Monday, May 4, 2009

Blurring the lines: Twitter and the RAFW social media experiment



To say the Spring/Summer 2009/2010 edition of Rosemount Australian Fashion Week whizzed past in a blur, is an understatement. Beyond two beatups which did the rounds of several Australian media outlets – the model pay story and the GFC-led downsizing of what turned out to be an exceptionally busy event, with no downtime – arguably the biggest controversy of the week has surrounded the event’s social media coverage. Given that I find myself at the epicentre of this controversy, I thought I’d just post a few observations from the eye of the Twitter storm. And a warning here: buckle up, this time it's a little more than 140 characters.

First, some background.

I am a Sydney-based freelance journalist and I have covered Australian Fashion Week since the event launched in May 1996.

Having commenced filing to the New York-based Womens Wear Daily/Fairchild News Service in, coincidentally, the same year, I have covered the event for WWD in one form or another since that time. This has included event wrap stories in the daily newspaper and a plethora of other WWD news stories and WWD supplements throughout the year.

Over the past 14 years, in tandem with the WWD coverage, I have also covered the event in a freelance capacity for various Australian news outlets, from Channel 7’s Today Tonight to 7 news, as well as print outlets, notably The Australian, The Sun Herald and The Sydney Morning Herald.

As, moreover, the erstwhile fashion reporter for the SMH print edition, the SMH’s online arm smh.com.au and later News Limited’s Australian online news portal NEWS.com.au, I also blogged the event for the latter two online media outlets for three consecutive years from 2006 through 2008.

The first smh.com.au fashion blog in 2006, launched to cover the Spring/Summer 2006/2007 shows, was one of the first dedicated fashion blogs reporting from within Australian Fashion Week, if not the first. It was also among the very first fashion blogs attached to a mainstream newspaper anywhere in the world. The landscape changed very quickly over the following six months. After that initial blog, I then went on to blog three consecutive, four-city Ready-to-Wear runway seasons, from New York to London, Milan and Paris, for initially smh.com.au and then NEWS.com.au.

I launched my own independent blog in July 2008 and this year was the first time that I blogged Australian Fashion Week independently. I did cover September’s New Zealand Fashion Week (which slipped my mind when talking to Kiwi blogger Hannah McArdle last week).

As explained to McArdle, having blogged at Fashion Weeks for three years, I knew there was one place that I did not want to be this year – and that was stuck in the media centre composing reflective posts while I missed a lot of the action.

Unfortunately, it is either one or the other with these events. If you are working solo, it is just impossible to see absolutely everything that is on schedule and also file normal news stories and features on deadline. You have to make choices. I’ve filed to a daily newspaper from the event. And once again this year, I watched my print peers left in the media centre working on stories for their various outlets while I and others headed off to shows. Sure, you can see the photos afterwards, but it’s not quite the same as being on the spot.

AN RAFW SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER

Blogging certainly upped the ante at Australian Fashion Week in 2006. As pointed out to McArdle, at the time I was mobile blogging or “moblogging” from my BlackBerry to the SMH – however not filing directly into the blog template. The posts were quickly added, complete with pictures, by smh.com.au staff. You would call those blog posts “as live”.

But Twitter made real-time reporting a reality.

Certainly, various free blog platforms such as Blogger allow mobile blogging via email, however prior to this year, I was not blogging independently directly from the event – and nor, to my knowledge, were many other indie bloggers.

I believe NEWS.com.au may have been the first Australian media outlet to use Twitter at Australian Fashion Week – back in April/May 2007. It may well have been the first media outlet to adopt the microblogging service at any major fashion week.

Twitter was introduced under new NEWS.com.au editor David Higgins who, in April 2007, had just been poached from the same position at smh.com.au. It was Higgins who in fact got me blogging for Fairfax at the previous year’s event.

In April 2007 I was three months away from being called over to join Higgins at NEWS.com.au. That month, I covered Australian Fashion Week for smh.com.au. I was at the time unfamiliar with Twitter and recall thinking how daft the Tweets of the NEWS.com.au fashion reporter, Lisa Bjorksten, looked on their website.

I was signed up for Twitter by NEWS.com.au upon joining the outlet, in July 2007. But it was very early days and few in fashion, myself included, could get their heads around the true value of the then one year-old microblogging service via which people communicate in 140-character alerts.

This time last year I began using Twitter on a semi-regular basis.

At the beginning of this year, I started to use it daily and realised what a truly remarkable invention it is – one that facilitates a kind of global water cooler conversation into which absolutely anyone can tap, unlike the cliquey, semi-private service Facebook.

Over the past 12 months – and notably, over the past four – Twitter has exploded, experiencing quadruple digit growth.

As noted on this blog during the FW0910 collections in February and March this year, FW0910 was the first season that Twitter truly impacted on the fashion world, with most major fashion outlets establishing Twitter feeds. Several among them, for example The New York Times’ The Moment and Womens Wear Daily, attracted thousands of new followers over the course of the following weeks.

