So long Anna Wintour, hello Michelle Phan: beauty bloggers are the new beauty editors

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Please offer a warm welcome to our first-ever guest blogger, Kat Shermack. While I’m sure my words and commentary are pure gold, every so often, I’d like to feature the thoughts and opinions of other journalists in the industry. Kat Shermack is a freelance journalist who has contributed to Toronto Life, Investment Executive and The Grid. You can find her on Twitter at @katshermack.

When I was in high school and I was supposed to be doing homework I would find a lot of ways to procrastinate: talk to my friends on the phone, see if my crush was on MSN Messenger, or flick through the channels on T.V. Now when I’m procrastinating, I text my friends, see if my crush posted anything on Instagram, and watch YouTube videos.

Some of my favourite YouTube videos to watch are beauty videos. There are over 45,000 channels on YouTube specifically devoted to beauty, and their videos get millions of views a month. Mostly young women, who actually don’t need makeup at all, post videos about their favourite products, discuss the hottest makeup trends, and do makeup tutorials.

There is nothing new about the content. Magazines like Vogue and Cosmo have been doing these types of stories for decades. What’s different is the connection the viewers have with beauty YouTubers. Most of the videos are filmed and edited by the young woman themselves, usually right in their home. You’re not getting advice from an editor sitting in the Conde Nast office in New York City. You’re getting advice from someone who feels more like your friend.

Don’t get it twisted though — beauty YouTubers don’t work for free. Unlike my colleagues who work at newspapers, YouTubers have figured out how to monetize their business, and a lot of them do quite well for themselves. A lot of videos are sponsored by established makeup brands. Some YouTubers partner with makeup companies and put out their own products. This is all in addition to the money YouTube pays its content creators for all their videos.

It might seem silly to spend time talking about the business of beauty on YouTube. But I think these young women have figured out something a lot of people haven’t. Young people don’t have the same connection to traditional media that their parents had. They would rather listen to someone shooting a video in their living room than a mainstream magazine or T.V. show. Take a closer look at a smokey eye tutorial. It says a lot about how the way we consume media has changed.

—Kat Shermack

Image credit: YouTube

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We’re all responsible for making good journalism happen — even the readers

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I often get frustrated when I hear people rag on the media and complain about the lack of quality journalism out there these days, as though newspeople all got together one day and decided we were just going to start phoning it in.

Yes, original, quality reporting might not be as bountiful as one might hope for, but unless you’re 1) paying for your news, and/or 2) regularly clicking on and reading the important-issue stories (as opposed to, you know, the ones about what Kim Kardashian said this week), then you’re complicit in the problem.

Freelance writer Anya Wassenberg recently wrote a piece for The Huffington Post Canada called Want Meaningful, Original Journalism? Then Start Paying For It. It had me internally waving my hands in the air and screaming, “Preach!”

She lays out what really goes into writing an original piece of journalism.

What it boils down to is this: Time and money. To write a standard 500 to 750 word article in the old-fashioned newspaper style means phone calls, maybe even in-person appointments and research, along with searching the Internet. That means, even under ideal conditions, I can turn in maybe two of those in a typical work day. Ideal conditions means that the information and people I need to access are immediately available. If not, it might stretch to a couple of days, even a week or more to put everything together.

In this model, journalism is a full-time job with full-time wages.

Good journalism is expensive, and unfortunately, the way things work in our corporate media environment, if readers aren’t paying for it (everything should be free on the internet, right?) — or at the very least, clicking on it — then it won’t get made.

I’ve seen the numbers firsthand. There is analytics software that shows not only how many people click on a particular story, but how far down the page they actually read. And let me tell you, as someone who got into this field because she believed in the power of media to inform and engage people on important social issues, I find the reality pretty grim.

Back when I was still in the daily newsroom, the stories about Justin Beiber and and Rob Ford’s antics far, far outperformed stories about the the political situation in Syria or massacres in Nigeria. In a digital world where “data-driven decision making” is all the rage, the data doesn’t look so good for quality journalism on meaningful topics.

Of course, when it comes to the fate of the news media, there are no simple answers. But before you start pointing fingers, remember we’re all responsible, readers included, for making sure that good journalism rises to the top.

Image credit: PixaBay