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Anthroblogology - Monetisation in the Malaysian Blogosphere

Sticky post. Scroll down for the most recent post :-)
Hi and thanks for dropping by - this sticky post is to explain (a bit) the anthropological research I'm doing on Malaysian blogs and bloggers for a PhD in Social Anthropology at Monash University.

If you're a Malaysian blogger, or a blogger living in Malaysia, my research is about YOU!

Please read on if you would like to learn more about my research, give some feedback or even participate in the research. Otherwise, just skip to the post below.

Blogs mean many things to different people. Bloggers use them to share their opinions and life with everyone 'out there', to keep in contact with friends or make new friends, to practice writing, to make money, to share information about a hobby, and many other things. Although in Malaysia we hear a lot about the 'SoPo' bloggers, actually most blogs are not about politics, or being an alternative to the mainstream media. So I want to learn more about all the different bloggers and what their blogs mean to them, and - specifically - to see whether the opportunity to use their blogs to make money is changing anything at all.

Social Anthropology is about studying how humans' behaviour relates to their social and physical environment. The main method used by social anthropologists is 'participant observation': this means we participate as much as possible in the lives of those we are trying to understand, and we also observe - taking notes, doing interviews, surveys, etc.

For the 'participant' bit, I have to 'live the life of a blogger'. That's not too difficult really, as I've had a blog for more than three years now; but on the other hand I've never really attracted a significant regular readership - maybe it's because I don't always update regularly, or that the stuff I blog about doesn't interest many people. In any case, it sometimes feels like I have to do more to be a 'real' blogger.

For the 'observation' bit, what I do is look at blogs, and read the posts and the comments. Then I try to understand which bloggers talk to which bloggers, what they talk about, whether they know each other offline or not, and look for any other patterns that seem relevant. This means saving copies of posts, doing content analysis on comments and posts, following links to blogs of commenters, etc.

Here are some examples of the type of thing I'm thinking of:
BUM 2007 - the online event...
Bloggers allied
Blogin Hood
Remixing, blogging and authorship

Click for a formal explanation of what I'm doing, which I'll be giving to interviewees and other participants - when I get round to that stage of the research.

What do you think?

I'd really love to have feedback from anyone out there, as there are analytical and ethical issues that bloggers can help me with. In particular, here are some questions that I ask myself:

• Will a blogger mind if s/he finds out I've been storing all his/her posts for a month or more, and doing analyses on the topics covered and the way s/he interacts with commenters?
• Should I ask permission to 'observe' a blog in detail? And if the answer is yes, why? I mean, if a blogger wants to keep his/her blog private, why not just password-protect it? :-|
• Do Malaysian bloggers see themselves as helping a more democratic society, even if they don't blog about politics?
• Do bloggers feel that blogging is getting commercialised? Does it matter if it is?

... and I'll no doubt have many more questions as I go along.

Do you have any questions? You can send me an email or, even better, leave a comment below.


anthroblogia on : Intermittent blogging ahead...

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Sticky post. Scroll down for the most recent post Thanks for dropping by I am now in the process of writing up my PhD (and soon to be a father), and will only be able to do very intermittent updates of this blog for an indefinite period. Please exp


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hweicheng on :

I personally do not think that you're infringing someone's privacy by analysing and collecting data from their blogs. Blogs are published for the public to view. And there are no rules indicating that you cannot study their blogs. Like you said, if it is really that private, people can just password-lock their blogs. So i do not see why there is a need to ask for a permission.

Ohhh...yes...I really do think blogs are sooo commercialised these days. Why do you think Nuffnang existed? and why do you think the whole world 'serves' for Nuffnang? I see ppl worked or rather, tried so hard to increase their counter hit, just for some small return...I find it ridiculous sometimes...Does it matter? Not for me.

julian on :

Thanks for the feedback hweicheng :-)
Anyone else have an opinion?

synical on :

If it's already out there for other people to see, I don't think permission is necessary because the point of it being public is for other people to find it.

If people are getting paid to blog, good for them, I only wish I could do the same :-P

RK Boo on :

Although blogs are usually public, I think that you do need permission to publish your analysis of people's blogs. People may not mind you observing their blog, or even analyzing it.

