Blogging as a trend on the Internet has become extremely popular during the last decade. People all over the world have begun writing on a variety of topics—music, news, education, cooking etc. Basically, anyone who finds himself/herself experienced in an area can easily share their knowledge on the Web. For many people such efforts have become something much more than a hobby. Successful authors may quit their “normal” jobs and make money as full-time “professional” bloggers while others may supplement their “ordinary” income with revenue generated by their written or video content. The question for people unacquainted with this industry is how bloggers make money; who actually pays them?
Initially, “blogs” referred to written content posted on the Internet, but with the widespread popularity of YouTube and its videos, the notion of “vlog” (“video blog”) came into use. I use these two words interchangeably in this essay. I focus here on beauty-fashion video blogging as one of the spheres in which individuals can generate income. Probably, many reading this article who also are YouTube users, especially females, have come across video blogs by nice looking young women who passionately talk about their “spring favorites” or “how to make small eyes appear bigger.” As a woman whose hobby is makeup and fashion, I have found these videos interesting and useful at the same time. As a sociologist, I think this phenomenon evidences a variety of socio-economic and psychological dimensions that merit scholarly investigation.
As mentioned above, the majority of beauty-fashion vloggers on YouTube are non-professionals in these areas if we define “professional” as possessing such attributes as special education or training. However, many of them, despite having no specialized preparation, work as makeup artists in their offline lives and they create YouTube channels mainly as a means to promote their work. For others, a YouTube beauty-fashion channel is a “stage” for sharing knowledge concerning their interest. Figure 1 offers a typical example of detail from a beauty-oriented YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U92mEUV1Ka4).
My investigation into beauty/fashion-vlogging as a moneymaking process suggested that there is a natural progression for those who succeed in the industry. First, in the majority of cases, beauty-blogging as a hobby serves as the starting point for individuals who may become YouTube partners in the future. Developing such partnerships takes time. Therefore, one should not enter this industry with the expectation of making money immediately. Figure 2 provides an example of a popular income-generating YouTube fashion/beauty site (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIKS4rEHC8A).
Second, prospective income comes from two main sources—a YouTube partnership, as noted earlier—and cooperation with various brands, online/offline stores that find a beauty blogger with a solid number of subscribers an effective and inexpensive advertising mechanism. A signed contract with YouTube requires a blogger to prepare a certain amount of video content for a specific price. In the case of Michelle Phan, one of the most successful and popular beauty YouTube vloggers, with more than 6 million subscribers, at one point Google paid her 1 million dollars for 20 hours of her content. However, this example should be seen as exceptional, rather than typical. Content is not the only thing of interest to YouTube. Another important factor in gauging audience interest is the number of views of posted content. Projected earnings are usually estimated on the basis of $2.50 per 1000 views, at least for highly popular YouTube partners. Cooperation with brands and stores, however, works in a different way. Brands usually send free products to video bloggers of their choice and ask for a review in one of their episodes. Some individuals receive free items and also receive compensation for positive reviews. Others are content simply to obtain free goods. Some vloggers are paid with a fixed percentage of the increase in sales that their endorsements create. The terms and conditions differ for every blogger depending upon how successful she has been during the negotiation process and how many subscribers she has. It goes without saying that the number of subscribers is the most important criterion that a firm employs to decide whether it will assist a video blogger to advertise its products. Some companies purposely choose individuals with a smaller number of subscribers because they are not able to meet the dramatic increase in demand that might be generated if they selected a popular YouTube figure.
Another interesting thing about these Internet channels is that the starting point for all of them is makeup tips and hair tutorials. As time passes, these efforts typically evolve to include other topics less directly connected to makeup and fashion. Vloggers’ audiences often come to perceive these individuals as experts, not only concerning beauty, but regarding psychological and other life issues as well. It is not rare to see fashion/beauty video bloggers posting productions called, for instance, “5 ways to achieve a goal,” in which he or she offers motivational tips. Establishing credibility in makeup/fashion questions sometimes leads these individuals not only to economic success, but also helps them establish authority in related areas as well.
1. The image is taken from Michelle Phan’s video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U92mEUV1Ka4
2. The image is taken from Carli Bybel’s video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIKS4rEHC8A
Sofia Rukhin received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 2013 from the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow and is pursuing her Masters degree in Sociology at Virginia Tech. Her primary research interests include Political Economy, Political Sociology, Globalization, and Social Movement Theory. She is also interested in the development of U.S. – Russia relations and was selected to participate in the Stanford University – Russia Forum in 2012-2013 to work on a collaborative research project entitled, Cooperation between the US and Russian Public Welfare Agencies. Sofia and her colleagues presented their work at Stanford University in April 2013. Sofia is also interested in social policy issues and together with colleagues from the research group Professions in a Welfare State from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow she completed a research project entitled, “Professional Status of Social Work in Russia: the Cultural Resource Assessment.”