folks who I followed and genuinely thought they were adding something special. I still seem to be able to do that without an account.
    Anyway, this guys is not really in the same genre but I subscribe to Mark Manson’s website. It’s about $6 per month and totally worth it for the awesome content that he puts out there. It is not very frequent but when he posts stuff there is value for me as a reader. He puts out a nice blend of “free for all” content and stuff just for subscribers. Its an interesting model and clearly works for him (alongside his book publishing etc). https://markmanson.net/subscribe?from=main-nav&from-path=homepage
    In terms of beauty reviews, have you ever checked out Beautypedia? I used to use it regularly a few years ago but as the founder (Paula Begouin’s) own brand grows, not sure how “independent” it really is now.

    1. Bridget I read Beautypedia years ago! it saved me lots of money over the years – not wasting money on products that were literally full of irritants and cheap crap served up in a posh glass jar.

      I’ve not heard of Mark Manson but thanks for the recommendation – I’ll definitely take a look!. I know quite a few people who have quit various social media apps, and quite a few of my good friends (husband included!) have never had FB or instagram to begin with. Their lives are no less fulfilling I’m sure. x

  14. I would love to have an alternative app/platform that I can visit where members are sharing genuine reviews of products they might be using daily and actually really rate. A place where all members are there for the same reason and have genuine real life stories/tips/tricks to share. I miss the ‘real life’ aspect that I used to enjoy so much on Instagram. I cannot stand the phrase ‘insta-reality’. It baffles my brain. I’d be well up for paying a subscription to an app where I get great content – for me personally I’d love it have both a life style and a business slant. A place where I can set favourites so each day I’m presented with a fashion post and a business related post and perhaps in my settings I can turn these preferences on and off so if I’m renovating my house for example, I can turn interiors on and fashion off so that Im not distracted by epic must have wardrobe items and can instead focus on building the actual wardrobes to house said incredible garms. Does that make sense? I’d happily pay between £5 and £10 a month depending on the level of access I wanted to have to the content. A space that delivers a variety of content that I can fully control. Ad free.

    1. Yes, yes, YES. A completely preference led feed. I was just talking to Alice on the phone and she was saying that she’s not interested in parenting right now for example – so would turn that off. But may want to turn the content back on in the future. ALL Ad free.

  15. Yes to all of what you said Charlotte! Over the last couple of months i’ve really started to fall out of love with Instagram, first with the algorithm (i just don’t get it anymore and it seems more effort than anything positive now!) and lately because every large account i follow all advertise the same product at the same time… If it’s not Bodem / Very or Elemis or Bloom flowers… it’s Joules or Hello fresh… etc etc. Once you’ve seen three people’s stories with the same product placement… it’s just dull. And then you have to tap through those same accounts explaining the #ad / #gifted etc etc… I know i completely have the option to unfollow / mute etc and they’re making a living and put a lot of work into it. It just seems that it’s gone too far and these products are just being pushed at you from every angle. I don’t have a solution but agree with what everyone has said above, if there was a believable account or app where you trusted the reviews then i would be all for it. I also think you’re totally the person to start this – no pressure 😉 Love RMW – completely binged it for our wedding, and love RMS although i have to say i don’t read the product placement articles as (sorry!) i don’t fully believe they’re not just an Ad. Home tours – love love love! Sorry that all seems a bit ranty, it wasn’t my intention it just struck me that more and more people are frustrated by how social media is evolving. Thanks for the post! x

    1. Hi Rachel – not ranty, just really useful, thanks so much! And I completely get where you are coming from with RMS product placement/sponsored content – why should you think it’s any different to anything else. I think we build a really good element of trust, but the more that goes on in general online (dodgy brand partnerships/unclear advertorial etc) the more it impacts perception of brands like us. It becomes very challenging. x

  16. This is a really fascinating subject. While I don’t object to influencers / bloggers being gifted items (after all, if they had to pay for everything themselves they’d have very little content to blog about) but I absolutely agree that it removes the authenticity. I frequently see captions on Instagram with people raving about how much they love the new artwork, cushion, bed linen or whatever that they have been gifted and how well it works in that particular room, only to see a post a few weeks later of the same room with no sign of said prized item! On the matter of subscriptions, I would happily pay about £10 a month to have daily posts back on RMS.

