Students find success in blogosphere
Recent College alumna Charlotte Wilder photographs designer Norisol Ferrari’s fall 2012 collection at fashion week in New York City. Wilder’s blog, “The Wilder Things,” is largely focused on emerging fashion and designs.
“My blog kind of is my career at this point,” Charlotte Wilder ’11 joked after being asked of her future plans and whether or not they relate to her blog, The Wilder Things.
Wilder created her blog in 2009 during the summer, between her sophomore and junior years at the College. “I had just gotten my Nikon SLR digital camera and wanted a place to post my photos and write random thoughts—it was mostly just for me,” Wilder said. “But then people actually started reading it, so I got encouraged and posted more often.”
Wilder’s interest in blogging is representative of a large societal trend flooding not just the United States, but most of the developed world. The number of active blogs currently totals well into the hundreds of millions, with 39 million and 70 million active accounts on Tumblr and WordPress, respectively, at the end of 2011. These figures do not account for independent blog sites.
What began as the online diary phenomenon of the 1990s, with websites such as LiveJournal, quickly evolved into more sophisticated blogs, especially following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. No longer a realm just for angst-ridden teenagers, many credible news sources and journalists began to publish their own blogs to help dispense factual information to the public.
Despite that, the appeal of blogging is that anyone can blog about whatever they want. Blog topics range from political discussions to music and anything and everything in between. So it’s no surprise that many students on the Hill have taken to the Internet to explore their own personal interests, and to see if anyone else out there is interested too.
Some of these student bloggers are finding unexpected popularity. While Wilder may have started the blog for herself, its increasing visibility proves that her blog reaches others as well—it currently receives 850 to 1200 hits a day.
But it wasn’t until her graduation last May that she began to dedicate her time exclusively to the blog. “Over my last two years at Colby, I would post sporadically,” Wilder said. “But this fall, my first out of school, I missed thinking and writing. Call me a nerd, but I really loved the school aspect of college—reading and looking, shaping my thoughts into arguments and having a finished piece of writing to show for myself. So I decided I was going to post every day. And that turned into three to five posts every day.”
“The Wilder Things” is representative of Wilder’s mixed interests in style and design, photography and culture. Her blogs often feature interviews with artists, designers and people generally involved in the fashion industry. “I care deeply about beautiful things, and depending on the day it could be a killer pair of Louboutin shoes or Dorothea Lange’s photos from the 1930s,” Wilder said. She also often features events she is able to attend in New York or Boston.
Wilder admits it takes finding a balance between her personal interests and her viewers’ interests when generating content. “When I started blogging full time in November, I was just posting my photos and my thoughts about what I’d been reading. But unless you’re, I don’t know, Salman Rushdie, no one really cares about what you think about the latest Stephen Greenblatt book. But what people do care about in the blogosphere is clothes and fashion,” she said.
Wilder has found great success in e-mailing various designers and public relations firms to establish interviews to publish on her blog, including recent interviewee Paul Fisher, former agent to models Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Carla Bruni.
“As in any startup, there are good moments and bad moments,” Wilder said. “Sometimes I wake up and I think, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ and other days I think, ‘Yes! I’m making it!’”
Megumi Sasada ’12J has also seen her blog grow in recent months. While Wilder may have tackled one of the most popular blog topics with fashion, Sasada has another popular topic: food.
Sasada’s blog, “Every Last Morsel” (www.everylastmorsel.blogspot.com) is a cooking-inspired blog with a nutritional twist. “A lot of people equate healthy food with tasting bad, but I’m a health nut and am trying to change that image. Growing up, my mom cooked mostly Japanese food, but I’ve definitely expanded my palate as well as my family’s. I cook everything from ethnic foods like Thai, Chinese, Japanese to Italian and American. I pretty much will make anything that has nutritious ingredients,” she said.
She started the blog in the fall of 2010 while she was studying abroad in Seville, Spain. “My host mother loved to cook and though I heard that Spanish mothers were very protective of their kitchens, my host mom let me take pictures and document everything she made. I first started to write down all of the recipes so I could make them when I came home, so the blog was essentially a way for me to record all of the recipes, but then it kind of blossomed into something more,” Sasada said.
