What It’s Like To Be A Watch Blogger After 2,500 Posts

What It’s Like To Be A Watch Blogger After 2,500 Posts

What Its Like To Be A Watch Blogger After 2,500 Posts   evolving the blog

A few days ago, aBlogtoWatch (formerly aBlogtoRead) hit the 2,500 posts milestone. It was only about a year ago that we celebrated our 2,000 posts milestone - with that really cool graphic I so enjoyed. In the last year a lot has happened over here at aBlogtoWatch - it still feels funny using the new name as it is less than a month old at the time of writing this. During that time I have been interviewed in a lot of places, referenced in some major magazines and publications, and more or less sort of went mainstream. One reason aBlogtoRead as a name was retired was because the site for years now really hasn't been the niche watch lover blog for horologists only, but something a bit larger.

Typically this would be the time when someone in my position would thank everyone involved, say it has been amazing, and promise you all sorts of cool stuff for the future. The more I read that stuff the less it sounds sincere. Of course everyone involved in the site such as my developer, designers, and the contributing writers are highly valued. And if I need to promise you cool stuff in the future - that basically means I have nothing planned. Instead of all that I am going to open up a little and briefly talk about some of the more difficult to understand elements of running a watch blog that even many of our most dedicated readers might not understand.

A good place to read more about the details behind what it is like being a watch blogger is the Ariel Adams AMA on Reddit. Reddit has a rather astute watch lover sub-Reddit over at /r/Watches. They asked me to participate in an AMA (ask me anything) session. It was a good opportunity to interact with more readers and clear up a range of questions, but there are a few more things I'd like to say.

A common complaint I get is that my editorial used to be a lot more harsh and brutally honest in the past. People have accused me of selling-out sometimes or accepting advertorial content disguised as reviews. Perceptions like that exist while at the same time many watch brands are fearful of even having me write about them. I have a "bad boy, loose cannon" image that has probably done me as much harm as it has good. So for you readers I am too nice, while for many brands I am still too mean.

That might be a trivial point of amusement, but its implications are very complicated. Advice from trusted people in the industry was basically "be nice and let brands love you so that you can make a lot of money." That is the game in watch media because the brands control everything. "Would you rather be respected or rich?" My response to that is consistently "I don't want to sell out because I don't need to." I do this because it is fun and it is my passion. And if I merely curtail my editorial to flattering the brands, it will destroy the reason people come to aBlogtoWatch in the first place.

Yes, we are supported by advertising. aBlogtoWatch is a full-time business and my full-time job. In fact it is more than a full time job and my lady will be the first to share that with you. We have a lot of different types of expenses and ongoing costs. Part of that is the money spent to travel to the major watch shows such as Baselworld and SIHH so that we can bring you lots of hands-on pictures and videos of upcoming watches and other cool stuff.

Having said all that, I will reaffirm that we don't take money to say nice things, ads aren't disguised as anything but ads, and the enduring mission of the site is to be independent and honest. Still, I thought about where I am going and where I have come from. Looking back I used to be a bit more harsh and brutal in watch reviews and discussions. There was never a conscious effort to be anything less, but I think that certain experiences caused a shift in my editorial behavior. Brands started to lash back, and in the relationship and politics rich industry that is high-end watches, it started to get sorta of bad.

First was my banning and un-banning from SIHH (in the same year) a few years ago. That was pretty noteworthy in the industry. Then, certain brands started to refuse to talk with me, telling their friends also to stop talking with me. It didn't really work to be honest because there was always people at those brands who wanted me to write about them, but I could see "the doors beginning to close." In watch journalism, the name of the game is "access." You need to get your hands on stuff in order to write about it. That isn't always an issue in other industries. If I was a tech writer, I could feasibly buy new stuff to review, or just visit Best Buy to check it out. That isn't really an option much of the time with timepieces. There are a lot of watches I write about that would never be accessible to me unless I was invited to see them. Just going to a store to view them would simply not be an option. Brands remain the gatekeepers for content, and without access, it would be a lot harder to offer as many reviews and hands-on articles as we do.

