“I never thought that I could make a living from writing”
At 26, Maria Ratzinger has managed to set up a successful company and is running one of Austria’s biggest fashion blogs in what is arguably one of Europe’s less fashionable capitals – Vienna.
At first glance, Vienna maynot exactly be a European fashion capital. The few who dare to have a more creative street style are rewarded with strange looks or even odd comments from the traditional Viennese.
When taking a closer look, however, there is a budding scene of fashion aficionados who meet at flea markets, creative fairs or pop-up stores. This scene, in part, has been enabled by more than 100 Austrian fashion, lifestyle and beauty bloggers who write about events, the latest trends and inspire their readers with personal style posts. Although she may not fit the fashion blogger stereotype of high heels, crazy hairstyles and the like, Maria Ratzinger is one of them.
In 2007, when Maria started her fashion blog Stylekingdom, the Austrian blogging scene was still in its infancy. There were hardly any blogs around and bloggers were not considered as valuable opinion leaders by companies. Maria managed to start a fashion blog that was votedas one of the “55 best blogs worldwide” by the German NEON magazine within one year of its establishment and was the frontrunner of a wave of Austrian fashion and lifestyle blogs. In 2011, she founded Austria’s first blogger relations agency, Modekabel Media.
Fashion blogger and entrepreneur Maria Ratzinger. Photo: www.dariadaria.com
“I just did it without thinking about it too much”
At the beginning, Maria had no idea that blogging and writing could turn into a career. The idea of a successful fashion blog was almost unheard of in Europe, let alone in Austria. But her passion for writing and her perseverance made her determined to build up her project without any external help, relying only on her creativity. “It was my dream to write about the things that I loved. Through my blog, I saw my dream come true,” she says.
It all started when the then 19-year old moved from the Austrian countryside to Vienna to study law. Soon, she realised that she didn’t enjoy her studies and that her true talent was writing, in particular about fashion. “I always appreciated fashion,” she says. “But I wasn’t a fashion fanatic. It was when I moved to Vienna that I realised how much I wanted to share this passion with the world.”
Maria didn’t have a mentor or a specific blog to get inspiration from and didn’t know what being a fashion blogger could mean. “Back then, I had no idea that there were journalist events or PR samples. I just wrote for the passion of writing. I did it without thinking about it too much.”
In early 2007 Facebook pages had not been introduced yet and Twitter was unheard of in Austria. “I had a Myspace account for my blog back then. I know that’s very old school now. But people found me there and on Google rankings, they liked what they read and returned. This is how I understood that my blog was going into the right direction.” Before long, companies started recognising the influence of bloggers on the public opinion and Maria got invited to press events. It was then that she got to know and understand the relationship between brands, advertising agencies and bloggers in Austria.
Fashion bloggers unite at FashionCamp 2012. Photo: www.dariadaria.com“If the product doesn’t fit with the blog, the campaign is not successful”
Throughout her career, Maria has had the opportunity to watch the blogging world develop and mature in Austria. “At the beginning, celebrity and gossip blogs were really big, because the bloggers stole paparazzi photos. When that became illegal, some bloggers were sued so these blogs quickly disappeared. Then came the fashion blogs, and we already have a few big names in Austria that were established then. And nowadays, beauty, lifestyle and food bloggers are growing,“ she explains about the blogosphere’s evolution.
With the changing readership and blogs moving from niche to mainstream, their number and overall quality increased considerably. Due to this development, Maria and the Modekabel team saw demand for organising a yearly conference for fashion, lifestyle and beauty bloggers in Austria – FashionCamp Vienna. In 2012, more than 100 bloggers attended the conference with special workshops and panel presentations on fashion, blogging and new media.
Having been part of the blogging scene for more than five years, Maria identified a gap. There was the need for a company to establish relations between bloggers and companies. Oftentimes companies contacted bloggers without knowing too much about them and their readership. “Also, companies often assume that if bloggers simply talk about their products, this will work. Well, that is not the case. If the product doesn’t correspond with the blog, the campaign is not successful,” she explains.
So, she started Modekabel Media to facilitate cooperation between bloggers and companies. Companies come to her with a product and she establishes the connection between them and the most suitable blogs in Austria.
Asked, whether it was difficult to set up the company, Maria jokingly admits: “No, it was really easy, because I registered it as an advertising and PR agency and it didn’t take too long. I even received a grant because I am a young entrepreneur, and that was fabulous.”
“I can make a living from writing and that is fantastic”
Ever since its foundation in 2011, Modekabel Media has managed to attract a number of important clients such as Gant, Museumsquartier or Steffl, a major Viennese department store. Earlier this year, the company was nominated for the category “onliner of the year” by Werbeplanung.at, an Austrian online digital marketing website.
Because her blog was so successful, Maria got the chance to do editorial work for Austrian mineral water brand Voeslauer’s lifestyle blog, as well as the website of daily newspaper Heute.at. In an era in which everyone deplores the lack of jobs in journalism, Maria is one of the few who has managed to succeed. ‘Today I can say that I can make a living from writing, and that is fantastic,” she explains. However, since her company is project-based, it is often unpredictable. “It is not easy, because I often work on projects and I can never know when the next project is going to come.”
Despite the difficulties, Maria truly enjoys her job and could never imagine having a 9 to 5 job in an office. “No, I wouldn’t want to work for a company,” she says. “Unless I was one of the shareholders.”
Looking towards the future
And what are her hopes for the future? Maria would like the scene to grow even more and to be free in order to be able to unleash its creative potential.
“I have no idea how the online world is going to look in the next five years and therefore I don’t know how blogs will develop inthe future. Looking back to the past five years, everything has changed and I am sure that everything is going to change again in a few years time.” All she can and will do is make sure that fashion and lifestyle bloggers in Austria are acknowledged, valued and understood as what they can be: opinion leaders and value creators.