    1. Same Kirsty, everyone is entitled to do what they want if they can make a success of it/subsidise their income etc etc but it does, as you say, devalue the brands/message. The very nature of how it works for a lot of bloggers, you tubers, instagram influencers etc is that they do have new products on a frequent basis, so how can it ever be anything than a quick win for the sponsor in question? I don’t think they will build any repeat purchase/brand loyalty from these impulse/easily influenced consumers. x

  17. Lovely to see a post from you Charlotte and about such a valid topic. I completely understand the need to run a business, and I don’t mind the odd sponsored post either. I follow a couple of blogs, and one (Mad About the House) has a sponsored post only on Wednesdays (and not every week). You always know a Wednesday post is sponsored, if you don’t want to read you don’t have to. I really like the restraint in knowing it is just one day, and sometimes it is great and just what I want to read about, and sometimes I have no interest and skip by. But I love that all the other posts are totally sponsor-free (as far as I can tell anyway!!). I completely get that Instagram is great for blogs and businesses, in a world where we don’t spend more than a nano second focused on anything of course scrolling through pictures with a small bit of blurb is the way it all works. But I wouldn’t pay for it, or Facebook, or any of those other soul-sucking apps. I love a good “old fashioned” blog with honest posts about lots of topics everyone can relate to. If I’m honest though, and I appear to be in the minority here, I wouldn’t really want to pay. I don’t buy magazines (although I get Elle Decoration for free through a loyalty club thing, but if I didn’t get it free I wouldn’t bother), I don’t subscribe to Netflix etc, I am the really irritating person that makes this whole blogging/content thing so difficult and I acknowledge that. I understand that blogs and other online content-based businesses need money to employ staff etc, and I guess I would be open to the idea of paying a very small amount but only for something where I knew I would like the content every day. I don’t mind sponsored posts as long as they are not daily, and ideally not in that grey area of product placement! Although in the same breath the app idea you talk about sounds amazing!!!!!! I would definitely want to be a part of that, but cost-wise I wouldn’t consider paying more than £1 a month as I regularly don’t get a moment to read or do anything outside work/family life and it is hard to spend money on something you can’t spend time appreciating. It is so tough, honestly I think you guys do a sterling job and I’m really interested to read everyone’s thoughts on this.

    1. Hi Annie – thanks so much for your hones response, what you say about the Wednesday sponsored posts makes perfect sense. As you know exactly what to expect on a given day, thus you can choose to engage or not. Becky above mentioned the dream would be to have a preference led feed, which I think is a great idea. I find the subscription cost difficult to decipher, it couldn’t be price prohibitive, but would have to be realistic for an app to succeed. x

  18. You guys do so well at keeping your fingers on the pulse to the current popular opinion of your readership..just like this article so I would without a doubt pay a couple of pounds a month or for an app access your content.
    Instagram has changed from a platform I love to spend time on to one that I now find highly annoying.
    I used to find it a fascinating insight into people homes and family rhythms but now it is all so contrived to fit around what product or service they are pushing. The perfect homes, perfect families, perfect clothes, perfect holidays can actually make you feel pretty unsatisfied with your own setup so how can that be a worthwhile thing?
    I think maybe I need to have a bit of a cull to see if I can improve the way I feel about it and if that does not work cut ties completely with it.

    1. I do wonder whether the people it effects the most are those who have the perfect life out lined on a grid but it’s light years away from their reality. They are almost creating their own unrealistic expectations. It’s almost a millennial version of “keeping up with the Joneses”.

      Thanks for the finger-on-the-pulse comment Jen, makes me feel youthful and as though it will all be worth it in the end! x

  19. I would consider paying to access content, but would want that content to be well-written, varied and regular. Topics ranging from the light to the serious from a variety of perspectives. I feel that sometimes that various parts of the internet turn into a bit of an ‘echo chamber’!

    1. Yes Jos, I would want light topics as much as serious. Sometimes I just want to read something funny or buy a decent washing up liquid! x

  20. Such an interesting post and really honestly written.

    I absolutely love RMS (I’ve been a fan since it launched and realised that a couple of years post-wedding I probably ought to wean myself off RMW anyway!). That said, in reality I probably wouldn’t pay a subscription for it. Only because I wouldn’t really pay a subscription for very many things, and I’d probably end up finding my interiors inspo/ family ideas elsewhere for free (Pinterest, other blogs etc). That’s not to say the RMS isn’t a fantastic resource… that’s just my honest account of my online habits and, as a fellow business owner, I know that REAL and HONEST feedback is much more valuable in the long run.

    Sponsored/ product placement posts don’t really bother me too much. I do find it strange that people happily consume an entirely free source of media, especially one like yours that is well-researched, intelligently written and beautifully put together, and then complain about the amount of sponsored posts. The same goes for Facebook; did people truly believe they could go on using a free resource without having their data used in any way whatsoever? People need to realise that when you use a free resource, YOU become the product.