So I think that subconsciously, I made a value call a little while ago. I would be more diplomatic with the brands in exchange for increased access to ensure aBlogtoWatch readers received as good content as possible. It is probably the case that the editorial "severity" has since decreased. I miss it though, and I continue to find ways to say whatever the hell it is I want, while ensuring that I don't stab myself in the foot. I've never actually considered the advertising sale side in the tone of my writing. It is probably silly not to, but access to watches was probably more my goal. To those readers who sometimes feel disappointed by the absence of expletives when you know I probably want to include them, I feel for you. As I mentioned above, the toning down of my critiques was not actually intentional. Now that I've fully realized what has happened, I do need to find a clever way of inserting as much of it back in as possible, without great disturbance to the often delicate relationships we have with watch makers.

That isn't to say that all watch brands somehow treat us like dogs about to bite them. aBlogtoWatch has numerous close relationships with many of the world's best watch makers. They reward our readers by offering us exclusive news, and lot of great access that makes for killer content. My hope is that these relationships were built on the strength of the readers and what we offer to the overall industry as an independent source. The alternative is what many "luxury lifestyle" publications are, which is what is known as "pay for play." That means if you as a brand want editorial, you pay... and only then can you play. Brands love that. Why? Because while it might be expensive, it is predictable. Nothing is better to a sensitive luxury brand than absolutely knowing someone is going to say positive things about you. Not only that, but they are going to write the precise positive things you want them to say. Without trying to sound like a martyr in the making, my uphill battle has been to engender respect among the brands by writing intelligent and unpredictable things that add value to the experience of being a watch enthusiast, and genuinely helping people interested in buying new watches some assistance in how to go about making choices.

2,500 articles is a lot. About 95% of those were written by me and the rest by our contributors. That ratio is ideally going to change for the next 2,500 articles. Right now aBlogtoWatch has more writers than ever, and I want that number to increase, and to ideally grow the type of budget to pay each of them handsomely. The future of aBlogtoWatch is in the style of the content, as opposed a mostly single source for the content. We'd like to have 1-3 articles per day, and lots of related content such as videos, guides, and other media to absolutely harass you with cool stuff to buy or lust after. Or perhaps just to amuse and delight you. Maybe you can call that a web magazine, or something else. I am not sure, it will all just have to develop organically. When, is another question.

The biggest remaining industry challenge we face is not related to the nature of our content, but the medium. For over five years now I have been a major advocate of the "online watch industry." It was joke back then, and not even all brands had functioning websites. Flash forward to now, and some of the most conservative brands are selling watches online, and engaging in vast online advertising campaigns. But.... it is still a bit fresh. The bottom line is that the industry still values a print media and brick and mortar business model much more than "digital."

Who can blame them? I have to admit, I really do love glossy pages. However, the numbers don't always coincide with what is on the minds of the top guys in Switzerland. Readership of watch media online absolutely dwarfs that of print - including the non-watch focused luxury lifestyle publications. Nevertheless, the Swiss evolve - albeit at an arguably slow pace. The point of even discussing that is to mention that growth for top online watch websites is still something slower than one might expect given our traffic numbers. At least for the time being.

aBlogtoWatch has been a learning experience, a passion, an addiction, and a career. I still sometimes feel that I am simply cheating my way to handling watches I'd never otherwise be able to afford. I continue to read each comment left on the site, as well as tweets, Facebook messages, and comments on YouTube. If there was anything I could ask for it would be to get even more of those. Even the bad ones. Why? Well when I get a semi-dissertation length complaint on something that I did which a reader disagrees with, I am truly honored. That person feels so emotional about what I do, that they took the time to share what they feel with me. That is a big deal and I take them as seriously as I do all the praise.

It feels good to be where I am. I am proud of what aBlogtoWatch has become, and despite the fact that we can't please everyone, I think people are pretty happy - at least I am.

36 comments
Frank Geelen
Frank Geelen

Congrats Ariel, 2500 posts is a LOT. I'm also amazed by the pace in which the Swiss embrace the web or how they deal with online journalists (or bloggers). Somehow I get the feeling that we've just seen a tip of the ice berg of what is to come in that perspective. 

Congrats... and on to the next 2500 posts! 

Eric S
Eric S

Congratulations, Ariel! Have only read about half of your posts, but have thoroughly enjoyed both the content and your way with words. I also like that you like bigger watches, i.e. watches that appeal to me. Keep up the great work and here's to another 2,500 posts!

