When Blogs Become Brands: A Path Through Betrayal, Benediction, & Big Questions

Every morning I eat my breakfast with a side of about fifty blogs, give-or-take. If, for some terrible reason, I must forgo this ritual for the sake of saving time, my day inevitably starts off on the wrong foot—as if these Internet hubs are essential nutrients that I can’t face the day without. Our hyper-connection (no pun intended) to the Internet is old hat nowadays, as most of us spend the majority of our daily life linked in to our computers and smartphones. It’s easy to forget the humble beginnings of the Internet and the space we’ve come to call the blogosphere. Once relegated to the niche usage of sites like Blogspot and Xanga, that term has come to encapsulate a nearly immeasurable arena. The deluge of blogs today is over-stimulating at best, and completely overwhelming at worst. For this reason, I stick to my tidy collection of preferred Internet pit stops, conveniently bookmarked under different thematic tabs: fashion, food, news…you get the drill. Occasionally I dip my toes in foreign waters, and surely just like Columbus discovering the new world, this causes my heart to race, excited by all that is to be gleaned from these new platforms (inspiration, DIY, so much general knowledge to make me a more intelligent human!). Soon, though, I am confronted by the fact that the Internet’s potential is endless, and thus somewhat overbearing. So, after my brief dalliance with new territory, I tend to retreat back to my favored Internet spheres, comforted by their familiarity.

Occasionally, though, they don’t look the way I expect them to. Suddenly, the layout has drastically changed, or, in even scarier situations, the content too. It’s like meeting up with an old friend who’s undergone significant plastic surgery without telling you—which has never happened to me but I assume to be a little traumatic, even sad. This usually results in my experiencing a gauntlet of emotions usually consigned to the real world—confusion, anger, feelings of betrayal, sadness…another brick in the wall of my trust issues. It’s particularly unpleasant when the changes are a byproduct of said-blog blowing up, with newfound advertisers, sponsorships, etc. making their presence greatly known. “You were supposed to be my special place,” I think, “I’m not ready to share you.” Put simply—woe really is me when a website changes pace. “You’ve changed, and not for the better,” I continue, a grievous lover swimming in the nostalgic abyss.

In most cases this lasts about 24 hours. I’ve found that the majority of blog changes actually end up appearing to be for the better, or at least they manage to convince me of that (delusion, after all, is vital to survival). After a few passing hours give way to reflection, I realize that I can’t fault my favorite virtual venues for trying to cash in a bit on their popularity—after all making it in America is not as dreamy as we’d once hoped. When the roads aren’t paved in gold, you’re forced to look elsewhere, and these days that often means turning your once-hobby or general creative pursuits into gigs that breed monetary rewards. Though I may have been charmed by the humbler beginnings of these sites, it’s also fun—inspiring, even—to watch them balloon into something bigger.

This attitude is certainly not the status quo, if my trolling the comment sections of sites-who’ve-changed is any indication (for both research and entertainment purposes—guilty). Unsurprisingly, a lot of people really don’t fuck around with change—and when it’s forced upon them it’s not always pretty. Throwing barbs like “sell-out” and ranting about the watered-down content they feel comes with increased popularity, these Internet critics do not mince words. No—they practically soliloquize, spelling out just how pathetic you, dear-blogger, are, for having the nerve to make a living. Or, maybe it’s not even related to money, but simply your audacity at having an opinion that does not run parallel to their own. It’s at these moments when the Internet seems to pull the pants down on human nature, revealing a lot of the less-than-rosy qualities we harbor and providing ample material for psychiatrists the world over.

But, alas, though I may not take to the comments (and subsequently take out a ton of misguided rage on innocent people), I too feel their sense of annoyance. As more and more of my favorite blogs have started to feel like their only purpose is that of selling shit, I’m starting to wonder where the next space for reflections, opinions, and generally personality-spewing that is not wholly bent on its advertisers will be? Because contemporary publishing, and now the Internet, are moving further and further away from that humbler appeal. Does this signal the loss of any potential for a space like that, in our all-marketed-everything times? When newspapers and magazines began to fail us in their impurity, we moved online…but where are we supposed to go next?

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