    Magazines and newspapers have been including adverts, sponsored articles and buttered-up journalist’s “reviews” for years, but we hold the internet more accountable because it’s easier to voice our opinions online.

    It’s a really tricky one… I presume you’re asking whether RMS should become a subscription platform… I’d be inclined to say no. I’m not sure whether you’re asking because a) people are voicing their dislike of the sponsored posts or if b) revenue is actually down. If it’s just a), I would keep doing what you’re doing and not worry about people’s opinions too much. I suspect the grumblers would grumble over a charge too.

    L x

    1. Hi Laura! Thanks so much for your honest feedback! and nope, absolutely no intention of turning RMS into a subscription platform, I’m just interested in the concept, and if something did exist like I outlined, I would personally join.

      I think FB is more about the transparency, I don’t recall being told my data would be used, if I was then I could have made the decision to have an account or not (I’ve never been a frequent user as it happens and have maximum security settings – I hope!)

      Yes on the voicing opinions thing – it is so much easier online. Perhaps certain folks have felt this way about advertising the whole time x

  21. Instagram is one of the last few social media platforms I actively engage with in terms of liking/commenting/sharing/viewing on a regular basis. And whilst I do have a group of friends I follow, the majority of my feed is made up of people blogging about their house renovations or influencers (whether they be individuals, celebs or brands themselves). I’m not particularly active in terms of liking/commenting on their posts, but I do watch stories, I give page impressions by viewing their feed which all generates healthy stats for them and makes them prime targets for advertisers to gift items to and work with on paid content. I appreciate that my view on this is influenced (ha!) by the work that I do – I work for a media company in their data team and whilst we produce content that is paid for by subscription, there is a whole raft of content that we produce for free on the basis that in order to access you have to register and therefore provide us with a limited amount of information about yourself. Facebook/Instagram/other free to access platforms survive on having this wealth information to attract advertisers – I’m definitely not saying it’s right, but it happens in so many other areas (loyalty cards for example) that it’s not surprising that social media pursued the same avenue. There are so many issues when this happens with your average consumer, especially when it’s not transparent which is why I think there was a lot of negativity when it was revealed the extent of the relationships influencers had with brands.

    I don’t have a problem with influencers doing paid partnerships, receiving gifts etc – as long it’s clear, I don’t begrudge them making a living and I actually find it quite refreshing that it’s all being out in the open. However, I think the brands themselves should also be open about the practices and stop the blanket pushes where you see 3 different influencers all promoting the same thing one day after another – surely in this day and age, it would be very easy to see the cross-over their audiences have and wouldn’t it be more effective to co-ordinate efforts?! That’s probably me thinking with my work-hat on though!!

    Back to your actual question (sorry for the long-winded post!!) is that I would pay for content. If it could be ad-free then even better, but I wouldn’t mind if there was an odd post linked with a brand, especially if it came from creators that I trust have their audience’s best interest at heart. Putting product before audience is always going to attract negativity, and there definitely needs to be an overall shift to achieve any kind of balance as a whole.

    Finally, I have no idea if any of the above made any sense – been trying to collate my thoughts on this all morning and just had to brain-dump it all during lunch!

    1. Jo this was great, thanks so much! it’s definitely transparency that appears to be the main issue. I very much have my work hat on with the vast majority of what I do with regards social media. I have my own personal instagram account but it’s been neglected of late and I was finding my feed repetitive and advert biased.

      I find the brand blanket thing really odd, especially as it would surely effect some loyal/long term consumers of the brand negatively? I sense a shift is coming, and I’m really interested to see how it all unfolds x

  22. Hey, 👋🏼
    Little late to the discussion but I wanted to add my two penneth worth. Honestly I love what you guys do on the site but… (deep breathes) I don’t tend to read the mini posts on Instagram. It’s nothing personal to you but I just scroll on insta, it’s something I do quickly on a lunch break. I don’t ever press expand on a comment. It’s not my style. Sorry. I would happily pay for your website as a subscription. I love your website and it has been a daily read with my morning coffee since it began. I do very much miss the daily aspect of your posts.