Jatlifefyre
Jatlifefyre

Thanks for the reviews of the mallee brands. I wouldn't have a Bathys, Christopher Ward or Jorg Graynif it weren't for your showcasing these brands. Even more important I know so much more about watches, thir history nd how they are made.

nateb123
nateb123

Honesty and transparency are what make this blog worth reading.  After reading this post, I can comfortably say that I don't expect that to change.  Thanks for all your hard work Ariel.

j01270
j01270

Congratulations on the 2500th post, Ariel.  I feel as if I know you because of A Blog to Watch and Hour Time and hopefully we will meet one day.  I look forward to more "honest opinion" but understand the dilemma you have.  Keep it within bounds but let us "read between the lines".  Another idea would be to let John Biggs give his "opinions" but that may not work as you two are watch entertainers!  Seriously, the best podcast I listen to! 

Zeitblom
Zeitblom

Oh yeah, and in case They are reading: many many of us are really getting tired of your bullshit about ``heritage'', which in most cases means that you want to jack up prices for being too @€@ing lazy to innovate. I'm starting to develop a strong distaste for you people, and starting to avoid your products instinctively. And your behavior towards Mr Adams strongly confirms that you have something to hide.

Zeitblom
Zeitblom

The great thing about this blog is that it offers an education in all of the smaller brands out there. I wish I had been reading this for a while before I went out and bought my (brand redacted ---- don't want to get you into trouble :-) ). Please do keep up the good work. I think it would be good to focus on telling us about brands like RGM or UTS that we might not have heard about, or even Zenith and Glashutte Original and Nomos, brands that we probably *have* heard of but didn't consider seriously enough even though they are as good as and better than (redacted) (redacted) and (redacted), and a hell of a lot cheaper.

AndyMorgan
AndyMorgan

Ariel, thank you for giving me a distraction from my online work each day and giving me an education in watches. My lack of suit at a Watch show recently in Osaka had some of the staff looking down at me, but when I opened my mouth their eyes lit up and I soon had their best watches offered to my wrist, two over $250,000. - I have you to thank. The Romain Jerome Moon-DNA Moon Dust Roswell Tourbillon, being a unique piece was especially cool to wear.

DougCarnahan
DougCarnahan

I love this website, my fiancee has to pry me from the computer some days so I can get anything done. I love looking through the older posts you made and reading about all the really eccentric timepieces out there. Im new to horology but I have a ton of respect for what you've accomplished here on this blog and really look forward to the next 2500 posts here on a blogtowatch. Thanks for being awesome Ariel. 

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

I also noticed that this was posted as a Sunday item. A day when non-watch review posts sneak in.Those less than mainstream but oddly interesting "fringe" posts (at least according to the orthodoxy of ABTW).

SN0WKRASH
SN0WKRASH

When I agreed to take you on as a client back in 2009, I had no idea I was actually tumbling down a crazy rabbit hole after a man with a gigantic watch professing to be late, only to emerge in this Watch Industry Wonderland complete with evil queens, monied Caterpillars and grinning cats.

The site has matured (I have the screenshots from mid-2009 if you need to see them), and you have matured as a journalist and as a man (I have pictures and video from mid-2009 if you need to see them).  When I first saw the site back then, I think the first words out of my mouth were “OH MY GOD THE ADS! I’M BLIND!” and the next words out of my mouth were, “Why isn’t it called A Blog to Watch?”  You then proceeded  to explain all and that there was this grand diabolical master plan to do what you love and eat at the same time.  Easy enough, I thought, let’s do this thing.

I had no idea what you were up against.

The art-form-level ability of the watch industry to shun that cat which does not incessantly grin is right up there with 14-year-old-girl cliques, the Amish, and my dysfunctional family.  Powerful.  I have witnessed your daily personal Horology Jihads and have hoped that one day you could write this article.

I don’t know if there’s a “Private Parts” movie down the road for you, but you’re doing something here and with this blog that drew me to work with you in the first place - you give us the show then pull back the curtain - and for those who look closely, you bravely reveal an honest story with blood on the page.  It’s why I take your calls at 3 in the morning, it’s why I plant Easter Eggs on your site about your omnipresent sexy arm hair shots you insist upon displaying under the guise of “watch reviews” and it’s why I am proud to call you my valued client and friend.  Keep calm and carry on :-)

Gee Z
Gee Z

Congratulations Ariel to a job well done! I probably read 95% of all your articles and enjoyed each one of them!

aBlogtoWatch - its about what makes us tick!

DG Cayse
DG Cayse

Well done Mr. Adams.

You are establishing your credibility with each arrow from the "Big Brands." To quote a time honored military maxim - 'You know you're over target by the amount of flak you're taking.' You are over target for your readers;and the 'Big Brands' see that. Its the internet age - they cannot control it as they can with ad $$'s (print media).

