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To Pay or Not to Pay: A Closer Look at the Business of Blogging

The love affair between bloggers and fashion brands and retailers is entering its next phase, and money is a big part of the question.

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She is currently traveling cross-country with Macy’s on behalf of its Bar III collection, and said fees range from a couple of thousand to be at a store hosting all day — tweeting and uploading images to Instagram throughout — up to about $50,000 for a collaboration deal with a brand, which she declined to name (she is, however, in talks to work with them again).

Coach has been at the forefront of collaborating with bloggers — in late 2009, it became one of the first to enlist bloggers to design, style, blog and even appear in its ad campaigns such as Leandra Medine, Hanneli Mustaparta, Into the Gloss’ Emily Weiss and The Glamourai’s Kelly Framel.

“We see bloggers as editors, influencers and entrepreneurs who reach a very specific and unique audience,” said David Duplantis, Coach’s executive vice president of global Web and digital media. “We find great value in working with those who are relevant to our brand, and are willing to pay fairly for projects.”

Duplantis believes the relationship between brand and blogger to be symbiotic — and it’s not just about the monetary reward. So, although the brand benefits by reaching a blogger’s audience in addition to its own, the blogger also benefits from the cachet of working with a brand as large and influential as Coach.

“We don’t look at our blogger partnerships as advertising. For us, this is about content creation and the opportunity to work with a very creative, vibrant community,” Duplantis added. “It’s incredibly valuable to work with bloggers. They are creating so much interesting content, we’d be remiss not to partner with them. It’s fascinating to see how they interpret our brand through their eyes.”

More recently, Coach has begun to work with lesser-known bloggers, opting to discover online talent still relatively unknown to the fashion masses and introducing them to its audience in place of established bloggers — such as Downtown from Behind (a series with photographs of subjects riding their bicycles from behind — all snapped in downtown Manhattan) and Things Organized Neatly (recent college graduate Austin Radcliffe’s blog of aesthetically pleasing, highly organized imagery). Coach remains just as interested in working with established digital influencers (it will reveal projects with several well-known bloggers in the near future), and Duplantis added that as long as a blogger is original, creative and has a genuine affection for the brand, it doesn’t matter if they’ve been blogging for one month or five years.

Robinovitz, who represents Song, The Glamourai’s Framel, Ramshackle Glam’s Jordan Reid and From Me to You’s Jamie Beck, believes the role of blogger partnerships is increasingly important industry-wide. More and more brands appear to agree.

BCBG Max Azria Group tapped The Glamourai’s Framel to style the BCBGMaxAzria ready-to-wear resort presentation on Wednesday and Thursday — the first time the brand has ever worked with a blogger in this capacity. According to BCBG Max Azria Group creative director Lubov Azria, Framel was paid a fee of $5,000 for her role as a stylist, which includes a tie-in with the brand and Framel’s respective Twitter, blog, Facebook and Instagram posts (the number of posts wasn’t specified, as Azria wanted the partnership to be “natural”).

“We took a fresh approach to styling resort this season,” Azria said. “Kelly has a chic, effortless sensibility and approach to fashion that is very BCBG — and clearly she’s very influential. We’re just obsessed with her.”

A BCBG-clad Framel will be on hand during one of the days of the presentation for several hours to walk editors through the collection, and she also attended the CFDA Awards Monday night with Azria and model Selita Ebanks. Tonight, she will co-host an editor and blogger dinner in New York City — wearing the brand, of course.

“I worked in the fashion industry for years before founding my site, and I appreciate when brands see that I have more to offer than a p.r. gimmick,” Framel told WWD.

Late last month, Dove Hair revealed it inked a one-year deal with Ramshackle Glam’s Reid, the brand’s first ambassador. In her role, Reid will cross promote and interact with fans on her blog and on Dove’s Facebook page, as well as test new products, attend events on behalf of the brand and even host reader giveaways. According to her blog, she will serve as a “real world” counterpoint to the celebrity stylist who works with the brand, Mark Townsend.

Technology giant Samsung tapped three of the most prominent fashion bloggers — newest cast member of “America’s Next Top Model” Bryanboy’s Bryan Grey Yambao, Susie Bubble’s Susanna Lau and Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine — to mark the launch of its Galaxy Note smart phone tablet hybrid during New York Fashion Week in February.

“Not only could they take photos, but they could comment and sketch directly on the images and share their opinions with their followers. Consumers across the nation experienced Fashion Week in real time, [and] in a completely new and personalized way,” said Samsung Mobile’s chief marketing officer Todd Pendleton.

The bloggers were responsible for attending 40 shows over the course of the week, tweeting and uploading images on the devices.

Yet as the number of brand partnerships with bloggers grows, they bring a recurring issue to light: the journalistic integrity of bloggers.

On the one hand, bloggers want to be considered journalists but forging partnerships with leading brands and designers creates what some believe to be a conflict of interest. Bloggers argue they aren’t “traditional” journalists in the same sense that an editor at a newspaper or established magazine is — and say this is starting to give way to a fast forming, hybrid type of journalism.

For starters, the new breed of online journalism is generally transparent. Bloggers don’t pretend to be unbiased — more often than not, they’re unabashedly self-promoting. The FTC ruled in October 2009 that a post of any blogger who receives payment or accepts gifts is considered an “endorsement” of the party he or she accepted it from. The ruling went on to state that “bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

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