    I personally find that I am following less and less brands/influencers online. I am only 25 but I am kind of over a lot of the social media thing. It might be because at 25 the last ten years (main ten years) of social media was my late teens early twenties and my Tastes have changed, but it just doesn’t fulfil my mental needs. I know it’s all *for the gram* but I just find I don’t get want I am looking for. At 25 I am attempting to save to buy a house, and in honesty, all my other half and I can afford is an old persons bungalow that needs doing up. We are totally happy with that but you go on social media, and all there is is country homes with #ad #giftedad. And it’s exhausting, I want to see the real world, how do you achieve that look on a budget. I know I am trying to buy in north Cotswolds/Warwickshire so it’s going to be expensive, we can’t look elsewhere as that’s where are work is( either here I
    Or Scotland (there’s not many distilleries out there). It would just be nice to see how people started. I would like to see more of that on rock my style, maybe a slightly younger writer on your account so that when you do a house item they can cover for first time buyers post you could do a joint article? Sorry I honestly love what you guys do and I aspire to your houses/lives. I lost where this was going but yes please expand/subscription stuff.

    1. Amelia, what a lovely read – thank you. And I bet your bungalow (or otherwise) will be mega. I live in Warwickshire, it’s beautiful, but yes – not far away from London pricing so I feel your frustration. When I was waffling on about a subscription based app and Becky has since mentioned a filtered/preference led feed, this is something that could essentially happen. ie you could filter via house budget for renovations or perhaps choose to only look at projects under a certain amount (can you tell my brain has gone into overdrive since writing this post, I only started wanting to know what folks thought about online advertising ha ha!!). We started the business before instagram, pinterest etc even existed. In fact Amelia, you would have been 15 when we started our wedding blog (!) so it’s incredibly refreshing to hear your thoughts and understand that even from someone in their mid twenties, it is all about the quality of content, and not necessarily the latest fad. Lots of love and luck for the house purchase! x

      1. I have to admit despite not being engaged, or likely to be anytime soon, I do read rock my wedding as well. In fact I have since I was 17, so I’ve followed you for a long time. In a non stalker way obvs. This is mainly because I trained as a florist straight out of school. These days the only professional accounts I really follow on insta, are florists and artists. At New Years, I actually had an insta purge and basically got rid of any influencer/professional account that permenantly seemed to be promoting products. It was just annoying.
        I do still very much head to the blogs. For me I would rather read those than the news papers over my morning coffee. I don’t mind the news later but of a morning I like something light and cheerful. I love rms because ok, yes there is some filtering but it’s mainly real life and you’ll admit to those days where a packet of m and ms is your breakfast. Basically keep at it but please add in a little house bit for first timers (even if it’s just a tab on the side of your interiors bit) because I think there’s a market for 20 somethings trying to buy somewhere. So I like the idea of the drop down. Thank you, still very early days on the house hunt. Xx ps sorry for appalling spelling/grammar, iPhones, and lunch breaks are not great partners for typing quickly!

  23. Oh my this is such an interesting read. I’ve had a further think about it since my post this morning, and I’d like to add that I always hanker for more local bloggers. One’s that might help me with a tip for something to do within a 50mile radius of me. I do get some value out of bloggers advertising bigger brands, but my heart and sole is supporting small local business and peaking into the lives of people that might be doing the same things as me. So I guess my point is possibly a geographical aspect to the platform you create? Maybe this would open it up (similar to a franchise) where by the person that runs an area/county adheres to the rules/branding you set and you both get an income from the membership and advertising. (I’d love to run one locally!) I’d certainly pay up around £5 a month for something that has local and national information/influencers/guest post/business advertising . Etc…

    It’s already being done a little with some Instagram accounts (muddy stillettos is one I can think of nationally but it’s a free service … currently) Groups of bloggers already exist via one account (surrey blogger collective)

    As others have said you have your finger on the pulse and are a mover and a shaker in the industry so ‘shake it up Charlotte’ 😉

    1. Ha ha Lisa, I’ve been somewhat out of the loop in baby mode for over a year, just secretly plotting my next business idea whilst eating all of the custard creams 😉

      A geographical tag system would definitely be useful for networking and meeting new people x

  24. What a brilliant post. I am still entirely hooked on instagram and happy to be “influenced”! but I can see a day where I turn off from it. I love my Times subscription and would definitely pay for RMS content – I’ve missed the more regular blog posts in favour of instagram micro blogs but I understand your need to try other methods in a challenging environment. The cynic in me thinks some of the people who are most vocal about paid for content would unlikely pay subscription and really shouldn’t be the focus of what you do next. Good luck but please don’t disappear!

    1. Jenny we’re still here promise! I bloody love My Times subscription too. I look forward to having a butchers of an evening.

      The micro blogs have definitely increased our engagement on instagram, as have our affiliate stories. It’s a positive move to evolve, but it’s also ok to not “enjoy” (I think that’s the word) the process as much as I used to when we were blogging more often and there was so much discussion in the comments section. x

  25. I find this a hard post to comment on as I have recently given some thought to this subject as I am really falling out of love with social media and I am bored of what feels like every other post I scroll past being marked as ad or sponsored.

