Alec Baldwin blogs. Pauline McLynn, aka Mrs Doyle blogs. At this stage, probably even your mother blogs. What started back in the late Nineties as online personal diaries, is now practically part of the mainstream media today. There are as many corporate blogs now as there are those run by individuals, but it's still the all-embracing, democratic accessibility of blogs that makes them so appealing. Anyone with access to the internet can have one. They can be as labour intensive – or not – as you like, although if you want to keep those readers, you must post regularly and it should be something more imaginative than a YouTube link to a skateboarding dog. And you could have thousands of people reading your musings or maybe nobody at all.
What makes a blog successful is hard to pinpoint. Certainly, some of the very popular Irish bloggers right now never imagined how their postings would capture so many readers and snowball into something as massive as it did. Generally, it's the blogs where the writer interacts with the readers, making them feel that they're part of a community, that prove the most popular.
Damien Mulley, organiser of the Irish Blog Awards, says that while the Irish blogosphere quietened down for a time two years ago, it's a very vibrant place right now. "What I've found from the Blog Awards in the last couple of years is that more and more people are going for them and getting nominated, outside of the 'old school' of bloggers. There are tons of new people out there and I have no idea who they are or what they do, which is great. It's a lot more diverse," he says.
He believes blogging in this country has evolved in recent times. "I've seen a trend where a lot of people are going off to Twitter and elsewhere to share their opinion, and now more people are creating more considered pieces on their blog. Also, a lot more people have more spare time because of being laid off. Maybe in the past, there was a race to get your content out on your blog but that immediacy of content creation has gone to Twitter."
Not every blogger sees their blog as a career stepping stone to fame. Some are perfectly happy to remain anonymous but for others, their blogs have given them opportunities that may not have happened if they had gone down more traditional routes. As Irish blogging comes of age, we talk to six people making their mark in the blogosphere.
I have a complex background. I did media studies, dropped out to join a boy band called Streetwize – cringeworthy – studied TV presenting and got a job on Bubble Hits, Ireland's first and last music channel. I produced Glenda's Showbiz Gossip so I worked with the lovely Glenda Gilson for a year-and-a-half. That was 2007 and I started the food blog then. I've been cooking from a young age – my mum and dad own a fruit and vegetable company so our fridge was always filled with fresh fruit and veg and there was always something to play with in the kitchen. My aunt is a food stylist and during school holidays I did work experience with her. She worked with a lot of the top food photographers in Dublin.
Little did I realise that I'd end up getting into the food photography side of things myself. That's what sells my blog. If there weren't lovely food images and droolworthy stuff, I don't know if it would have stood out completely on its own. I'm glad that it did. It's led to great things. Six months into writing the blog I was contacted by Mercer Press to write my first book, Good Mood Food; the new book for Harper Collins called Kitchen Hero is out in March and I've taken all the photography for it.
I'm currently filming a new series for RTé and it's basically for people who haven't cooked before. I think the blog has led very nicely into the career I have now as cookbook author. Getting to where I am would have been a lot harder without the blog in terms of getting noticed. I'm not professionally trained – I'm a home cook and I'm very proud of it because the majority of people who are reading cookbooks are people who are cooking at home and to be able to be a voice to those people and say 'If I can do it you definitely can' is great.
Beaut has just changed our whole spin on things. Kirstie [Aisling's sister and blog co-founder] has completely changed her career and while I'm still in the same job, working in the library in DCU, I'm now part time. We wouldn't have written the book, The Beaut Guide To Gorgeous, which did really well, and we wouldn't have met all the people we have. I'm actually signed for two more books with Gill & Macmillan which is brilliant. We get about 350,000 visitors a month and we absolutely love it but it's like any job – it is kind of hard to keep going sometimes, but then we say 'No we love it and we'd miss it so much because it's a huge hobby.' I don't know why people like it so much – I think because it's honest and there's a lot of reader interaction. If we say something and people disagree with us, we don't mind. If I say, 'Oh I love this lipstick' and 20 people come on and say 'To be honest, I think it's crap' that's fine because it's all opinion at the end of the day.
My friend and myself used to email each other deals and offers when we came across them and I thought it would work well as a website so that's how Savvy Shopper happened. Once it got rolling I got offered a lot of TV and radio slots. I do freelance feature writing as well – travel, beauty and fashion. I didn't go out with any grand plan with Savvy Shopper. I think people just warmed to it.