The difference in the Twitter coverage between the FW0910 season and what we have just experienced in Sydney is that those reporters Tweeting from the New York, London, Milan and Paris shows, were largely communicating via text.

As components of much larger media outlets, other parties added photographs, slideshows and notably, analysis. Of all the reporters Tweeting for The New York Times for instance, the paper’s chief fashion critic, Cathy Horyn, was not among them. Horyn penned her daily news stories and updated her blog, usually no more than once a day. Another chief NYT fashion scribe, Guy Trebay, in fact dismissed the Twitter phenomenon in one of his stories.

By the time the FW0910 Milan leg came around, two weeks after the initial Twitterburst at New York Fashion Week, some professional reporters were also uploading photographs onto TwitPic direct from the runway, Australia’s Marie Claire among them.

With Australian media outlets and industry players piling onto Twitter in the intervening months, we saw quite some TwitPic coverage of the inaugural Swim Fashion Week in February. It passed largely unnoticed by the wider media community.

On the eve of RAFW, it seemed that every Australian fashion media outlet had established a Twitter feed, with numerous fashion publicists and even some designers and retailers also joining up. In the case of Vogue Australia, this was a matter of mere days beforehand – after several parties had established fake “fan” Vogue Australia feeds.

In my opinion, the price paid by Vogue Australia for its tardiness in jumping on the Twitter train is that it had negligible brand presence on Twitter at RAFW.

Appointed as recently as mid 2008, Vogue Australia’s very first online editor, Damien Woolnough was, I understand, also responsible for the Twitter coverage. Woolnough would have been up to his ears writing show reviews and producing multimedia galleries. So were Marie Claire and Oyster, whose brands were unmissable on Twitter last week. Both outlets thought to dedicate at least one reporter to Twitter.

Last week witnessed a veritable avalanche of Twitter coverage.

Yes, FW0910 was a test run, but such was the impact of social media at RAFW, IMG reports that the company’s head office in New York has requested an immediate debrief in order to better understand social media. Julia Knolle and Jessica WeiƟ from German website Les Mads also report that they have been approached by IMG to collaborate on some form of social media initiative. IMG FASHION's next major event is Berlin Fashion Week.

MY RAFW GAME PLAN

Anyone signed up to Twitter, who was armed with a phone capable of taking, and emailing, photos, uploaded images from the runway last week. Some chose text-only Tweets. I used a combination of both.

I went into the event with a clear strategy: to report as I went in real-time or as close to as I could get. Yes, it was an experiment and I do apologise for not clarifying this in the event leadup.

I assumed that the new format would be self-explanatory and now appreciate that although I had already blogged at the event for three consecutive years, and moved on this season to something newer and faster, many readers are still coming to grips with the blog phenonemon.

“I checked your blog and I can’t find any reviews, just pictures and a few words” noted one international friend who has an iPhone because he thinks it’s chic - but still cannot fathom how to use the (very simple) email function. The end result is that we have to spend a fortune communicating in absurdly overpriced international SMS costs.

Quite obviously this blog adopted a different format last week: a temporary rolling news format.

I attempted to address the fact that not everyone uses, or even understands, Twitter, by integrating most of the Twitter coverage into the blog, in emailing photographs simultaneously to two locations: Blogger (ie this blog platform) and TwitPic, a web application that is integrated with Twitter.

TwitPic is a personal photo gallery, which anyone can view, irrespective of whether or not they use Twitter. I have now included a permanent link to it at the top of this page.

Some of the coverage was exclusive to Twitter.

To provide easy access to all the reportage – and commentary - for those who don’t follow Twitter, I opened up a Twitter widget on the right-hand side of this page, showing the most recent 20 “Tweets”. I agree that it looked messy. However without the resources for a more sophisticated purpose-built website, it seemed the only way to integrate the coverage. Many bloggers have their Twitter feeds permanently integrated into their blogs' home pages. I figured it wasn’t that difficult to follow.

I also downloaded a live streaming video application called Qik onto my BlackBerry. Qik is free software, one of in fact several live streaming video applications that are currently on the market. Over the past few months, Qik has been enjoying quite some publicity via Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. It surprised me that nobody else thought to use it at the event.

In spite of the fact that Qik advertises an integration with various social media platforms, including Blogger, not all seem to function properly and I only managed to integrate a Twitter alert every time I recorded a video, so that you could click that to view the video:
“New live video cross from #RAFW”

I had to manually embed the videos after they were recorded, whenever I had time back at the media centre.

All up last week I recorded 37 videos, 20 of them 3-4-minute interviews with designers and other industry players such as The Sartorialist’s Scott Schuman, Fashion Design Studio director Nicholas Huxley, Fashion Wire Daily's Godfrey Deeny and e-tailer Sarah Pavillard. So far the videos have been viewed almost 3000 times, with at least three of the videos to my knowledge embedded into other blogs. I would have done many, many more videos however realised on Day One that I would have needed two spare BlackBerry batteries to get through every day, such was the degree to which video chewed up the (very slow-to-charge) BB battery.