    Jenny, above, makes a point that I think rings true with me for subscription costs. I wouldn’t be willing to pay for a blog that was just a coffee time read with any more than the occasional sponsored post, it would really have to have some varied substance to it to keep me interested.

    I know this comment goes against what others have posted and I don’t have a problem with blogs needing to bring in revenue through advertising and I am interested in how this area will move forward. I just feel there are so many blogs and instagram pages etc that I feel slightly bombarded by the same content and ads doing the rounds.

    1. Hi Claire, nope it doesn’t go against what others have said – there is a general opinion that folks are seeing the same things, advertised in the same way, over and over again. And I agree, I wouldn’t pay for a “blog” necessarily, what I was describing was more of an app, that would have to have useful tools, reviews and networking abilities as well as interesting engaging content (not asking for much am I ha haha!) but that’s not to say certain blogs might go down the subscription route I guess…who knows. To caveat – RMS definitely won’t.

      Bombarded is a good word actually, the nature of how we scroll a feed on a phone can feel a bit like that just by design x

  26. I agree with so much you said in this article. I’ve grown increasingly infuriated with Instagram, and am delighted to see grammers now tagging things as “ad” in this country at least (Australia and the US needs to catch up from what I’ve seen- I’m naming no names!).

    I work in the Finance industry and after all the scandals in recent years we have to be so transparent about gifts. I can’t even accept dinner with a client without declaring it. Yet it feels in other industries that gifts are thrown around without any real transparency about what is expected of the giftee.

    I understand bloggers and grammers need to make money, and the figures involved are truly staggering. An old friend of mine is moderately successful on Instagram and regularly gets offered more than my monthly wage for one product placement photo! I don’t begrudge them it, and in the same position I might struggle to turn down that wad of cash too!

    I do subscribe to a local women’s only group, that’s predominantly on Facebook (so free). They recently launched a loyalty card which they charge a subscription for- it’s targeted at things I do/places I go/things I buy so I subscribe. Not sure if I’d subscribe for content, unless there were clearly transparent rules.

    1. I have a friend who works in fashion buying and their gifting policies sound similar to yours in finance Sara. The product placement money can be ridiculous, and as a result very difficult to turn down. The loyalty card sounds like really good value x

  27. Helloooo! I’ve only just caught up on all of this today. I used to read both RMS and RMF every single day. I liked being able to choose to come here when I’m having a five min break at work and read two new posts each day, and I particularly enjoyed the discussions in the comments section, which has all but disappeared these days.

    I pay for Readly, which costs £7.99pm for access to thousands of magazines, which I absolutely love. I can download them too so great for travelling. The Rock My group has always felt like my favourite blog/brand but I’m honestly not sure if I’d pay a subscription. I completely accept that this is not just a hobby, I’m just being honest.

    1. Hi Bunny – I’m not asking if Rock My group should be a subscription service, promise! it was just one aspect of my piece on online media going forward. Genuinely would like an app as per the one I described, but wouldn’t expect to pay for a straight forward blog necessarily. As an aside, if you really enjoy something why wouldn’t you pay? Even a nominal amount? that’s what I don’t necessarily understand, and I’m not picking on you – lots of people feel like that. I think it took a long time for folks to accept they can only read full newspaper articles by paying for the newspaper, or subscribing online. I’ve not heard of Readly?! I’ll have a butchers x

  28. Have been musing over this all day having read your frank and brilliant post on this at 7am this morning.

    Personally I really dislike posts where someone have been #gifted something – holidays/clothes whatever. It just feels a bit rich commenting on something if you can’t afford it yourself or don’t want it enough to buy it.

    Let me clarify that by saying that’s my take on solo / non-professional bloggers (celebs / smaller bloggers who started out as a low key thing on the side). Those for whom this is their day job (and are clear that it is) – I’m thinking about this blog and people like British Beauty Blogger – are very upfront about needing product to deliver their content – less of an issue, I trust them enough to say when something isn’t good, as much as when its great. That’s all part of the authenticity.

    I have also heard a lot about the need for transparency in offline media as well as online social stuff and totally agree. We need a level playing field so as a consumer I know what messaging I’m getting.

    I am also really happy to pay for good content. I have subs to the Guardian, Telegraph and Times newspapers. And I was one of those who paid £3 month from content from The Pool via their weekly Editors Circle email, which was great. It’s a huge shame The Pool has gone.

    Micro payments need to be more common for good content. Very happy to chip into RMS should you ever go down that road.