But I think there may be a problem publishing your analysis without your subjects' consent. This is primarily because (I assume) you will be naming specific blogs, which takes away the anonymity of releasing group data.

Also, just because bloggers open their blogs for public viewing doesn't mean they open it for written analysis, which will be made public. Of course, you can argue your case that if they open it to the public, there shouldn't be any ethical issues subjecting it to written analysis, and then making it public.

I'd rather be safe than sorry though. :-) And I think it's only ethical to do so.

julian on :

Also good points, thanks
(ahem, I am trying to be non-committal in these comments, as you may have noticed :-))

Damien Tan on :

On your question "whether the opportunity to use their blogs to make money is changing anything at all."

Which constituent of change do you looking at? The advertiser's, the blogger's, the consumer's, etc?

Each side will have their own deltas I suspect, although in varying degrees. What would be interesting is to connect the dots and see if the macro picture is changing as a result.

julian on :

Hi, thanks for your feedback.
I'm focusing on bloggers really, though I do hope to talk to advertisers too. For consumers, I wouldn't really know where to start, but it would be relevant.
Hopefully I can contribute to a macro-picture, but I can't do it all myself ...

Foong on :

Hi, thanks for dropping by one of my blogs (Penang Views and News).

If you are researching into the commercialisation of blogs, you should be studying the pro-bloggers in Malaysia. There are quite a few of them and some of them are earning top money just from blogging (well, advertising money to be exact).

As a pro-blogger wannabe, I definitely don't mind my blog(s) being studied and scrutinised and then made public in an analysis. Heck, it is free publicity for me and I need all that I can get if ever I am to be a pro-blogger.

On another note, there are also bloggers who blog for the sake of blogging and expressing their views for all the world to see.

I started out as that but later realised that if I could make my blogs pay for the hosting costs & internet connection costs, then I'd be doing it free without depending on Blogger.

Finally, I realised that there are people earning a living just blogging and I wanted to do that too and I suspect a lot of other bloggers think like that too.

Good luck with your project. ;-)

Foong on :

Me again...forgot to add that commercialising my blogs does not change the way I blog or what I blog about, only difference is that there are more ads on my blog.

julian on :

Thanks for the feedback!
I will be looking at pro-bloggers in Malaysia, though I'm concentrating more on pro-blogging as an activity that some bloggers do, rather than bloggers who classify themselves as 'pro-bloggers'.

Cyren on :

Hello Mr. Hopkins.

You seem really familliar to me though I cannot seem to place it at the moment...

no matter, thanks for the baby joke. And also, to your first question, i think the blogger should be flattered (if anything) that someone would take an interest in their blog to that level.

Your second question (as you have pointed out) is rather pointless I believe as public blogs are made to be...well public. And I suppose people who get mad should really check out the meaning of the word public in the dictionary...that or perhaps password protect their blogs.

So no harm done in that aspect. I mean, someone who runs around KL in a public display of flamboyant nudity can hardly blame others for taking pictures...

As for your question on contributing to a democratic society...well I suppose at every point of their blogging lives people will blog about something that is politically related...even if indirectly. Take environmentalism or...that little whiny ranty post about the petrol price increase and (when it went down) how they are "not beggars so don't expect them to be grateful about the price decrease" or something like that.

Of course you have people who, on the surface, seem to blog about nothing but their shopping sprees, or their boyfriends and what not. But at the same time, I'm sure if you look really deep there will be ammounts of politics in it and perhaps (very subtle) cries for democracy or what not.

I suppose it's just to what extent people do it.

Also, I'm inclined to believe that democracy is not exclusively bound within the confines of politics (or is it? I am not sure really).

Blogging getting commercial. I suppose so. I think we all would love to get paid (if even a little) for what we like to do. As for whether it is bad or good...

well there's a place where I draw the line. If osmeone puts up an add widget and gets paid when people click on those adds...I suppose that's fine. You're still blogging about what you normally blog about it's just, if someone incidentally is interested in teh add and clicks get a little income.