I posted 140 photographs, many of them with key details attached in the form of garment descriptions, trend alerts and information about models (eg “the unstoppable Rachel Rutt – just starred in her second runway vid in as many says for Gary Bigeni”).

I have not counted how many Tweets I posted, but it was many, many more than that, with 30-40 posts (ie blog/TwitPic posts or text-only Tweets) going up every day. These included show preambles, show commentary, post-show thumbs-downs and industry gossip. One year at the event, while still at The Sun Herald, I penned gossip snippets to accompany the SMH's main fashion story each day (the latter written by Jackie Lunn). These Twitter snippets are no different to what I would have provided the SMH or indeed any other newspaper.

The one thing I did not do was develop longer material for the blog on an ongoing basis throughout the week. I did it once with the news story about Chic Management threatening to pull star Australian model Myf Shepherd from the Kate Sylvester show 40 minutes from start time, after Chic discovered that Shepherd was not opening the show.

I broke the story on Twitter, then developed it on the blog – and in the process of securing right-of-reply etc from Chic and Sylvester, missed the Aurelio Costarella presentation. Unfortunately this was unavoidable - and precisely the type of scenario I had hoped to avoid. But I really did need to get a response from Chic and flesh the story out to be fair to both sides.

I make no claim whatsoever to be a professional photographer.

But that said, in effect I approached last week as a journalist, a photojournalist and a videographer. The last time I checked, television journalists were also journalists. I had a fulltime job as a researcher, producer and occasional reporter at Network Seven from 1996-1999 and have worked with other networks (including CNN). I saw the Qik videos as an extension of this work and also the multimedia work done in the interim with smh.com.au and NEWS.com.au.

To my knowledge I made one mistake – doubling up with the captions from the Diet Coke Little Black Dress show, mislabelling an Alice McCall dress as Kate Sylvester’s. It was quickly corrected. I thoroughly vetted the names of all designers and models etc before emailing the images.

All up, the blog’s traffic doubled – and on one day nearly tripled – with several hundred new Twitter followers piling onto my Twitter feed. Blog subscribers also increased.

THE BACKLASH

I must admit I have been somewhat taken aback by the reaction to the social media coverage of RAFW. It really does appear to have polarised opinion.

Some have noted how much they loved the feeling of being at the event. Others have slammed the quality of the photographs and, in my specific case, the lack of longer-form commentary and proper “journalism”.

I worked incredibly hard last week seeing in fact more shows than I would have had I had to file news stories, features, or longer blog posts. I was happy to keep the coverage moving, trying to see every show and clocking every designer – including those in the often much-maligned group shows.

Many of the latter designers walk away from AFW with no publicity at all. In the first Ready To Wear group show, I was delighted to discover Anaessia. I posted three images of the brand, with commentary that in my opinion, it was the show highlight.

On Day One I had nothing but great feedback, with people sending Twitter replies saying how much they loved the coverage and retweeting posts, images and videos.

Day Two got off to a great start with Dion Lee’s impressive debut solo show in the claustrophobic basement of a Kings Cross carpark. Somehow my Twitter pictures and show review comments managed to get through the concrete bunker but sadly, Qik video transmission died after a few seconds into the post-show interview I did with Lee.

Back at the OPT venue, just prior to the start of Zimmermann, I flicked Qik back on as the power went out and I captured live video footage of Simon Lock standing on the runway addressing the troops in mid blackout. Lock is standing in darkness, his face occasionally illuminated by camera flashes and it’s a fairly amusing video – especially when he asks attendees not to take the goodie bags.

Moments later I was backstage, recording an interview with Nicky Zimmermann, talking about the mayhem. Her professional guard dropped in the midst of the pandemonium, Zimmermann was flanked by her son, with her young daughter on her hip, and she was remarkably candid and relaxed.

Shortly thereafter, I became aware of a Twitter backlash that had been initiated by The Sydney Morning Herald’s gossip columnist Andrew Hornery – with all of it, ironically, unfolding on Twitter.

Unimpressed by the barrage of blurry photos and drawing specific reference to Twitter images tagged as “first looks” (something I was certainly trying to do at each show), Hornery announced that he was going to start 'unfollowing' people.

Sun Herald columnist, media commentator and blogger Mia Freedman chimed in that she was also fed up with the low Twitter standards.


Paul Hayes, a News Limited editor - and blogger - later countered on Twitter:

“print journos issuing instructions on How To Do Twitter Right. Hilarious! #rafw #CrankyOldMedia”

The following evening, when I went to take my seat alongside Hornery at the Jayson Brunsdon show and joked – lightheartedly - about the Twitter backlash, he snarled, “I can’t tell what’s in your pictures”, adding, words to the effect, that I should not be publishing them.