After returning from Spain, Sasada landed an internship with a blog in New York City, called “Big Girls Small Kitchen.” She still contributes pieces to the blog’s sister site, “Small Kitchen College.” Recording her experiences in the kitchen has not only guided fans, but has also improved Sasada’s own abilities.
“When I first started cooking, I followed directions exactly measuring every teaspoon, but now it’s basically free form unless it’s baking,” Sasada said.
Currently, Sasada tries to update her blog twice every week. She notes that using the www.blogger.com program, which operates through Google, helps her track the blog’s number of hits.
“Just today I had views from Indonesia, Dominican Republic, Belgium, Thailand, India, Portugal, Canada and France, though the majority was from the United States,” Sasada said. “I usually get anywhere between 50 to 150 page views per day. Recently I’ve started updating my blog posts as my Facebook status and Twitter as a means to get the word out, which definitely has helped increase page views.”
While Wilder and Sasada have taken their blogs off the Hill since their respective graduations, some on the Hill are still trying to balance their blogging with class work and extracurricular activities.
Spencer Phillips ’12 has been operating a photography blog since the end of his sophomore year. “I photograph whatever I find around me. Going to school in Maine from the West Coast has really helped get me in the thick of it,” Phillips said.
Phillips’ blog, “Forever Enroute” (www.foreverenroute.com), features largely landscape photographs, but also some people. “I want to take advantage of ‘Vacationland,’” he said. “I want to document the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen. Photographs and words are great tools for documenting.”
Since Phillips launched the blog, it has consisted solely of photographs and had been free of words. However, he made the decision to incorporate more language into his blog posts at the beginning of this year.
“The text just prefaces photos with a background,” Phillips explained. “I never intended the blog to be text-based; right now it’s a pretty serious hobby.”
For Phillips, managing a blog involves much more than simply sitting in front of a computer all day. “I try to get off the Hill once a week to take photographs of Maine,” he said. “I make an effort to get out of the Bubble, especially since I don’t know if or when I will be back in Maine.”
Phillips tries to shoot a roll of film a week, but admits that the blog is not his number one priority right now. He says that the hardest part of blogging is posting consistently, which can be especially difficult when balancing a blog with schoolwork.
“If you don’t stay consistent, people won’t be interested,” he said. Phillips’ blog uses Google Analytics to track the views that his blog receives. He is trying to increase viewers of his blog, which currently enjoys 85 followers: “It’s out there on the Internet—if you come across it and you like it, it may be a pleasant surprise.”
For these three bloggers, their blogs play a variety of roles in their lives on and off the Hill. Wilder has already made one potentially life-altering choice regarding the future of her blog.
“I was offered a job at a publishing company as an editorial assistant that would have started in January with a decent salary, and I turned it down to make a go of this,” Wilder explained. “Bloggers, especially fashion-focused ones, can actually make a good living if they can get enough views to make their sites attractive to advertisers. I realized if I didn’t go for it now, I probably wouldn’t ever.”
Though she currently lives at home with her family as she works through the beginning stages, she has found success in blogging for Boston Magazine. Wilder works as a street-style blogger for the magazine’s style blog, and she also has a series on restaurant design for its food blog. She currently has her eye on several magazines in New York, if all goes according to plan.
Sasada has chosen a separate route for her immediate future. After graduating from the College in December, Sasada found work in the advertising industry in New York City.
“The two founders of ‘Big Girls Small Kitchen’ blog for a living, which I do not plan to go into, for I work in advertising. But for me, [my blog] is more of just a fun way to chronicle my food diary,” she said.
Although Phillips is still figuring out his post-grad plans, he’s open to the idea of investing more time into his blog. When asked whether he’ll be working on his blog after graduation, Phillips joked that though the blog is not his top priority right now, with the job market’s current state, it’s “very likely the blog could become priority number one.”
Regardless of whether or not Phillips turns his blog into a full-time commitment, he will continue to maintain it for himself and his viewers.
“It’s fun for me and nothing bad comes out of it,” Phillips said. “I would still do it even if no one looked at it.”