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07/06/2020 The Communication Science magazine

Influencers’ biographies: publishers’ last hope or a great waste of paper?

Quite some influencers are launching their own biographies. But why telling your life story via printed media instead of social media? Medium sorts it out!


As the digital era blooms and the boundary between online and offline (not so slowly) fades away, a raising class has stepped on the stage, questioning norms and systems that no longer apply. I’m talking about social media influencers -bloggers, vloggers, YouTubers- whose primary concern is either photographing or videotaping their life and turning it into something public. 24/7. Nothing new, some might say, but there is a new trend among the members of the ‘online elite’: biographies. Printed documentation of their popularity. From Monica Geuze to Danique Bossers, here is how, just when everything seemed lost, influencers might be publishers’ last hope. Or the umpteenth flop. 

With the unrestrainable progress of online media platforms and the flourishing of social networks, incumbents such as the printing press struggle to float. The fundamental idea at the roots of Gutenberg‘s invention, the ‘entrapment’ of memories, facts, and fantasies on paper, is no longer needed. Not now that everything that is known it’s right there, just a click away. Why wasting money on school books, when PDFs can be downloaded for free? Why reading a book when special effects make everything much more real? Why limit ourselves to black and white, when Instagram and Facebook are all about colors and pictures just as when we were kids? All fair questions publishers seek to counterargument. At date unsuccessfully. 

How is that social media do not say enough (and the end might be close)
One of the best-known influencers of the Netherlands, Monica Geuze has over 275,000 followers on YouTube and even more on Instagram. Her posts – from videos to pictures, from songs to restaurants’ reviews – are a detailed documentation of her daily routine. But apparently, the urge to share goes beyond social media. A couple of years ago, the vlogger published a book, “My Way”, which could be considered nothing less than a biography. An exhaustive step-by-step description of Monica’s road to success that lead to a real publishing phenomenon. Followed by her colleague Danique Bossers, protagonist of “Work Hard, Play Hard”, the Dutch influencer launched a new trend. 

What do they need to tell people that followers don’t already know?

But why now that the printing press is losing its predominance and social media accounts are basically the new biographies? Is it a business strategy, a desperate attempt not to be blown away by the competition? Maybe. Or maybe as innovative profiles used to be what made influencers distinctive, now printed biographies are the way to stand out. But the question is, what do they need to tell people that followers don’t already know? Isn’t the all point of being a vlogger broadcasting any single detail of your (not so) private life? Apparently no. Furthermore, if biographies are supposed to be the documentation of somebody’s life, why is that influencers are writing them now, and not in thirty or forty years, as it used to be? Do they know something we don’t? Because if that’s the case, grab a pen and start writing people. The end must be around the corner. 

Influencers’ fear of being shelved
Now, going back to those answers publishers are looking for, these might be some plausible ones. It seems as if even those who feed on social media, recognized and fared the futility of the latter. The terror of being shelved, forgotten and replaced is something influencers experience daily. Their popularity is synonymous with uniqueness and a result of public attention. They are not stars, they do not shine with their own light. They need their audience, their followers, to choose them. And keep doing so. Thus this need they have to be remembered, bring them to write books. Paper ones. Because the tangibility of a page can be felt underneath their fingers, whilst thousands of followers don’t. A sort of concrete reminder that is not just a dream. 

But why do people buy those books? Don’t they already know everything they need to? Probably yes, but that’s not the point. Audiences purchase printed biographies to show their support. Just as people that buy their favorite singer album, even though CD players are not a thing anymore and Spotify has revolutionized the music market. It’s a statement, their way of manifesting their respect, their loyalty. 

So to conclude, it might seem unreasonable to you to buy a book whose content can be fully accessed on the Internet, or maybe not. Maybe you are one of those loyal supporters that ran to the closest book store (or perhaps on Amazon) as soon as “My Way” was published. But the point is, these influencers going back and forward thing, should definitely be interpreted as an opportunity by publishers. A chance they shouldn’t waste, especially now that they are swinging with a foot over the edge of the oblivion. Because influencers look back at the printing press, in the same way they hope the public will look back at them someday. And draw them under the spotlight. Again.

Cover: Levi Jones

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