The following day a series of anonymous comments were left on this blog (an Australian designer has since owned up to the first one). The comments echoed very similar sentiments.

Given how swiftly the coverage was moving, they were quickly lost to view. But here they are again:
“patty the twitter thing sucks !! id rather wait to read some reviews and see sonnys photos than your average black berry images with no show reviews , Drop the twit please x”

Followed by:
“If anything, this week has demonstrated the failure of new media. For the past few months, debates have raged over the place of bloggers and twitter-ers in the (fashion) media landscape. I, like many, have supported the new generation of information outlets.

Sadly, this blog, like the majority, have sacrificed journalism for mini tweets and grainy images. The mainstream media outlets are uploading photos within the hour, so we can look at high resolution versions on these websites. Frockwriter is one, if not the only, source of high quality, critical fashion journalism in Australia, and this week we've barely seen more than a 'tweet' and said blurry phone photos. Perhaps its time we moved back to newspapers and magazines, for they have written content with strong visual imagery. The new media landscape has proved it can't integrate both, despite the pace of upload”.

On Saturday, the RAFW special edition of Hornery's Private Sydney column was published.

Given that I have been a financial member of the Australian Journalist’s Association (now the MEAA) for 24 years, that I earn a living selling news to mainstream media outlets and that moreover, RAFW is a trade, as opposed to a public, event, I was amused to find myself - along with the event's other bloggers - being described in the story as a “citizen critic” and “self-anointed fashion arbiter” who had to “scramble” for front row seats. The inference was that the latter were scraps vacated by the more august members of the media pack.

In fact, with few exceptions, all the front row seats I had last week were allocated to me by the various designers.

But the tone of this story should not come as any surprise, given the overall experience of many new media reps that I described in a story about social media in the April edition of The Australian’s WISH magazine.

And perhaps the seeds for Hornery's discontent had already been sown back when the WISH story was first published.

I recall its publication prompted a series of Tweets (perhaps since deleted - I was unable to locate) in which Hornery lamented the poor, "titillating", quality of new media when stacked up against the institution of print news and his concerns that if advertising revenue continues to drift towards social media, who will pay for journalism in the future?

His complaint, echoed by several other commenters over the past few days, is that I failed to write enough about RAFW last week.

At the end of each day, I was thoroughly exhausted and just did not have the energy to go home and compose a 1000-word daily verdict of the day’s events. In hindsight, I could have generated more exclusive blog content, perhaps at least three more solid posts each day and will definitely take this on board for the next event.

As for the blurry runway images, what can I say? Yes many of them are extremely blurry. And frankly, who cares? At least we were all happy to have a crack at it. It wasn’t compulsory to look at the photos and it certainly did not cost anything to view them.

The ‘new media douchebag’ contingent at RAFW joked that perhaps we should christen this new photographic genre of Twitter art as “Bluralism” – and possibly even stage an exhibition. This contingent included Matt 'Imelda' Jordan, Helen Lee, Isaac Hindin Miller, Sonny Vandevelde, Marian Simms, Melanie Hick, Alyx Gorman, Jade Warne and McArdle.

While I concur that some of my runway images last week were very ordinary, on Day Two, I started to get the hang of it and twigged that it was possible to take a vaguely-interesting shot which, although largely an Impressionistic blur, could nail a key clear detail about the garment in question. I felt like I was back in life drawing class, attempting to capture the essence of a model's pose in a few, fleeting pencil strokes. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest if noone else likes them but I’m quite fond of some of the shots which eventuated. They were, of course, captured by complete fluke.






By the same token, there is an element of beatup to the photo kvetching.

The negative buzz overshadows the fact that at least some of the shots produced by all parties at the event were in fact crystal clear. Under the right conditions, it is remarkable how much clarity even an amateur can achieve with a mobile phone camera. Here are a couple of examples from my TwitPic gallery:




I almost did not cover last week’s event – at least not on the ground.

I have a series of now quite urgent deadlines for paid work and taking the entire week off to cover the event meant those deadlines were pushed back. It was a luxury in other words, not a necessity and in the current economic climate, with freelance work becoming harder and harder to find, it was possibly not the wisest decision.

This week I will file on RAFW to both WWD and The New York Times but did I really need to be at RAFW every day from 9.00am until 9.00pm, in order to complete that coverage? The answer is no. I covered the event on the ground for this blog. And for many it seems, that just wasn’t good enough. I'm sorry about that but I gave it my best shot.

Andrew Hornery asks who is going to pay for journalism as the world navigates through unchartered media waters, with a flotilla of lighter, nimbler, high-tech sloops scrambling around the waterlines of the dead tree galleons.

But surely what he really means is, who is going to continue to pay him and his salaried colleagues to produce journalism?

Because while Hornery expects to receive a fat salary and full benefits for his journalistic contributions, he has absolutely no qualms in demanding that an independent blogger such as myself pump out considered, high quality analysis of an event that they have already exhaustively covered, in detail, from the bottom up, via a constellation of vignettes - for absolutely no payment whatsoever.

