Behind the Blog: Street Blogs from the Best in the Business – Part 1
Our first installment of a five-part feature finds us talking with David Fischer, founder of Highsnobiety. Based in Switzerland, and established in 2005, it started much in the way many blogs first do, with a humble blogspot site. Over the course of four years, however, David has expanded under his Titel Media flag to include five separate sites, with Highsnobiety leading the pack as one of the most credible sites around; an authority on the daily occurrences surrounding street culture.
mashKULTURE.net: What inspired you to create a sneaker/streetwear blog?
David Fischer: Nothing in particular. I started it to test out the technology of a blog and to basically save everything that interests me in one place.
mashKULTURE.net: What were the biggest difficulties you encountered starting out?
David Fischer: It was not very difficult when I started. At the time I started, I was not even aware of many other people doing it. Since it was never intended to be work or business, those thoughts never really came up. Only with time I got to know other sites in this market and also started sourcing content from them. Since I did not post that much in the beginning, there was no pressure in finding lots of content daily. I posted when I had time and when I felt like posting, which was very natural and liberal at the time.
After 6 months or so, I realized that other people were actually reading the site and some first advertising inquiries came in and that was a huge deal for me in the beginning. Probably the first time that I realized that I was creating something that could generate money. At the time, I was still convinced though, that I could never actually live off it. Highsnobiety grew from day one naturally. We’ve never spent money on advertising, or done anything specific to increase traffic. All growth has been natural though other websites linking to our content.
mashKULTURE.net: As your site has grown, how much has your daily routine changed?
David Fischer: If there is one thing that I have not managed to do well is letting go. I am very picky with content, and also with the speed certain content has to be up on the site. On Highsnobiety I still do a lot of the daily content myself, something I am intending to change slowly over time. Features are done by other editors. Also, on all our other sites (Selectism.com, Radcollector.com, CuratedMag.com, Highsnobette.com) I have other editors taking care of the content, which has worked out nicely so far. You have to let go at a certain point.
Unfortunately my personal work time has only increased over the years. With the growth of Highsnobiety and the growth into a network, my work hours have also gone up.
mashKULTURE.net: How has content on your site(s) changed over the years? Why?
David Fischer: Content has changed, but not all that much. Obviously tastes have changed a bit over time, we’ve grown older and that is also reflected on the site, as are the trends in the industry, so content also changes. At the same time, we are pretty loyal to the brands that we started off with. We used to post only streetwear/sneakers in the beginning, but today we have more of a contemporary mix. You will see some high end brands in there, some art, some design related stuff, but of course we still mostly cover our core topics.
You have to change, refresh, stay on top, but at the same time keep you reader and your brand in mind.
mashKULTURE.net: Do you have any content quotas? Is there a required minimum you set out each day of how many posts to publish? If so, does that ever jeopardize quantity over quality?
David Fischer: We have some rough numbers for all sites that should be met. Of course there are days where you think by the early afternoon that it’s a slow news day, but it hardly ever it ends up being that way. So, on one side I can clearly say, we do meet content quotas but when they are met, we cannot say: “Okay, today we only have 5 strong news, so that’s it for the day”. Unfortunately that freedom goes away when you have employees and costs to cover. But as mentioned before, we have so many resources so we hardly ever have an issue finding content, and we still end up posting less than we actually could. We sort out hundreds of things a day that we do not see fit for the site.
mashKULTURE.net: What’s the secret to your website’s success?
David Fischer: There is no secret. Hard work and I guess a bit of luck!
mashKULTURE.net: How important is social media to your blog(s)?
David Fischer: I guess it’s important to be present. I cannot say that it does much for us from a traffic perspective, but then again we are not using social media to its full possibilities. After a 14 hour workday the last thing I want to do is hang out on Facebook and Myspace.
mashKULTURE.net: What are your thoughts on the drastic rise in street culture blogs over the last few years? Do you see any parallels between the growth of streetwear brands and the rise of street culture blogs?