    (This is typed on my phone on the train, apologies for typos in advance, but hope my overall theme makes sense!)

      1. Hi Caroline! “We need a level playing field so as a consumer I know what messaging I’m getting” yes agreed, we do. I think perhaps there is an awful lot of confusion out there as a consumer (And I sit on both sides so I try and look at it from somewhere in the middle!) with regards authenticity. Folks haven’t been upfront from the start (and some are seemingly becoming annoyed that they have to be now) and it’s highlighted just how much under the radar selling occurs. I didn’t know about the Editors Circle email but it sounded great. It’s just such a shame. I’m really frustrated someone somewhere at The Pool didn’t at least try some kind of rescue mission/alternative revenue strategy. Because to get to a point where you can’t pay staff, you must have been up the creek without a paddle a long time before.

        And yes! it’s been great discussion today x

        1. Yes, agree about The Pool. It’s very sad that they didn’t ask readers for help about their situation. I was in a Guardian event a few years ago when attendees suggested having a “tips jar” for people just to contribute – a number of years on we are at that situation where anyone can chip in to support free access to news. I know the Guardian is not right for everyone politically, but I do think they hsve an interesting financial model (along with members – of which I am one) which deserves attention.

  29. This is a brilliant post and so timely – between Christmas and NY sales I’ve unfollowed a lot of influencers on instagram, just too many ads!

    I would be very happy to pay a subscription but I think the challenge is that readers perhaps then expect more? I loved it when RMS posted daily and at least once a week was about home decor. I completely understand why you can’t do that any more, but if I was paying, that’s the level of content and choice I would probably expect? Now, when I click onto the website and there isn’t a new post or its not about something I’m interested in, I can’t really complain because it’s free? Paying customers might be more vocal…

    I’m really pleased this blog entry has shown there are quite a few of us who would pay for RMS though!

    1. Hi Anne! Thanks for your feedback, we are not turning RMS into a subscription model, I feel it’s an option for new platforms but not to suddenly change an existing established blog into membership only as it were. But yes, for any subscription model you would need regular content and as a consumer, a very clear understanding of what you were paying for x

  30. I read your post this morning Charlotte and have been meaning to respond all day but have only just had chance. I’m pleased I waited because I’ve read through most of the comments and that has been so insightful.

    I think the influencer side of things is a really tricky subject – I only follow those that I feel truly adopt that role with both authenticity and professionalism, and seem to always approach their content with their audience in mind. In the same way I would only engage with traditional media / entertainment that speaks to me as something I want to engage with and be an audience of. Influencers that do that should be fairly paid for their hard work in the same way that any marketer / content producer should. The role is still so new that the profession / pay model / ethical system behind it isn’t completely ironed out yet.

    I feel the same about blogging / digital journalism. I believe passionately in the value of online resources and quality content, and have felt really disheartened at what’s happened / is happening to some amazing online resources recently (The Pool, Design Sponge etc.). In most cases it feels like no-one’s hit on a sustainable pay model for the industry as a whole yet (though judging from some of the comments above some seem to be finding their way with an approach that can sustain from a business perspective – and without knowing the ins and outs of the behind the scenes, I really hope that includes RM Ltd too).

    I’m following with interest what happens next with online media. I love the idea of a paid app because I think it could have the possibility of fulfilling the wonderful potential that digital content can have and combine it with community and authenticity and interaction. And with the preference centre idea, one that is truly flexible, it would make it something you can see people would genuinely want to pay for. I have different areas online that I do all of the above – some places where I get quality content, some where I truly find a great sense of community and insight – but not really the two literally in the same place, under one roof.

    I’ve been wondering recently if some of this is about smaller publishers coming together with a paid for solution that offers something truly unique with variety. But regardless of who offer it, it would need to be something that is a collection of lots of different voices, perspectives and formats (that’s what I loved about The Pool).

    Anyway, I’ve rambled a lot now and not sure I had too much of to add other than t to echo the great points that others have already made, but it’s been really great to see lots of discussion around this xx

    1. Emma thanks so much for leaving such a detailed response. An app would be amazing wouldn’t it – I genuinely would join the outlined app I mentioned, I’m so ready to condense/simplify what I access every day and it would be so beneficial to have everything I need in one place (reviews, news, recommendations, community spirit etc)

      I didn’t know about Design Sponge, I’m not a reader, but I do know it’s been going for 14 years, one of the very early interiors blogs. I went on and read the exit post last night after you commented, and am half way through the editors letter from Rookie too. It is such a changed landscape – but I don’t think everyone should be putting all of their efforts into instagram either. I just don’t feel it has a long term future for as many people that seem to rely on it currently. x

