Beauty blogger: “Honesty is the key to trust”

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Ayshe Ismail believes her honesty about products gains readership

I met beauty blogger Ayshe Ismail, 28, at an event recently to discuss the authority of rising power bloggers in the fashion industry. Ayshe is a magazine journalist who uses any spare time she has, whether it is the morning commute or during a busy lunch break, to update her beauty blog Discovering Beauty.

Having studied science at university, Ayshe tests and explains the effectiveness of the ingredients in the products, rather than being drawn in to clever marketing.

Bloggers have so many followers, how did you gain your trust with you readers?

“I think because I’ve always been honest with my reviews and I’ll always try and be balanced. I’m never harsh but I do weigh up the good and the bad about the product. (My blog is more beauty based). I guess that because I go out and spend my own money on things it shows that I believe in what I do. And you’re then more likely to be a bit more critical of something rather than when you’ve just been sent it for free. In terms of trust, I’m more likely to believe something that I read on a blog because I feel like in a magazine the aim is to sell more products, you never see anything negative and you never see anything saying, this might not be good for this kind of person.  With a blog they’ll say ‘I’ve got this skin type and this doesn’t work for me but it might work for this instead’. I think you can tell when people do a sponsored post, by the tone of voice. Sometimes you’ll be reading it and think, this sounds different to how they normally talk.”

So would you say the main difference is that magazines have a motive whereas bloggers don’t?

“I think some people can be honest even when they’ve been given something but I guess that’s when your influence really comes into play. When you’re a smaller blogger it is harder for you to become critical because you might not have the fans interacting with you if you’re being negative. But when you’re a big blogger you can afford to be more honest because you’ve already got that following and have earned that trust. I have no idea how you get there, I just know it can take a while.”

Do did you read blogs before you started?

“Yes, I watched a lot of YouTube and read a lot of blogs. I have my own beauty blog because I’m more interested in skincare over anything else. I used to have quite bad acne so when I started trying to fix that, I wanted to share how I did it. What I liked, and didn’t like. I got more into make-up and carried on that way.”

There’s a shared belief that magazine and print journalism is dying out, what are your views on that?

“I hope that it doesn’t  I hope that there is always print journalism. I am also a magazine journalist so I hope there is a place for it. Print is slowly going to die down but I think it will always exist. Blogs are good for getting someone’s opinion but when it comes to skincare, especially when they talk about how stuff works, I’m probably more likely to believe something in a magazine than in a blog because I don’t necessarily know where that person has got their information from – have they just taken it from the back of a bottle? Maybe I make that assumption that the journalist actually does the background research so they might have a bit more authority when it comes to speaking about that sort of thing.”

How important are your readers to you?

“They’re really important, I’m always trying to think about what they want to know and how to get them engaged. It does mean a lot to me when they comment. Whether they’re commenting on the post that I have written, or just as a whole they do mean a lot.”

Do you think that because you can adapt to your readers as you get to know them, you’re almost catering better than magazines?

“Yeah, I think it’s a learning process because I’ve had my blog for over two years, its given me a chance to learn what works better. I ask myself, do I need lots of pictures, or text, or do I need to explain different things? I’ve had a lot of chance to play with it. I guess this is what magazines can’t do.”

So do you find multimedia an effective tool on your blog?

“I’ve definitely got more into photography since I started. On other blogs, I value seeing really good photographs and good product shots.”

With blogs it’s more about creating short and snappy pieces and making them really visual, but because of the limited time you have to do this, do you think the quality can be compromised?

“I think so, it depends on the blog as well. I reckon there would be a lot more pressure for someone who has to try and get out there first with a new product or a new item. I’m in a place where I don’t do that. So it means I can take a bit more time and I can be a bit more detailed. I think that’s what my readers value. I wouldn’t want someone to come away from my post with questions.”

So they value the accuracy and quality of your articles?

“I hope so! You want to be that person who gets things out before everyone else and you also want to have a good detailed review with pictures, you have to have a balance.”

Keep updated with Ayshe’s honest beauty tips, news and reviews here: www.discoveringbeautytoday.blogspot.co.uk

Voices need to be heard

In 2007, a 57-year-old man named John Darwin reported himself to a police station as a missing person. Not only had this man been reported as missing five years earlier, but he was also officially ‘dead’. Darwin disappeared after a kayaking trip in the North Sea, and his wife was given a £25,000 life insurance settlement. The story was researched on google by a non-journalist and she found a photograph of Darwin and his wife that had been taken in 2006, four years after he had ‘died’, proving that he had faked his own death for money. Similarly, in 2009, Ian Tomlinson was killed after a police officer knocked him to the ground. Footage of the ordeal was caught on camera by an onlooker, who was filming the protests. PC Simon Harwood was found guilty of gross misconduct.

These are just a couple of examples of how crime cases have been brought to justice by non-journalists. Technology has given people the tools to make vital contributions to the work of journalism, but is this always a good thing?

Readers have been given a taste of what it is like to practice journalism and they don’t want to stop. ‘Today’s journalists are not sloppier than yesterday’s. Rather, readers are more demanding’, something that was suggested by John Kelly in Red Kayaks and Hidden Gold.  As I discussed in a previous post, citizen journalists are not in it for the money. They are in it for the satisfaction they gain from their voices being heard, reputations being created and exposure of their writing.

But should newspapers be pleased about this?

Jane Singer argued that website interactivity ‘beefs up local coverage and boost website traffic’ in her research of Quality Control (2010). It also adds public interest to their stories – I know that I always have a nose at comments (which are often more entertaining than the article itself).

In addition to this, one of the most important factor of citizen journalists is that when they are at the ‘wrong place’ at the ‘right time’, they now have the tools to report. Almost 50% of journalists surveyed in Singer’s research agreed that on-the-scene reporting from users has proved to be extremely useful in the newsroom. Other uses that were agreed upon included coverage of local events (40%) and traffic and travel updates (46%), all of which need someone to be there at all times, a requirement that simply cannot be met by professional journalists.

However, user generated content (UGC) creates a chance for ‘insults, libel and downright rudeness.’ Websites are responsible for paying up, should any libellous comments be published. Newspapers also need to consider gatekeeping values that the professional journalists follow; the process of deciding what makes news. The internet obliterates this gatekeeping process, which is a procedure that arguably defines the origins of journalism.

This makes me wonder not what the future of journalism is, but what the new generation of journalists look like. If the values of gatekeeping continue to be lost online, will the origins of journalism be lost altogether? Gatekeeping ensures quality and legal news which is the least you would expect from the profession.  It seems that everyone can be a publisher, but not everyone can be a journalist.