What i think is "bad" is when people go around to other people's blogs saying "CLICK my ADDS!" . Usually I just ignore these. This part is a little difficult to explain.

It's one of those things where, if your blog is solely for advertising, then by all means advertise. However if your blog was made for expression and yet advertising has become such a big part of it...then well...perhaps you have corrupted the very nature of your blog.

Then again, "bad" and "good" are all very human constructions with no superhuman authority behind it. SO...even I am not quite sure where I stand in all this. Then again, I suppose I am not in dire need of money so...perhaps even if I do not get paid for putting up nuffnang widgets (and I haven't...not a single cent) it doesn't quite matter to me.

Hope you understood the last bit.


arif on :

hey this is arif from nuffnang sharing session...i was gonna come up to you and ask you about what you actually really do (because doing a phd in blogging is SERIOUSLY interesting) but then i was too busy talking to everybody else...haha...

the sharing session was fun though...but a tad too short...obviously...

maRCus on :

Heys Julian,thnx for nanging my post! nice read here, keep it up! XD

maRCus on :

OMG, JUlian, reading what arif said, i just realized you were at the bloggers meet YESTERDAY!! Gosh. haha. sorry didnt have time to mingle arnd and say hi.

But i guessed you were diligent because you took notes and everything. :-)

Well, just you know, i did my degree thesis about new media, and how the relationship of people online can affect everyday, normal lives. (It can, very drastically, at that). It included study on blogs, online social networks, forums, and youtube.

in a way, those are new media, and i can relate to your research. Way to go! :-D

Ill contact you later, now gtg do stuff. all the best yah! :-D

julian on :

cyren - argh! Sorry I though I had answered you already. Thanks for the detailed comment!

arif - me too I was enjoying talking to everyone :-) If you keep an eye on my blog hopefully you can get some ideas about my research. You can also try clicking on 'anthropology' or 'field work' in the tags.

maRCus - yep New Media is what it's all about, would love to talk more about your thesis with you some time :-)

3POINT8 on :

My opinion to the questions that you ask yourself:
1) If you are storing post and doing analysis for personal purpose, I suppose it is alrite. However, if you are planning to publish these findings, I wouldn't be surprise if your subject(s) make a fuss about it.
2) Though not necessary, I believe it is courteous to seek for permission. (also, I believe you are assuming that every blogger are techie enough to know how to password-protect their blog, which may not be the case)
3) No comment (though I would assume that most personal blogger are not aware of the potential impact they bring to the political scene)
4) As a blogger myself, I do feel that blogging is getting commercialized. Generally, something that is commercialised tend to do better than when it is not. In a way, blogging can be seen as a thriving industry.

The following are why commercialization matters.
Social wise:
the younger generation may use blogging as a medium to collect data as well as to express opinions (which may render hard copy megazines, or newspapers obsolete) Also, this RSS feed function may further segregate the knowledge-hungry ones from the ignorant ones creating potentially creating a society with 2 distinct types of groups (The 'smart & resourceful' ones and the 'not so knowledgeble' ones) (an anology would be poor countries where rich are way too rich and the poor are way too poor)

Economic Wise:
Since the blogosphere is getting bigger and bigger, I would imagine that we will be facing a new type of problem never been faced before. (In the past, information is deemed valuable and scarce mainly because flow of information is not as efficient as today) In the future, we may have a problem with information overload and information dumping. A blog requires space and energy (transfer of data through cable) to maintain. These space and energy cost money.
If blogs were to be commercialise, we can safely assume that more blogs will surface. Out of these blogs, a certain percentage of them are deemed to be useless (because they do not serve a function) Assuming there are no one to clean up all these useless blogs, money will be wasted on space and energy required to maintain them.

[btw, all these are speculation from a kid who doesn't have any proof to back up his thoery]

julian on :

Hey thanks for the detailed comment! Sorry I don't have time to answer now, (in Laos), but I'll read it properly when I gte back. Much appreciated :-)

julian on :

- I think you're right about asking permission, it's common courtesy really. It can get difficult for comments though, and for the few bloggers who don't make it possible to contact them (that's a really small minority though).
- I also think that the issue is becoming more about a surplus of information, and how to manage it. People with the best ability to access and contextualise (make relevant to them) information are those who are the most likely to succeed.
- I also wonder what will happen to all that data out there; when will they start deleting Google caches or those servers with data ten years old? At the moment, memory prices keep going down, so it's not an issue, but at one point it will be an issue...