  31. Really interesting article and comments today, so nice to see the engagement. I’d echo what others have said about missing the regular RMS (& RMF) posts, but totally understand why. I do read the mini insta posts but not the comments, which I’d always read on the blog. Interesting how many people pay for newspaper apps. I’m always trying to limit phone time around my kids so while I wouldn’t feel bad reading an actual newspaper around them, I would if I was reading it on my phone. Same with books and my kindle app, it’s so important for them to see us reading actual books as they don’t understand the difference between kindle and insta. But that’s a whole other topic! 😊

    1. Hi Laura! absolutely agreed, I read my Times app after girls are in bed as I feel the same about any seemingly permanent attachment to my phone. I have recently joined Mabel and I to our local library, they do a session on a Sunday which is called “magic story time” it’s an hour and it’s free – someone from the library reads a book and it’s very interactive for the children as they talk about the characters and the plot. Perhaps that is a whole other post – but Mabel loves it. Books are SO important x

  32. I’m so glad you’re addressing this subject head on Charlotte, it’s SO refreshing and interesting to hear an opinion and all of the things to weigh up from your side as someone who is trying to make online media work, rather than just on the reader side.

    I’ve always had a vague sense that the various advertising types have to exist to make the company money, but when The Pool went I must admit I felt very cross with myself and naive not to have realised how bloody difficult it is to produce rafts of free content and make any money out of it! How did we all get so used to free media? Something has to change, and I really hope you’re able to find a way to make it work for you and your team because we all so want RMS to keep on keeping on!!

    As lots of others have said, I would definitely pay for an app that had regular content updates and the idea of being able to toggle on/off topics is a fabulous one (for me, I went through a stage of needing to avoid family posts for self preservation (happily no longer the case) so something like that would have been great!), and our interests change with time don’t they.

    If the case had been made to me (like the guardian do on their app, with pop ups which are a bit irrititaing but essentially say – great journalism costs money could you consider contributing) I would have absolutely paid something like £10pm to see The Pool carry on, I loved it and visited the site 1-3 times a day depending how busy I was in my work breaks. I spend far more money on far less worthwhile things *Dorito chilli heatwave grab bags I’m looking at you*. I also contribute to the guardian because I think they do awesome investigative journalism (I know the politics isn’t for everyone and it’s often not for me, but god the world can’t all be owned by Rupert murdoch) and I also have an online and print subscription to the New Yorker which is an expensive luxury, but I was given it as a Christmas present and I love it for my long train commute.

    Is any of that helpful? Probably not. I had a lovely 15 minutes reading the article and comments though, yay for RMS comments section in full swing!

    1. Jenni this was really helpful, it’s so interesting to read your opinions on The Pool and how much you enjoyed it/would have paid for content. The New Yorker – would you say it was worth it? I know it was a Christmas present (what a great idea for a gift by the way!) but would you be tempted to continue? Either print or online/both?

      The ability to tailor content on a news/reviews related app is really important to maintain your audience, the juggle is insane – wading through content that doesn’t resonate is just time consuming x

      1. I *think* I would carry on with the New Yorker, definitely the digital bit at least. The only thing that puts me off the print edition is that it’s weekly, and it always seems to land on my doormat before I’ve had chance to finish the previous week (or weeks, I admit I have a backlog, there’s less time to read magazines with a shouty one year old around!), so I end up feeling guilty that I’m not reading it enough and not making the most of the subscription. But I don’t think that would be the same if it was digital only so I could dip in and out when I have the time, perhaps with somethin like an email every few days or weekly rounding up some articles the app had learned I might be interested in based on my previous reads. xx

        1. My Mum has been asking me what I want for my birthday and I just don’t need “things” right now – but a subscription of some kind would be most welcome, thanks for letting me know the digital might be worth it, I’ll take a look x

  33. A bit late to the party but just reading through this… agree that all the AD stuff on insta is getting a bit tedious and feels disingenuous a lot of the time. I’m not against it but when the influencers are all advertising the same product it’s irritating and would actively put me off said product / brand!! For what it’s worth I’ve never found RMF / RMS to be disingenuous with any recommendations and I miss the daily content! If a subscription was an option I would totally sign up 😊 completely get that it’s a business and money has to be made somehow and if readers don’t like multiple sponsored posts then subscription would seem the way to go… x

    1. Hi Sarah, so lovely and a bit sad 🙁 to see how many of you miss RMF. We won’t be turning RMS into a subscription model, but I did want to gain an understanding of what folks thought of it as a concept. We always endeavour to only ever work with the right sponsors on the right projects, but it can be a very grey area – more so with brands as many have said, being “everywhere” all at the same time with various influencers. We also want unique content – which is proving more challenging from a paid ad perspective x

