– The blogosphere

Onderstaand de onverkorte tekst van het artikel in de Financial Times van 13 november 2010, zodat het niet noodzakelijk is zich daar te registreren, en het artikel beschikbaar blijft, ook wanneer het van de FT website is verwijderd:

The blogosphere: Internet panders to watch geeks’ obsessions
By Simon de Burton
Published in The Financial Times, November 13 2010 00:09

Not so long ago, the only way to glean information about the latest happenings in the world of watches was to subscribe to a specialist periodical.

Nowadays, of course, the internet is the richest, most accessible and most up-to-date source of horological news, offering a ready means for enthusiasts the world over to make contact and share their passion.

In short, the internet has proved to be a watch geek’s dream, a place where one is guaranteed to find others who are equally obsessed with the minutiae of reference numbers, dial colours, case materials and calibres and who are only too willing to share their thoughts and opinions in endless “posts” and “threads”.

The number of significant internet forums dedicated to wristwatches is estimated to exceed 300, with sites including TimeZone, PuristPro and Watchuseek, among the most visited. As “forums”, they allow anyone from anywhere to take part in discussions and respond to posts by other forum members. They are usually controlled by a moderator who manages the content from day to day.

But while watch forums are hugely popular and regarded by enthusiasts as invaluable sources of information, it is the watch bloggers who are causing the biggest cyber-stir in the industry. Often one-man bands, they run their own, unmoderated web sites on which they regularly post “stream of consciousness” opinions about watch world events, anything from the launch of a new model to the latest horological scandal.

The brands appear to love them and loathe them in equal measure – they love them because they provide a cost-free communication portal, but loathe them when they are dismissive of their products and, in particular, when they perpetuate inaccurate information.

One of the fastest-growing watch blogs is run from a home office in a small San Francisco apartment by 28-year-old Ariel Adams who set up his web site “A Blog to Read” three years ago while awaiting the outcome of his law exams. “I was working as an attorney at a small company and felt somewhat in limbo while I waited for my results,” explains Mr Adams.

“My work had already involved me in the world of internet marketing and I had a desire to find an independent way of making money other than being a lawyer. That is how I hit on the idea of creating a web site that was, originally, going to be about various different types of high-end goods.”

Within a week of establishing the site, however, Mr Adams had realised that A Blog to Read was going to focus solely on wristwatches.

“I reached the decision so quickly, because I suddenly discovered that here was a chance to talk about a subject that was particularly dear to me to other people who felt the same. It was slow going for the first couple of months, until the momentum built up and, for the first year, I worked on the site for four to six hours a day in addition to my regular job.”

It was then that Mr Adams decided to make A Blog to Read his main profession and resigned from his law firm. Now he works on the site 12 hours a day, seven days a week, writing three to five articles daily. He covers all types of watches from those costing a few hundred dollars to those costing hundreds of thousands, and the blog makes a modest amount of revenue from advertising.

Mr Adams believes A Blog To Read attracts 250,000 to 300,000 followers a month. “I admit there are occasions when it is a matter of quantity over quality and I have received various complaints about typographical and grammatical errors, but, generally, the comments are positive and the major brands are beginning to recognise that there is a value to what I do,” he says.

“They don’t always like it when I’m exceptionally frank, but I believe that good, robust media creates passion and passion is what sells watches. A lot of the specialist publications are simply quite dreary and clearly need to remain friends with the brands for commercial reasons – but I don’t feel afraid to cause a little controversy where it is merited.”

Other successful watch blog sites include New Yorker Ben Clymer’s popular “Hodinkee”, Switzerland’s “Blog Perpetuelle” and “Fratello Watches”, run by a Dutchman called Robert-Jan Broer.

They are all closely watched by the brand chief executives, such as Jerome Lambert of Jaeger-LeCoultre who finds the blog sites both useful and frustrating. “They now represent a significant aspect of our communications structure,” he says.

“As a brand that always has a large amount to communicate, any opportunity to increase our reach is, by definition, a plus and blogs [and forums] are very useful because they target specific regions in local languages. There are now more than 300 blog and forum addresses to which we send information on a regular basis.

“But there is a downside, and that lies with the fact that bloggers are usually not professional journalists and are therefore inclined to make mistakes, give wrong information and sometimes write about things from odd angles that are not especially beneficial – and once an incorrect statement is made or a mistake perpetuated then, even if it is subsequently corrected, the damage is done.”

Mr Lambert speaks from bitter experience, having had to take issue with a blogger who incorrectly said he was to be replaced as chief executive and that his company was to implement large-scale redundancies.

“More and more forums have professional journalists working for them and are becoming more like the traditional written press in terms of accuracy. Within the next decade, I think we will see blogs evolve in the same direction. Like it or not, they are now well and truly part of our reality.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.

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