I've steered away from advertising as I thought it would compromise the content – it doesn't make me any money at all, it's purely a hobby. I'm going to continue with Savvy Shopper for as long as people are interested in it.
It wasn't really set up with the recession in mind, it was more to do with the fact that there are groups of people who are interested in farmers' markets, charity shops, sample sales and outlets and I think there always will be.
I 'm living with a disability, and work as a disability advocate. I've been involved in disability campaigning and other rights campaigns over the years. But I've been interested in politics since I was 12 and I have a particular addiction to elections and election campaigns. I don't belong to any political party but I'm not neutral in my blog. It would be well known that I'm progressive and that I don't have time for any religious-based influence in the country.
My blog started as my personal rant and then it developed into something where I found people were reading me and sending me information. Then I got involved in things like Irishelection.com, a group blog that comes to life at election time.
Now Maman Poulet has turned into a big animal. I tend to go off on a tangent and start digging and that's what gets me known. I had the Sarah Palin story that everyone talks about. During the US election, she claimed to have visited Ireland; I decided to find out whether or not she had, and discovered it was a Shannon stopover.
I've not made any money and I've no interest in going into it full-time. I don't think there's space in this country for me to be full-time. We don't have the population or the advertising so I'm quite happy to be doing this on my own time as a personal space and also as an information space for readers.
What I like about the internet is that there's a huge amount of expertise online and people can check if something is true when it's said in the Dáil or on television. Politicians have learned that they're not in control of the message anymore, that it's owned by people and the media is owned by a larger group of people.
I'm also involved in the Anti-Room, which is 15 women blogging together on all sorts of different subjects. It's great to see something happening in Ireland that was happening in other countries five years ago.
The blog started on a whim nearly five years ago. I was working in web design and needed a website address for my portfolio. I then had this website that I didn't really know what to do with. At that time I was reading a lot of American blogs, finding out about music, and I just started doing the same. Another reason was I was always annoying my friends about music and I thought instead of hassling them all the time, I'll just put my thoughts somewhere where, if they want to read them, they can. It grew fairly quickly, within a year. At that time, in 2006, Irish blogs were really taking off and there was a really decent community around blogs, so that helped certainly. It has led to other career opportunities, absolutely – I haven't touched my CV in about five years now, put it that way! I'm web editor on State magazine and I also have a newspaper column.
For the last year-and-a-half, I've had advertising on my blog but the key thing is to not let it dictate what you do. I won't put up anything if I don't like it. I really don't know why the site has been so successful – it's been very strange. It certainly seems to be the biggest music blog anyway – I guess I was around at the right time. I met a couple of people at Electric Picnic and they were like, 'Oh man, the blog is so amazing' and I don't really know where that comes from.
Basically, the way I look at it, it's just my taste in music and I'm putting it out there for everyone. It's a chronicle of my musical delights and pleasures. With the way the music industry has gone, nobody really buys CDs but people look to blogs to find out about music that they really like and I'm just a part of that. It seems that a lot of people share my taste for music as well.
I went to college to study journalism and really didn't like the whole college set-up. I felt it was something that you can't really learn, you just have to get out there and get the experience. I went back to a local radio station where I'd originally done work experience, KCLR FM. They thankfully remembered me and gave me a job as a producer and a newsreader.
Then the editor of the Kilkenny People gave me a job as a fashion editor about six months later, so I did both those jobs for a few years.
I started a media business with my brother Eoin, who is a photographer, and I've continued on the road until now.
I set up the Style Bitches [the satirical fashion website] with Laura Cunningham but that was a just a bit of a laugh and I was kind of forced to set up my own blog – my boyfriend at the time made me.
I kept trying to post interiors images on the Style Bitches website and it didn't really suit that site so he said 'Set up your own'.
I did the design for Blanaid.com myself and I use it as a portfolio because I had decided at the same time to concentrate on interiors styling.
I do think that blogs are a fantastic tool for anyone in a creative field. If you're nervous showing your work, it's almost anonymous. It's been a great experience so far and I really enjoy it.
The blogging community in Ireland is very lovely and supportive and not cliquish at all. I've gotten great opportunities out of it, such as an interiors column with a national newspaper.
My blog is my working life; Style Bitches is for when I get a bit giddy.
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