And he's not alone.



30 comments:

Isaac Likes said...

Bravo Patty! Let me know when Bluralism opens, I'll fly over especially.

Style On Track said...

I must admit that it was exciting to hear the updates but I got over the millions of blurry photographs posted by almost every Aussie twitterer quite quickly

Marnie Neck said...

Patty
I think you did a fantastic job and applaud you for embracing a somewhat unchartered new media in this country. However like all new media/social networking sites/tools - all have positives and negatives and need to be used right time right place. Pagesdigital chose not to Twitter from the shows in the end, but to maintain the traditional upload of blog posts and images after each show, as I believe it is extremely important in fashion to view the garment, the hair, the make up, the details to grasp what the designer is trying to convey, and you can't argue Twitter posts + mobile photos lose all of that essence. What I do believe Twitter is fantastic for, is the in-between gossip from the shows, who's in the front row, who's having a fit, what's happening at the after party etc etc, that only journalists such as yourself are privvy to. This is the sort of commentary that is great to read in under 140 characters. Trying to describe an outfit, trend or show theme just doesn't do any of it justice.
Once again though, this is unchartered territory, and I applaud you for giving it a go!
Marnie Neck
MD Pagesdigital.it

Brett said...

I'm glad you brought this up and presented your viewpoint, because it really needed to be done.

In my opionion twitter is the way foward with any large event being held, providing as you said an almost real time coverage of the events. Something that even through the expansion of tradtional print media into the internet has not managed to fully conquer yet. (Another example being the logies last night, where I happened to follow some people who were actually there, making the car-crash that is the logies actually bearable). The updates although restricted in length, was made up by the large quantity you wrote, providing what I thought was a much more complete and interesting coverage of the weeks procedings compared to the rather lacklustre coverage of the tradtional print media organisations.

The backlash from the media towards you was unfounded, as I quite like the small sized phtotos that gave the general idea, much more enjoyable as I tended to follow RAFW on the go (something that twitter was made for!), making following it much easier. Also nearly every media organistation had some presence or another on Twitter, why exactly were you being singled out on the gossip pages of the SMH.

So overall Patty, I thank you for all the effort you put in last week to bring us coverage.

(Wow, I just realised what i wrote may be a little tl;dr)

Isaac Likes said...

I agree with Marnie. There are positives and negatives to the new technology.

The live photos and videos are grainy and blurry, and the analysis isn't as extensive or complete.

However, it IS immediate. And it offers people who don't get invited to the shows - or might be in a different city or country - the opportunity to feel like they're right there in the front row. I call it the democratisation of fashion. What was formerly the domain of the privileged few, is now accessible to anybody, anywhere.

I think the backlash comes from two places:

1. from people who actually don't like the grainy pictures, and who are looking for a little more written analysis. Some of them might be loyal followers of blogs who feel short-changed by the new style of coverage. But they can always turn to the more traditional media a little later in the day to get their fashion week fix.

2. from old school media who are frightened by the immediacy with which we were able to disseminate information, photos, video and interviews.

But here's the catch for the old schoolers: our technology will improve, but I can't see them getting any quicker.

The proof is in the pudding - as you said Patty, your readership doubled and even tripled. So did mine. The people who don't like this new coverage don't have to look at it.

But plenty of others will take their places.

faddict said...

I really enjoyed keeping up with RAFW through twitter, I found it the twitter coverage exciting in its immediacy. Obviously each medium has its downfalls, and I did not expect all the pics posted via camera phones to be crystal clear, but had I wanted to see professional photos I would have had to wait at least 3-4hrs before they were available online. I think you did an amazing job covering so many shows.

The backlash fails to take into account that an audience may want more than the traditional reportage offered by print media. As much as I value your detailed write-ups, I was happy to forego them for up-to-the-minute coverage of what was happening on the ground at fashion week, which I found more interesting than the rafw articles printed in the major newspapers this past weekend, which essentially reported the trends already identified in tweets days ago.

From where I stand your experiment was a success, and I am grateful to you and all the fashion twitterers that kept us all in the know for the week.

Mike Huynh said...

Overall, I feel the backlash of fashion coverage through twitting that you did was a change that mystified mainstream media outlets whether it be online or print based media and newspapers. It's not twitting but the blogging phenomenon has dramatically changed the way media is covered locally. It something seemingly still unheard of or too difficult to comprehend in choosing to write for a particular story or event such as RAFW. I think it was quite opulent for certain people you have mentioned to have said new media has failed when traditional media are the main culprits of failing to produce their own reports and celebrate the outcomes of RAFW for which certainly lacked some long-standing designers but gave the opportunity for younger designers to showcase something wonderful. And you have to thank them because of all honestly, they prefer to stick to their guns by producing their collections and mass-communicate to potential buyers and use other means than show during RAFW.

