Perspectives on blogging in the UK

Blogging for business and pleasure is alive and flourishing in the UK, according to the second annual survey of UK bloggers carried out by Vuelio UK in conjunction with Canterbury Christ Church University.

The survey was conducted in February 2017 to explore how bloggers work, their activities and views about their relationship with PR professionals and the future commercialisation of their work.

Published last week, the results present a useful snapshot of the UK blogosphere. Whether you’re a blogger or someone wanting to understand and connect with bloggers, there’s much of interest in the report.

Ten highlights:

  1. Although a majority (34%) of survey respondents said they blog for personal reasons, there is continuing growth in professional blogging with more interest and activity in developing a blog commercially.
  2. For 12% of survey respondents, blogging professionally is their main source of income – a jump of a third compared to the 2016 survey.
  3. 31% of those surveyed said their blogs attract more than 10,000 unique visitors per month.
  4. The top five most popular blog categories in 2017 for women bloggers were 1) lifestyle, 2) parenting and family, 3) fashion and beauty, 4) travel and 5) food; and for men, 1) parenting and family, 2) film and TV, 3) travel, 4) sport and 5) music.
  5. There is a growing preference for posting only once a week across all categories of blog – 38% in 2017 vs 24% in 2016 (but 33% of professional bloggers, ie those who earn income, posted 5+ times a week in 2017).
  6. 65% of those using their blog as their main source of income spent more than 30 hours per week promoting it, compared to only 11% of those whose aim was only to express their opinions and just 3% of those who blog as a hobby.
  7. Preferred social channels to promote blogs are Twitter (94%) and Facebook (89%) for men, and Instagram (79%) and Pinterest (53%) for women. Business network LinkedIn was used by 29% of bloggers. Significant usage was seen with blog discovery platform Bloglovin’ (50%), especially by women bloggers. The channel with the greatest decline since the last survey is Google+, down 13%.
  8. 35% of respondents said they’re pitched seven or more times a week by PR professionals.
  9. 70% of bloggers said that only one PR pitch a week or less resulted in them publishing content on their blog (the pattern is similar for all blogger types). 64% of them said that their personal opinion about a brand was the key factor in deciding whether a pitch would result in published content.
  10. 87% of those surveyed agreed that disclosure about who is behind any sponsorship of their blog is important, the same percentage as in 2016.

No Doubt about Disclosure

That last bullet point is interesting, suggesting that 13% of bloggers don’t think transparency and disclosure are important.

Indeed, that flipside is the angle taken by the UK Press Gazette in its reporting of the survey results, noting that “[…] hundreds of website writers in the UK may be flouting Advertising Standards Association guidelines. The ASA states that all marketing information needs to be clearly labelled as such (this includes online editorial content and posts on social media).”

The ASA published updated guidance in March entitled Affiliate Marketing: New Advertising Guidance for social influencers. Pretty clear. I’ve always followed the self-guidance of “if in doubt, speak it out.” in other words disclose unless there’s a good reason not to (which, in the UK, I cannot imagine any reason not to when we’re talking about business and marketing).

Blog disclosure

Disclosure = transparency = the path towards trust and relationship.

The Pitch Dilemma

I’m one of those bloggers who gets pitches averaging one a day, or seven times a week, usually by email and sometimes via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Such pitches include embargoed content from people I don’t know and/or have never heard of, to people with dodgy-sounding propositions writing from Gmail addresses offering no links or credentials and wanting to write guest or sponsored posts, to reputable PR and marketing agencies pitching something for a client wholly irrelevant to me that clearly has been mass-emailed to a distribution list (hopefully not from their Vuelio accounts).

I used to do the polite thing and decline but the sheer uselessness of such approaches coupled with my belief that the senders couldn’t care less about me or my blog means that I just ignore them now. (Some years ago I published a guide about guest blogging. I don’t think anyone reads it.)

Yet it all needn’t be just a numbers game.

When I do get an approach from someone who very clearly knows what my blog’s about (they actually read it!), might even have researched a little about me (there’s an About page on my blog for a reason) and wants to do something that I find intriguing at least, exciting ideally, then the chances are that a beautiful relationship can flourish that will lead to mutual benefit.

It might just be for the one thing I’m approached about or it could be something more involved or longer term. It doesn’t matter – the key word is ‘relationship.’ You have to invest some time and effort to understand your target (to put it bluntly) before reaching out. That is the path to ultimate success.

This chart from page 17 in the report spells it out – in my view, the percentages should be in the 80%+ area at minimum. All of them.

Relationship with PRs

The 70% of survey respondents who said only one of the seven pitches they get each week results in some kind of successful outcome suggests to me that actual relationship-building is still a huge hurdle to climb for too many PRs.

Joining the Conversation

One element I found missing was some insight on conversations – the act that can happen when a blog post is published and someone leaves the first comment on it. A conversation is a big part of developing a relationship between blogger and brand, not to mention providing further insights that can bring in others to join the conversation.

But what comprises a conversation and where it takes place has changed hugely in the past decade, largely since the advent of social networking platforms Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and the rise of mobile.

In the past few years, posts I’ve published on my blog that used to stimulate some good conversations now don’t. Instead, those conversations have been replaced by comments left via third-party comment platforms or on social networking platforms that link to the blog post. More often than not, actual conversations no longer happen, just individual comments – sometimes linked or threaded – across different social platforms.

It’s often just too darned complicated to leave a quick comment on a blog – it’s easier to tweet!

This is a broad phenomenon not limited to the UK at all – Mark Schaefer in the US has a good assessment of this change he’s seeing and experiencing there.

I wonder what would happen if suddenly it became very easy to leave a comment. No longer having to ‘use a platform’ or log in or create a user name, etc. Just your name, email address or social network handle, and website address, no matter what device you’re using to type, tap or swipe (and, soon, speak).

Simplicity stimulates?

Overall, Vuelio’s report is a great read that throws some light on the current UK blogging landscape.

(Picture at top via Pixabay. CC0)

 

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Neville Hobson

Communicator, blogger, podcaster.

Posted in Editor's Picks, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media

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