There are serious topics to be dealt with in the horological world - The rise of boutique brands, electric vs mechanical vs auto vs solar vs spring drive vs ?, the elephant in the room known as "replica" watches, the growing quality of the Chinese movements, the fact that as a US$150 (or less) watch is just as accurate and dependable as a US$6,500 Cholex and how that affects marketing, the topics are still out there. Some of these topics may be uncomfortable for the big players but they are are content rich for blogs such as this. And will remain so as the 5,000 marks comes along. 

Oh, and there is also a lot of fun things to be put out there. Ergo some of the, to myself, ridiculous horological interpretations you bring to your viewers. Just keep on keepin on.

Good fortune to You and Yours.

JasonDunn
JasonDunn

The name of the game is leverage, and right now the industry has (or thinks it has) all of it.  There are enough media outlets that do or easily could offer what Ariel provides that the watch industry can afford to play this game.  Advertising isn't much of a subject for ransom since there are so many web-ad providers that Ariel could simply replace those advertising blocks with generic Google ads, Google ads that would basically try to sell you watches anyway based on the search histories of the blog readers, a thought that would terrify me as a watch company since I could wield more influence over Ariel than I could over a goliath like Google.  Access is really the only leverage they have, but the industry needs to be careful as well since many brands rely on the concept of the "discerning buyer."  Blogs like this are where we come to get the details so that we can make informed watch-buying decisions.  It's also where we go to find out about obscure brands that we would otherwise never hear of.  Rolex, Tag and Omega won't see much value in giving access to a critical reviewer; they've been coasting along on brand recognition and product placement for decades now.  To them, Ariel probably represents a threat since an uninformed buyer (guys looking for bling) is likely to only know about those three luxury brands.  If they realized how many choices they had, it could seriously erode their market shares, particularly Omega.  Ariel will have to ride the fine line for awhile until the "cult of personality" effect begins to give him an advantage.  Once Ariel is known far and wide as the go-to source for luxury watch opinions, he'll be able to hold his own as an essential institution of watchmaking; brands will begrudgingly acknowledge him as a necessary cost of doing business, but until that time he's forced to play the game.

armenta
armenta

Many thanks for all the hard work you have put into this site. The heaps of fresh content that I get to pour over day in and out, provides a lovely respite from the daily grind. I am a relatively new reader, as I caught wind of your blog through the Hourtime Podcast, but I was a quick convert, and when I like something there is no going back. To another 2500 posts, and beyond. Congratulations Ariel!

SuperStrapper
SuperStrapper

Congrtaulations. As someone who can honestly say they've viewed most if not all 2500 posts thus far, I am genuinely looking forward to the next 2500 and beyond.

CG
CG

You are the window on the world of the watch industry, flung open wide... Keep it that way. I personally have learned and enjoyed more from your articles & reviews and the posters comments than most other places... Will you become the "John Stossel" of the industry? Revealing secrets, plots and fraud in the interest of the watch buying public? Being a watchdog for us consumers/collectors represents a heavy burden... You seem well up to the challenge. BTW the videos are getting better and better. Thanks for all you do.

JohnJRiedl
JohnJRiedl

You will never please everyone. Don't even try. Please yourself and let those who will follow do so. Otherwise you're simply chasing individual preferences, ill-founded opinions, and passing trends.

pingrava
pingrava

Ariel-

As a person who worships snark and sarcasm, I must say I do miss your former commenting style. But that's me. The upside is your reviews are the most objective and informative around..and ultimately, that's why I read them.

Unlike the magazines you do not fawn over ever bauble that comes out of Switzerland and affordable pieces receive the same amount attention  as the unattaible ones.

But there are other reasons why I love your blog:

A lack of  models in some sort of freakish James Bond/Aliens/vampire S&M rubber fetishphoto spread (c'mon...you know which magazine I'm tawkin' about..)

A refreshing absence of phots of George Clooney, UmaThurman, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz (and any Hayek progeny).

Minimal useof the word "audacity".

No pics of some overly serious watchmaker peering through a loupe.

In short - you have a reader for life - and not because I won a Bathys watch on this site. Do I miss the Longines Lindberg baby comments? Of course. But where else am I going to find serious reviews of littleknown watch brands and 400 dollar timepieces?

But please...please...give the green light on a Patek Phillipe ad caption contest.