Speaking of myself, I never chose to extend myself in using Twitter. Because I felt for my own website, the strengths lie in to absorb all the information and research you can do before writing and converging material. But what I was disadvantaged by was the instantaneous capacity to report on the shows so fast as you and many others did. I don't see a disadvantage from one or the other. They are two positive and complimentary means of covering RAFW as we did. I enjoyed the twitting aspect because I saw how quickly show reports could be produced which meant a follow-up by face-to-face discussions and ramblings.

Let's flip this: If I was following New York Fashion Week, would I be following Twitter? No, I would be waiting patiently for Style.com's Sarah Mower and Tim Blanks. I think some of these people couldn't wait for Vogue's coverage so that had to vent their irritation somehow. Next time, they should be bothered enough to take an interest in RAFW by attending themselves. Heck, we did and the only reason we're all tired from it and endlessly conversing and writing about RAFW is because we're passionate enough to bloody care.

The blacklash could even be segregated of an older demographic because quality on blogs I have to say are variably different and of so many blogs I have seen that are covered by recognised bloggers, it's the instant hit of information that is most important. Sometimes Diane Pernet has shot candid photos, they aren't professionally captured but would people them expect her to become a professional photographer?

lorraine lock said...

wow ! once again very thorough and impeccably researched. Patty, I am very glad you are such a dedicated 'frockwriter' that you decided to cover the event, from start to finish. I was there all day every day, with access to inside info and front row seating and you still managed to surprise me with your show reviews and the scoops. I saw you working front row, backstage, even when I was having my lunch in silence in the (empty) OPT you were interviewing Gail- thats when I papped you !
Sometimes I looked at the pics or the vids and sometimes I didnt. Twitter is like a stream flowing by and you dip in when you can. excellent. keep iy up ! LL

Claire Boots Loose said...

I suspect that the core of Mr Hornery's griping is that you and the other 'new media' reporters – on the ground, at the event, doing real journalism – weren't providing him with material that he could filch for his weekly gossip column as sat in his office following along on Twitter.

Gem_ka said...

I think that your coverage was just great! Even if some photos were abit blurry, it didn't really matter because it gave you idea of what it was like before the pictures could be posted on other websites such as vogue.

Matthew said...

The delivery of short sharp comments via Twitter along with low res pics and grainy vids is, in my view, what makes this form of social media attractive to the public. The unmanufactured/unsculptured nature of the content reiterates the 'democratisation' of fashion, as one earlier poster put it.

Old media are behaving like old people; they are worried about what they don't understand.

There will continue to be a place for both social and old media in the same way there will continue to be a place for both Vogue and Grazia.

Well done and keep it up - I suspect you're going to be even busier in the future......

Mer said...

I did a relatively similar experiment for the 080 BFW, and the reaction of the readers was surprise. I thought that broadcasting the catwalk LIFE via the nokia or the twitter updates was extremely interesting for people who loves fashion and want to know what's going on now. But I felt like the "The unmanufactured/unsculptured nature of the content" was not the kind of material they wanted to see...maybe I should openly ask them... :-)

In any case, my opinion is: we can always have both, and it would be great to have both jobs paid...

thanks for this post, is really great.

xxx

Aych said...

Patty,

As always, great post - depth, insight and your delish humor.

I totally second what Isaac said about the democratization of fashion - isn't that what those glossy mags did in the first place?

I LOVED your blackout vids - and I loved that the moment the lights went out all us social media kids had our cameras out and film rolling *:-)

citizen journo not polished PR is what I additively follow.

Angelina said...

I think you did an incredible job! I was there with a young woman who is trying to establish a pr business through social networking. By watching your tweets and connecting to the images the penny finally dropped and I think she's on her way now!

One of the things I found odd about the twitter feed in general had to do with describing visual images in text. I often twitter from conferences and to an extent, it's relatively simple - you pick up the important points, summarise them and tweet. Then you collate them and blog about them later on! With RAFW it was a little disconcerting to read so many tweets about the imagery without having much of a chance to see it! As I was at events and on the road, I couldn't access TwitPix easily so it became a bit of a game to try and imagine what was being viewed!
Congratulations on your coverage. I do hope you'll be here in Melbourne for the Fashion Festival in August!
Cheers

Christine-Louise said...

I LOVED your twitter coverage of RAFW. I love fashion as much as the next girl but sometimes reading a lengthy blog or article about it consumes more attention/time than I am willing to devote.

Although I must confess I did used to read your SMH blogs.

Keep doing it, the images were fun and captured the creative essence.

Overall I think it's a great way to get the basics to the masses. Which surely is the whole point?

Christine (cristinalouisa)

JoolzGirl said...

Wow Patty, good for you. There's room for both, of course! But ignoring and/or making disparaging comments about the value of Twitter at an event like this just makes people sound like they are out of touch.
And you did an amazing job last week. I can really only second what others have said here already about that. All the very best, Airdrie

MIa Freedman said...

Patty,
My tweet about wanting higher standards from those covering fashion week on Twitter was never directed at you - something I made clear to you at the time via DM.

