Fashion bloggers can make up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, fashion industry trade paper Women's Wear Daily reports. And the bulk of the money isn't necessarily coming from brands paying for ads on their sites — it comes from brands paying the bloggers to endorse their products in various ways. A clothing label might hire a fashion blogger to style a runway show and tweet and blog about the project; or to serve as a model in their ad campaigns and post the images on their blog; or to simply endorse a product the way a celebrity would, by tweeting about it or posting about it on their site. For such endorsements, brands might pay bloggers four to six figures. While many experts say the value of the return on that investment is unclear, some bloggers do have the power to cause an item to sell out by simply tweeting a link to where followers can buy it.
When I say "fashion bloggers," I'm talking about people who have developed online followings by, say, posting photos of themselves, like Rumi Neely, who runs the site Fashion Toast. Or others who run a fashion fan site on which they do a bit of writing, but with the purpose of enthusing over everything because they make money by endorsing brands and want to be attractive to other potential clients, like Nitro:licious. (Some do a mix of both.)
I don't think the talents of these bloggers should be dismissed out of hand. The ones taking photos of themselves are doing the work of a stylist — they just happen to be styling themselves instead of models, and sometimes get really great results with far fewer resources than magazines that produce fashion shoots and have the power, time, and resources to borrow clothing directly from designers, hire makeup artists and a lighting guy, rent a photo studio, storyboard a shoot, etc. And as for blogs that publish fan posts about fashion lines, they're acting as business people who get paid to show fans stuff that's new on the market. Readers don't go to sites like Nitro:licious or Bryan Boy for critical analysis — they go to see what their lives are like and get a vague sense of what's going on in the world of clothing.
The practice of paying these sorts of personalities to endorse clothing is apparently stirring controversy. (Note the term "controversy" is used loosely, as this is a business that unabashedly pays Kate Moss millions of dollars each year to endorse brands by appearing in their advertisements, even though she was photographed doing cocaine, which isn't terribly awesome role model behavior.) WWD writes:
There’s been some backlash from designers and brands as they question having to pay bloggers from $5,000 up to $50,000 to work with them. Skeptics question whether paying bloggers results in significant return on investment, especially in comparison to a magazine or television ad. Besides, some brands contend, if bloggers are journalists, journalists aren’t paid for writing about a company.
True, journalists aren't paid for writing about companies. But it's pretty obvious which bloggers are paid to pander to brands and which bloggers are trying to present journalistically credible information. And if you want to attack bloggers for getting paid to endorse products, you should also attack print fashion magazines, since the majority of what they photograph are products made by their advertisers. Look at the fashion credits in a spread, and you'll probably be able to match the labels up with big glossy ads appearing between the articles. So bloggers paid by brands to endorse products are just continuing fashion media's long history of doing just that. Perhaps what's really ruffling feathers about bloggers commanding exorbitant fees for their endorsement (which is still less than full-page ads in Vogue for the most part) is that they present yet another threat to the prowess of titles still thriving in print much more than the web.
So if the bloggers can make that much money by endorsing brands? Good for them. Developing a following as an online personality takes years and years of persistence and hard work. While I hope they're as explicit about their endorsement deals as possible (and FCC regulations require the to disclose when they're writing about items they've been sent for free), I'd hardly seriously fault them for trying to hide it. Each issue of the monthly fashion titles doesn't start with an editor's letter that says, "Dear readers, The only product we shot this month is made by our advertisers."
And at the end of the day, it's not like these bloggers are making reckless moves with nuclear secrets — we're talking about a pair of pants and a handbag.