David Fischer: There is definitely a parallel between streetwear brands and blogs. When we started Highsnobiety there was hardly a handful of sites out there. I remember The Hundreds, 10Deep, Crooks & Castles and many others presenting small t-shirt collections. Along with them, we also grew. I guess it’s a normal process.
When people saw that these blogs were actually pretty successful, they jumped the bandwagon and also started blogs. In most cases people underestimate how much work a well run blog requires, and just as quick as they got into it, they quit. From the very beginning of Highsnobiety until now, I still see the same players dominating the market and not that many new ones being consistent.
mashKULTURE.net: How do you think this large number of sites affects street culture itself?
David Fischer: This question should be answered with an entire essay. The way I see it, it’s one hand washing the other. We work with all these brands on a daily basis. They provide us with content and we give back by featuring them on our sites, in turn creating sales and awareness for the brands. In principal, it’s a pretty good deal I would say. I remember the days when the really cool brands were still turned off by blogs, and did not understand what was going on. We had to take a lot of critique. That has changed a lot over time, also because not many out there can still afford to not be featured on all these blogs, and get those clicks and sales. It’s just part of the game today and people should except that.
mashKULTURE.net: What is the biggest mistake these blogs are making if they are making any at all?
David Fischer: One issue I see is that all of these new sites want to get their hands on exclusive content at any cost. Of course it’s not easy, because these other sites have been doing this forever, or have the contacts in the industry and with the PR firms. It’s hard to stick out, so they will put up anything, which in many cases ruins the game. Product is posted too early, consumers see it too early – this does not help the brand nor the stores. Then again, they want to be noticed, and it’s not easy, so I kind of do understand them, even though it does mess up things in a certain way.
mashKULTURE.net: What advice might you give to them?
David Fischer: Think twice before you start a blog. If you want to blog for the fun of it, cool, but if you want this to be a future business, think about it. It’s a lot of hard work, long nights, traveling, etc. You have to be up for it. At the same time, I would not want to miss a second of it. The amount of interesting people, brands, and places I have gotten to know in the last years, I would never want to trade for anything.
mashKULTURE.net: The current recession can be seen as part of a natural cycle, a form of cleansing as many new, less-creative brands go under, and the streetwear market contracts. Do you feel that the over saturated “street blogosphere” will follow the trend? Where do you see the future of these blogs heading?
David Fischer: With blogging, it’s a little different, because the cost is much lower, compared to starting or running a brand. But nevertheless, blogs that just started making money and people running them that count on that money in the future, will probably have a bit of a hard time in the coming months. But keeping a blog alive is very cheap. So if you really want to stay in it, you can. But obviously more blogs came up when streetwear was doing really well. It depends though what you want to do. If you want to actually live off of the site, choose another moment, because right now is not the right time to get into the game. If it’s out of passion, timing is never wrong , just do it, I would say. Also, as a blog you can change along with trends. If you look at Highsnobiety, we did not feature a single boat shoe two years ago, but have them now on the site every week, because that is the trend right now. As a brand, it is of course a bit more difficult. The ones that have established themselves in the last couple of years, will stay in my opinion, some will fall out, and only few will join now.
mashKULTURE.net: Where do you see the future of your own blog(s) heading? What short and long-term goals have you set?
David Fischer: That’s a hard question. I am not thinking too long-term. With the hard economic times, we are concentrating on growth in terms of traffic, improving our existing revenue streams, and trying to open new ones. We are developing a little slower than usual, because budgets are a little shorter for new development, but that’s ok. We are working on a few key new products, one of which will be launching very soon. We are just trying to continue to grow, go into new niches and try to stay on top of things. It’s tough times, but very exciting times. If there is one thing that I love about the Internet, then it’s the amount of possibilities. Just do it, that’s what we do all the time. Nothing to lose. The ones that survive will be stronger than before, at least I like to think so.
mashKULTURE.net: Any closing thoughts?
David Fischer: Thanks for the interview, and good luck to anybody out there trying to get into this business of blogging!