Regards,

Pat

Ulysses31
Ulysses31

People aren't confused that it's a sponsored post when they see that written right at the top.  I just think people would prefer to see an article about a watch written by a human being and not an advertising committee.  Any reader here is more than capable of hunting down all the advertorials they would like for themselves, and the increasing frequency of posts like that, while needed to support the site are nevertheless irksome.  The biggest problem I had with the 'Refined Hardware' post wasn't that it was an advert but that is was a terrible watch trying to sell itself via hackneyed statements.  As for the rest, well it's a big achievement.  Twenty-five hundred posts over how many years?  Two or three I think.  One thing you get from ABTW that you don't from any other watch site is the entertainment, whether from Ariel himself or the comments below.  People here aren't afraid to say what they think and one would hope the snootier brands that shunned Ariel for speaking his mind would take note.  The industry cannot continue to exist in a social/political/economic bubble forever.  For many of us watches are aspirational items and it would make sense to able to acquire as much information and contact with them as possible.  That the desire for high-end watches doesn't even register with the vast majority of people is an indication that the brands just aren't doing enough to spread their message and expand their market.  The prevailing attitude for many luxury marques (in watches, automobiles etc) seems to be that if you want to make a ton of cash, go to China.  It might be an easier sale but the rest of the world shouldn't be neglected.  In conclusion, I wish Livefyre allowed paragraphs (!)

frankwhite
frankwhite

I agree with everything mark just said. I also think that a lot of people that comment on watch blogs(not just this one) are always itching to complain about something, especially the 40mm and under lovers. I rarely see comments from big watch lovers bashing a smaller diameter more conservative watch, but the small watch guys really seem to enjoy trash talking the bigger and arguably cooler watches. I also thought it was a little ridiculous that people were giving you a hard time for the refined hardware post even though it clearly said ssponsored post at the top. Anyway thanks for sharing, I really appreciate what you do.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

Great post. Thanks Ariel. Baring ones soul is a brave thing to d,o but telling your readers the tightrope you have to walk is a good  thing. Very ironic that you can be vilified by "The Brands" and the readers at the same time. A sort of comic tragedy in some ways.

I for one appreciate the access you have as otherwise it would be hard to get the information that you share online with your readers. I suspect the mainstream press and politicians do a similar tarantella of hope and mistrust. 

Cheers

Ariel Adams
Ariel Adams

Thanks Frank. That is good to hear from you. I think you are right that what we are experiencing is just the beginning of a new era.

nateb123
nateb123

@Zeitblom Agreed.  I find the Swiss claims of heritage particularly scoff-worthy since the English and Americans dominated the timepiece industry until the 1930s.  Look at any old 20s American pocket watch movement and you'll quickly realize that our standards have been lowered to embrace the Swiss level of quality.  There's a reason that all of the engine-turning machines which Swiss brands are now buying up were made in Britain or America.

Ariel Adams
Ariel Adams

Thanks. I get a kick out of what some of the smaller brads are doing that don't need to worry about "mass sales." It is like seeing the work of artists being creative all year long.

Ariel Adams
Ariel Adams

That is a neat watch - with the tiny skeletons on the dial right?

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@JasonDunn  

But than again you probably don't want him to become the Jeremy Clarkson (Top Gear) of the watch world either - where you are more  entertainment than a serious source of info. Cult of personality is a weird thing and can be wielded in various ways.Thanks for bringing that idea up. Hmmmm....useful or subject to other abuses of its own...I'll be wary when we start seeing black mock turtle neck shirts on Ariel and the posts with "one more thing". Ha ha.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@Ulysses31  

They do (support paragraphs).

I make them all the time. Just press the enter  key.

JasonDunn
JasonDunn

@MarkCarson @JasonDunn Yeah, it would ultimately harm him if he began trying to brand himself simply for the purpose of showcasing himself.  Recognition is useful for maintaining the balance of power in these odd relationships, but the appearance of objectivity and a serious attention to the craft can't be sacrificed to that end, or the serious readers and buyers will become disillusioned with their pied piper of the watch world and move on to the next blogger who thumbs his nose at the establishment.  There are many fickle and petulant debs at this ball; he's got to court them all, but ultimately leave them with the idea that each one stole his heart.

Ulysses31
Ulysses31

@MarkCarson @Ulysses31 Ah.  Didn't seem to work for me before.  Livefyre also doesn't appear to support foreign keyboard layouts.  Anyway, i'll give it a try next time - thanks.