As I mentioned, I was actually referring to all those who were going to fashion week parties, having a few champagnes and posting blurry photos of themselves under the #RAFW tag!

This was actually quite amusing to watch from home - the later it got in the day the more bizarre some tweets became and so my comment was also rather tongue-in-cheek, something that may have been lost in twanslation....

Of course you did a wonderful job (which I also told you at the time) and like all of us bloggers and tweeters, you did it for free. FOR FREE. Something people tend to forget.

I applaud your decision to do something different with your coverage. How else are we going to move forward? I haven't read a single long-form newspaper article about fashion week and by the time the glossies roll out, RAFW will be a distant memory.....

Peace out.

Carrie said...

Saddened and dismayed that you need to go to such lengths to delineate your credentials Patty. Daily Addict committed to a day of live twitter coverage and from that we can attest to the relentless pace required to deliver such an undertaking in real time (let alone for five days of fashion fever). We have a simple formula that helps us determine the success of our efforts, and it centres on one important outcome – relevant value conveyed to our intended audience (the reader / client / our promise)? This is why faddict’s reply post here is gold. It's a reader's point of view and behaviour resulting from your coverage. I’m not sure the extent of faddict’s influence circle, but that also adds weight. And if that's what your readers are thinking then not much more needs to be said. Many of your readers will I’m sure be able to draw out the value from your RAFW coverage and are intelligent enough to make concessions where needed (i.e. not expecting pro shots of models on the move; can get elsewhere).
Keep challenging the status quo and making waves. We're enjoying it even if some are slower to adopt.

Frockaholic - Sarah Pavillard said...

Hi Patty - thanks for such an intelligent and considered post, and many many thanks for the fabulous coverage of RAFW. As the Frockaholics twitterer, it was great to be able to gauge your opinion and the opinions of other journalists AS THE SHOWS HAPPENED. And, having read your blogs and articles for years, if I was still in the Navy, like faddict, I would have been following the coverage during the day from my desk at work.

Personally, I twitter for two reasons. Firstly, Frockaholics is attempting to use twitter to engage with our customers in a new way. We want to build that water cooler conversation with our customers, find out what they do and don't like, tell us what styles they want to see at Frockaholics, what new labels they want to see in our store - that is, use twitter and (eventually) other social media to not only bring customers to our website but to enable our customers to drive the content of our online store. Through RAFW, I tweeted small snippets of information for our followers, giving them a sneak peak of new designers coming on-board (haha) with Frockaholics, small previews of our favourite styles, letting them know what labels we will be selling by pre-order. By the end of the week, we were getting some great feedback, primarily through DM, that twitter was exciting our followers already about summer styles they saw through our modest coverage and the coverage of others. Furthermore, we are starting to receive requests for specific pieces and will respond to this by ensuring that those items are amongst our orders for summer stock. The conversation has started!

Secondly, I twitter because, as a social phenomenon, twitter is simply fascinating. There is no other networking tool out there that is as inclusive as twitter, allowing people to observe or participate in a huge range of conversations all over the world. The world is changing, and either you're a part of it or you're not. I want to be a part of it.

Patty, your fashion week coverage was interesting, timely and relevant. I love your blog posts but didn't miss them in light of the alternative coverage you provided and believe that what you are doing is leading the fashion pack into the future of reporting fashion.

Cultures in Between said...

Ironically, Twitter will save RAFW coverage because I don't think the mainstream outlets will be talking about it again. Old news they will probably say. We need to keep it alive because there were some good stuff happening last week. Fashion is not about coming and leaving.

Alyx said...

Deadline means I can't say as much as I'd like to, but I think you, and the other tweeters (in the interests of full disclosure I was one of them), did a really good job.
Blogs can still have space for beautiful images and serious analysis after the fact, but it is unreasonable to expect single players to be able to have immediacy and glossy in one big hit. The reason Vogue had those lovely galleries up so fast is they had a whole team of people, onsite and in-office updating all the time. Indie players like blogs and smaller magazines simply don't have that luxury. And isn't it better to have news fast and pretty later, than total radio silence for long periods?

Anonymous said...

Hi Patty,
I'm just a humble reader but I thought the style of coverage you undertook was really quite pioneering. I don't really see why the comments of a print gossip columnist are relevant, especially given that their information is usually days old.
I must admit I sometimes found the photos a bit pointless - dark, too blurry, too grainy, too little information accompanying them. But technology moves rapidly and who knows, by next fashion week you could have a DSLR linked up to your Blackberry rather than relying on the (rather awful) inbuilt phone cameras. I'm geeking out now so I'll leave it at that.

NIGEL NO TRENDS said...

Anyone following Twitter can hardly expect Style.com-like updates with frontrow, backstage, beauty shots AND a full review.
Congrats for giving Twitter a go but as one of Australia's leading fashion critics, it would've been nice to get some full reviews. Anyway, f**k the haters!

