RewardStyle is an affiliate marketing service offering popular publishers to make money out of editorial recommendations. Without informing the readership about the fact that what they click is actually paid advertising.

A less critical description could be that rewardStyle is one of the most interesting fashion-technology companies of the this decade. Texas Monthly recently published a profile on co-founder Amber Venz. It’s 6,000 words worthy of your time.

What’s not worthy of your time (nor the paper it was printed on), is this quote from reporter Francesca Mari:

HERE’S A THEORY about the rise of fashion blogging: in 2008 and 2009, during the dark days of the recession, magazines laid off employees left and right. Ad pages shrank, and, perhaps coincidentally, the brands that continued to advertise continued to be written about. Yet aspiring fashionistas, many of them unemployed millennials living with their parents, had plenty more to say. Blogger software was free and easy, so those young women turned to the Internet and started doing what magazines weren’t—mixing high and low brands and taking pictures that were rough and unexpected.

The evolution had nothing to do with recession nor advertising. Here’s what actually happened:

As a new generation of media consumers looked to traditional media outlets for guidance and inspiration, the bricks-and-mortar-media (myself included, at the time) failed to service this demographic. The newcomers were young individuals more familiar with expressions in imagery and text- and instant messages than in general journalism.

A technological evolution laid ground for a social media one and although traditional media outlets saw this whole thing coming from day one (again, myself included), it was too far from what they were doing at the time. Perhaps it was even too far from what was comfortable.

The audience wanted inspirational, authoritative and opinionated voices telling them what to do. Not because they couldn’t think for themselves but because self-expression was natural to them. Immediate, personal, recommending. Professional journalists, the primary source of content at the time (we’re talking 2005-2006) was taught to remain objective and stay far away commercial leads. The young demographic wanted “Buy this dress!”. Journalists wrote “Here are 10 dresses”. It may seem an almost undetectable variation but it gave birth to a new industry.

At that exact time the editorial staff of any quality magazine also withheld any content from the web until their respective print magazine had been in stores for weeks.

Boom. The last was generation lost.