To say that the Kardashians have influenced social media would be the understatement of the century. And to rattle off each of the staggering numbers of Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat followers they've individually amassed would just be lazy reporting. (But all combined, it's hundreds of millions of followers across several social media sites.) In short, these ladies aren't just "influencers," they're leaders, and what they say, wear, eat, drink and retweet becomes, sooner or later, the industry standard.
Say what you will about Kim, but she's always been the leader of the group, both in fame and in business savvy. She's nothing if not prescient; it was she, and not an industry giant like Conde Nast, which is still fumbling to deliver on its promise of an updated, e-commerce driven site, to see the value of tech as a tool to further wield her influence, and cash in it on. Kim was early to the app game, launching her own, aptly titled "Kim Kardashian: Hollywood", that Forbes valued at $200 million in 2014.
The name and the content itself a not-so-subtle play at the stuff of middle-America's dreams, and that longed-for view of Hollywood offered through the app isn't the only way the families Kardashian and Jenner have placed themselves on a stage for all the world to admire. Kim, as well as all the other siblings except the long-suffering brother Rob, are prone to oversharing, through their multiple reality shows and spin-offs as well as through social media. Kim has a habit of Instagramming the same makeup look or outfit from several different angles, while fans can keep up with Kylie's konstantly "evolving" face and hair looks, which she switches up with extensions and needles full of filler and posts voraciously. Kendall posts the least, but don't worry; you can see plenty of her on runways, ad campaigns and commercials aired nationally, as well as on the Instagrams of her famous friends, like pals Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne.
But now, four of the Kardashian-Jenner siblings have launched apps and websites, and they ain't free; most of the content is locked, meaning only paying subscribers can access it. It'll cost $2.99 per month for membership to each of the four new websites, and there's no package deal. (But like any drug, the first hit is free; each sister offers a free seven day trial membership.)
The locked content is marked with a totally on-brand Victorian-style skeleton key, but fear not; there is a smattering of free content that anyone can access. (This is a democracy, after all.) But it's mostly product recommendations that the sisters swear by; "must-haves" like moderately priced false eye lashes and leather jackets. And you better believe that each comes fully loaded with affiliate links, powered by RewardStyle, meaning the referring website, be it www.khloewithak.com or www.kimkardashianwest.com, gets a percentage from each sale that results from their references.
If content that was previously shared on free apps like Instagram will now come at a cost, will this be the end of over-sharing? Will Kim suddenly become more conservative on Instagram, saving her selfies for paying subscribers, instead of freebie loving cheapskates on social media?
Think about it: If I can get an "inside look" at the siblings lives on Instagram, a free app, why would I be inclined to pay a monthly subscription to see it in a slightly higher resolution? Or, to phrase it less delicately, why buy the cow if I can get the milk for free?
Now, the Kardashian/Jenners are not stupid. They're extremely cunning businesswomen, and they wouldn't have just dropped what is likely millions of dollars on sleek new websites and apps on a whim. They know that if they build it, paying clients will come.
So will Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat see a sudden exodus of users as they all flock to Kim's, Khloe's, Kendall's and Kylie's new websites and apps? Probably not, but it could change the way the famous family uses social media, and the kinds of things they post. Instead of consistently giving people what they want, they'll be more inclined to leave them wanting more, cleverly suggestive posting pictures that drive traffic to each respective siblings' website, where content will come at a premium.
And, for better or worse, what the Kardashians do, the rest of the world sooner or later does, too.
I'd be willing to bet that the Kardashians sudden monetization of their previously free content will effect the way Hollywood and the fashion industry at large uses social media as a means to an end - monetization - rather than just a medium of expression.
It remains to be seen who will be the first to apply the Kardashian business model and convert social media sway into more concrete revenue. Will it be a magazine, retailer, or another celebrity? (Bieber, I'm talking to you.)
My advice? Try to soak in as much free content as you can while it's all still free.
Or you could always just buy Kim's book, Selfish, for $19.95. Some of those photographs are said to be exclusives you won't see anywhere else, you know.