News Holland said...

I find the backlash even more redundant considering the lack of objective, thought-provoking, intelligent coverage in the tabloids and broadsheets! They continue to focus on trivialities such as front row attendees, after party antics and designer frictions, instead of trend directions, honest critiques and, where applicable, plagiarism.
The only downfall in your coverage Patty was that i missed your witty commentary. Twitter and blog away!

fashion herald said...

Ah, haha! You are in a very interesting position, and I really appreciate your long commentary on this debate. You are a pioneer in new media, and boldly pushing it forward. Cranky old media, indeed. Long, involved fashion commentary can be wonderful to read, but the immediate, quick moment and feel for the show is also highly valuable. It's like watching opera on PBS or seeing it live, totally different. Of course there is room for both, and old media should embrace this Twitter phenomenon et. al. as a shot in the recession-plagued media world arm.
Thanks for all your hard work and setting professional standards for those who follow you.

Jodes said...

Patty,

Thank you for this very informative background post to your work at Fashion Week.

The one thing that stands out in my own dealings with all manner of people in the media is that the majority of them are technophobes, don't understand social media, nor do they understand the research potential of the internet. What irony. What a downright shame.

I applaud your efforts to use the tools available to you to create a different way to report on fashion week. Yes, the pictures were blurry, but that can be overcome in the future with other tools/apps etc.

In the blog medium, I don't want magazine perfect, I want information, RFN. I want the 'reality' of the moment, not something carefully airbrushed and packaged because that creates an air of excitement and inclusion for myself, the nonattendee.

To all those old fogies that can't slap their heads around this 'internet' beast, I suggest you wise up quickly because you'll be as left behind and irrelevant as hell in no time at all. Whoops, think its already happened.

daniel said...

I'm a bit late to the party, but just wanted to say i loved your twitter and mobile video coverage from fashion week. It kept me checking my iphone all through the week. And when you re-tweeted one of my posts i was embarrasingly proud.

It is a shame you're limited to the bluralism style photos, but when time is of the essence nothing can beat the speed of a mobile phone picture. I love mobile photography for it's immediacy if not it's quality.

It does alarm me a little that you're offering all this great coverage for free. It's not exactly a sustainable model. But as an experiment i think it was definitely successful.

Helen said...

Like Daniel, I am a little late to the game after meaning to leave my comments last week!

To be honest I tune out a lot of what print media say about new and social media because 90% of the time I think they are scared of something they don’t know about and just dismiss. There are lots of pros to new media but old media just look at the cons and I often find that frustrating and a little close minded. (But it was interesting to see that, maybe, some fashion pr people are coming around to us.)

I think you did a wonderful job and your traffic and new twitter followers are proof of that, while my sassybella.com stats didn’t grow as drastically as others did since I didn’t have as much time to post between twittering on @sassybella and @chicreportoz, as well as blogging on chicreport.com.au, my twitter followers grew by over 130 – 160 in a week due to the combination of comments and twitpics about RAFW.

When you boil down to it, what we (bloggers who tweet – after all there weren’t many non blogging tweeters) do may not be of interest to old media, but it certainly opens the doors of exclusive events to people who are interested but don’t want to read stuffy party reviews or wait a few days to see something, anything about a designer they’re interested in.

We’re bring a whole new personal angle to RAFW which people can really enjoy and feel like they are a part of in some way and old media don’t need that feeling as they already feel apart of it all (or think they’re ahead) but there are more people who like what we do than dislike. And that should be all that matters at the end of the day – except it doesn’t always mean money in the bank unfortunately.

I had a great time with my fellow new media pack at RAFW and we created so much buzz about the event that didn’t focus on the negative aspects of fashion week that I’d happily do it all again tomorrow – for free even as I was one of the lucky ones to be paid throughout the week.

RW said...

Bravo, Patty. The print folks are clearly just jealous of your willingness to work your ass off, and the way you've adapted to new technology with gusto.

Patty Huntington said...

a - very - long overdue thank-you to everyone who commented on this post. thank-you for your support, feedback and ongoing interest in the blog. believe me, it is very much appreciated.

i do also value the negative feedback and was somewhat surprised to see the original groundswell of dissent against the blog's RAFW coverage (delineated in several earlier posts) virtually evaporate the minute this post went up. this was disappointing, because i thought there might be a real debate on the subject.

i wrote this post because i felt that i owed readers an explanation, having simply launched into the new temporary format without any kind of road map. i also wanted to background the new media side of the event - something with which i have personally been involved for three years.

as i mentioned in the post, i have taken the criticism on board and will attempt to address it for the next event. at the end of the day however you can't please everyone. this is my personal blog, i don't answer to any media outlet, there is noone dictating terms or what i put in it. yes of course i am engaged in a conversation with my audience and i hear you. all of you - not just some. and all i can do is keep generating the kind of content that i'm interested in and hope that you continue to share that interest.

thanks again for checking in.

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