Erica Bartle was working as the deputy editor of Girlfriend magazine when she began blogging in January 2007. “It was a new kind of snazzy platform that didn’t have a three-month lead time and gave me some creative scope and the ability to use my own voice.”
Girl with a Satchel curates magazine and media news, but also explores two issues close to Bartle’s heart: struggling with body image and sharing her Christian faith as she negotiates the ‘glossy’ media world. “I think those things that personally touch us negatively have to be harnessed for something positive,” Bartle says. “But over the last 12 months I’ve shied away from over-sharing, which can be detrimental for young women. It puts you in a position that can be quite vulnerable.”
Her openness obviously appeals to her 20,000 monthly readers. The loyal readership (and her Girlfriend credentials) attracted big-name advertisers “from the get-go”. Last year, iSubscribe volunteered to cover all of Bartle’s magazine subscriptions, eliminating one of her biggest business costs. “The site’s readership is a bunch of really savvy, media literate readers,” Bartle says. “Overwrought sponsorship arrangements or advertorial just wouldn’t wash with them.”
Fascinated by today’s professionalisation of the ‘personal passion’ blog, Bartle says it can be quite stifling. “Part of the appeal of blogs was the authenticity of the first person voice. Building that relationship with readers can definitely fall by the wayside if you get too money hungry.”
Bartle says she desperately wants to talk about her faith on the blog, but understands it poses a commercial problem. “I see my faith like a lovely box of chocolates, you just want to share with everyone. But I can appreciate that not everyone likes chocolate.”
Almost a veteran of the blogging industry, she says you have to set boundaries, like computers off after 7pm. Working from home (“and various cafes!”) has taken its toll on her marriage and health, and she recently took a step back to assess her blog and how it contributed to her life. With the help of other writers she knows and trusts, Girl with a Satchel hasn’t lost its following or its voice, and Bartle has come back refreshed and reinspired.
If you want to follow her path, Bartle says you have to have something to say, and the passion to say it consistently. “There has to be a motivation greater than ‘I want the world to hear my voice’.” Start niche, and be smart about where you direct your content and how you use social media, she says. “Set yourself deadlines. Have a mission statement. Honour good business and media practices. That will give you credibility and respect and contribute to your longevity in the business.”