  34. This is a great article Charlotte – and really thought provoking – I have been mulling it over since yesterday – and there are so many articulate responses above that i nearly didn’t respond – but hey wanted to give you my thoughts as well 🙂
    The app you have imagined would be amazing – and i would happily pay a small subscription fee for something like that if I trusted the content curators and the content was mostly relevant to me.
    I came to RMS through RMW – and I was so sad when the daily posts went and you did put more focus into Insta – I understand why – and i did actually try to engage with Insta more since then – but I find it such an irritating platform – the algorithum makes no sense to me – and all the artifice on there (not yourselves i hasten to add) – so I don’t tend to check in that often.
    I would love love love more frequent posts back on here – and i might well be going on a huge detour here but again – all about the sharing today 🙂 if there is a way to have more in the travel (not necessary family style travel – but solo travel articles would be amazing) – exercise (I think it was Fern (sorry if it was someone else) last year who wrote a post where she spoke about doing Yoganuary? Totally got me back into yoga – and i have just done this years Yoganuary (& paid for it as a subscription model).
    I really do love RMS – it was thanks to a RMS post that I heard about Meet-up – which was a game changer for me whilst going through divorce having moved to a town where I knew no-one – so thank you Charlotte & team – now go create that app 😀 x (and so sorry about the whole long ramble here!!!)

    1. Janey it’s so lovely to hear directly from readers that have gained so much from the blogs! (Without comments sometimes you just sort of well, wonder!) It was Becky that did Yoganuary I think – I’m a huge advocate for exercise for mental as well as physical health so I’m glad you are back into it!

      I hope you are now settled and enjoying your new town xx

      1. I am now thoroughly settled – love my town & surrounding countryside and have made some really fabulous friends here! 🙂 xx

  35. Such an interesting article and comments. Just as an example of another model – I subscribe to the Tough Girl podcast (about women in adventure/endurance sports). The podcast is free to all but if you contribute via Patreon you get access to a members only Facebook group which is full of super supportive women for bouncing ideas off, recommending things, asking for tips and sharing their own content. I’ve had loads of value from it and love supporting something and a creator that I really believe in (think i contribute about £3 a month which feels totally worth it to me). A bit different to print media/blogs but there are definitely ppl v happy to pay for content/a community.

  36. I paid for each of the Beauty Bible actual-real-life-paper books because I loved the fact that the products reviewed had been done so by a range of different people, and that the creators were able to explain how their surveys had been carried out: sample size, products sourced, what was chosen etc. I loved their acknowledgement that on some occasions they wouldn’t have had sufficient people to test a very specific product, and so hadn’t included it in the survey. I felt that the money I paid was well worth it: £12 or so seemed a very fair price for a range of considered reviews and scores!

    I must admit though – I am in two minds about the future of paying for quality writing in general. I think some of the incredible news stories of the last few years: Windrush, the Hackney hostels etc came to light via quality reporting. Which costs money. However, I wonder if the subsequent outrage and call to action following these stories would have been as loud if only those with the funds available could access it. I don’t know – I guess it depends where you draw the line.

    To that end, for those in some countries where you have to go through Facebook (don’t get me started) to get online, I wonder where that would leave them in terms of getting news etc. I remember about ten years ago listening to Zuckerberg talk about this quite bizarre fixation he seems to have with ‘openness’. It features in quite a few of his interviews. I’ve still yet to hear him explain bloody why.

  37. Hi RMS, i’m late to the party on this one, but have read most of the comments above and think the general consensus is…
    1. we don’t mind sponsored content if it is relevant and honest
    2. we would love an app with daily content
    3. we wouldn’t mind paying for it
    I used to really look forwards to reading RMS every weekday…usually over my post lunch cup of tea…the daily article was almost always something of interest to me, and i even read the pregnancy and parenting ones even though i am neither, just out of curiosity. My reason for being late to the party on this post is that i no longer check RMS every day anymore as the content isn’t there…and all of a sudden 2 weeks has passed and I’ve not been to the site. I follow on Instagram, but i feel its not the same. I enjoy the written content and you cant get that on a social media platform.
    The other blog i read and follow religiously is Kimberly from SwoonWorthy, i found her from a post you did a few years ago and love her home stuff and general outlook. Between Swoonworth and RMS i get almost what i’m looking for….but not the daily content i so enjoyed.
    You are onto something…create it Charlotte….we will pay for it!
    xxx

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