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Booth Moore, Los Angeles Times (MCT), Published May 19 2012

Bloggers hear from the pros on how to make their work pay

LOS ANGELES – They came to the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica wearing spring’s fluorescent bright colors, floral jeans and sky-high wedge sandals, their rainbow-manicured hands clutching iPhones at the ready to tweet, Pin and Instagram tidbits to their fashionable followers over the Internet.

Their goal? To learn how to make it, not in Hollywood but in the fashion blogosphere – and perhaps earn up to $20,000 a month doing it.

“I want to help you quit your day job.” That was Lucky Editor in Chief Brandon Holley’s message in her introduction to FABB, the Fashion and Beauty Blogger conference, a meeting of old and new media hosted by the glossy recently. “And I want you all to subscribe,” she said in a pitch for the Conde Nast magazine about shopping, which launched in 2000. (Holley took over last year with a vow to transform Lucky into a “social shopping experience” by bringing bloggers into the fold.)

It was a shrewd move, considering how bloggers are changing the way fashion is marketed and consumed. By appealing to their fans on the Internet (and dressing the part), bloggers have attained a surprising level of credibility with designers and brands, at times usurping the power of traditional media. Now signing with agents, managers and publicists, bloggers are securing lucrative deals as models, stylists and brand ambassadors.

“In the magazine, we don’t do head-to-toe looks. We are inspired by you,” Holley told the blogger audience, explaining that it is precisely because so many magazines are still stuck in the old mind-set of expensive, head-to-toe designer dressing that more and more women are seeking fashion advice from blogs.

The event attracted nearly 150 attendees, who came to hear panel discussions and conversations with blog stars such as Brit Morin, founder of HelloBrit and the self-described “Martha Stewart for the Digital Generation” who recently raised $1.25 million in seed money to launch her first app, and Sophia Rossi, executive producer of the late MTV hit show “The Hills” and co-founder with Zooey Deschanel of HelloGiggles, which bills itself as an “online summer camp” experience.

The roster of speakers also included Hollywood digital mom-trepreneurs (Jessica Alba and the Honest Co., Soleil Moon Frye and MoonFrye.com) and fashion insiders (designer Zac Posen, “Mad Men” costume designer Janie Bryant and J. Brand founder and chief executive Jeff Rudes).

One of the more interesting panels, “Ways You Didn’t Know You Could Monetize,” got into the nitty-gritty of how the blog sausage is made. One way bloggers make money is through affiliates, or links, which allow them to earn commissions of 12 percent to 20 percent on purchases made through affiliate websites.

“We have bloggers who make more than $20,000 a month,” said Amber Venz, jewelry designer, blogger and founder of RewardStyle, a company that helps set up affiliate deals for bloggers to earn commissions just as personal shoppers do, for purchases made through their blogs with brands including TopShop, Net-a-Porter, J. Crew and Zappos.

“Getting money for stuff you’re writing about, does anyone think that’s not kosher?” Lauren Sherman, executive digital editor of Lucky, asked the panelists. (Bloggers must disclose when they are paid – in cash, products or perks – to write about a brand, according to the Federal Trade Commission Act. Most newspapers have strict policies against accepting kick-backs in exchange for coverage.)

“We’re blogging about what we want to blog about, not what an advertiser wants us to blog about,” said Kelly Cook, co-founder of Snob Global Media, founded in 2005, which encompasses several blogs, including ShoeSnob and BagSnob (the latter of which is launching a Chinese edition this summer). “I’m going to find something to blog about and chances are we’ll have an affiliate to click and buy it.”

Vanessa Flaherty, a former fashion publicist who is now director of brand development for Digital Brand Architects, a New York-based agency that represents bloggers, emphasized how new-media darlings can build their careers beyond the digital space, through TV, book, licensing and manufacturing deals.