Thanks again for the thought-provoking input! :-)

kruel74 on :

Hai there Julian. WOW, a PhD on blogging. New topics which might help latter anthropologist to discover what poeple did in 21st century for fun and communication. I believe people nowadays are concern too about their legal rights on blogging. Although my line is legal I don't do much defamation work but I do have cases regarding defamation in the pipeline. Currently using blogging to let off steam but may turn it into a business blog later. More into writing though and am worried about copyright and such as my firm is doing IP on the sideline. Gonna follow your blog from now on and do tell of any seminars and such.


julian on :

Thanks for the comment. I posted about blogging and defamation recently; I'm sure cyberlaw is an upcoming issue worth taking on!

jolenesiah on :

RYN: ty for visiting my blog.. sometimes i bring my own tupperware sometimes i bring tiffin.. :-D

well my example just make 1000.. lol too much zero to type... but i do hope ppl get my point about the Styrofoam food container...

julian on :

Hopefully they do, but it takes a lot to bring people to give up small comforts...

That NuTang thing is interesting, need to look more into it.

renaye on :

thank u for visiting my blog, julian!

but recently i'm pretty happy to see some office people at my office area bringing their own tupperware to ta pau! i guess small efforst do count! and it's not easy to give up on small comforts.

Your Qs>>>>

Will a blogger mind if s/he finds out I've been storing all his/her posts for a month or more, and doing analyses on the topics covered and the way s/he interacts with commenters?

>> personally as a blogger, i don't mind people storing the posts and such but still consent is needed since this is no difference than doing a survey asking for opinions. and it's also safe on ur side to let bloggers know u r doing a dissertation research not some stalking activities.

• Should I ask permission to 'observe' a blog in detail? And if the answer is yes, why? I mean, if a blogger wants to keep his/her blog private, why not just password-protect it? :-|

>> haha. i personally think whatever online is not private anymore. it's already a license for readers to read or abuse anyhow they like indirectly.

• Do Malaysian bloggers see themselves as helping a more democratic society, even if they don't blog about politics?

>> haha. are we? i personally think bloggers are just showing how a democratic society works when freedom of speech and expression is given rather than helping a more democratic society. but indirectly yes we are. and yes why not? people now have more freedom to read whatever they like and want thanks to the proliferation of blogs in this world. and this growth is also potentially dangerous when people nowadays tend to believe more in blogs than the mainstream media. and it doesn't matter whether we blog bout politics or not. even a gossip is lethal to a superstar or some MNC.

• Do bloggers feel that blogging is getting commercialised? Does it matter if it is?

>> yes. too commercialised. everyone including the politicians is now jumping into the bandwagon. it's too overcrowded but i don't really feel the effect since i still get a steady number of visitors.

i hope i have answer ur questions appropriately.

julian on :

Hiya and thanks for taking the time to answer the questions :-)

The 'stalking' effect is the one that other people have mentioned too.

Samantha Chow on :

In reply to your 1st & 2nd question, whether the blogger minds or not it's not really relevant. Whatever you've put on your blog is made public and the blogger should understand that before simply posting something, that anyone from anywhere can access to it & no doubt it's able to resurface ages later.

But then it'll be really good if you could inform the blogger that you are 'studying' and analyzing their blog, so that they would be aware of it. However it might slightly alter the way their blog, knowing now that what they say or put up are critically analyzed :-P

Third question, yes I think so. Because we now have a portal (the internet) to more fully express ourselves and help spread information & news rather than depending fully on the other media.

And yes blogging's getting commercialized. Almost every blog has an ad, & ppl tend to blog abt outrageous topics w/out thinking whether it's a sensitive topic/thing to say, just because they want to attract more visitors.

I guess it doesn't really matter because what we bloggers want in the end is more people to read and appreciate our efforts in creating blog posts, & to earn some cash as well.

Hope this helps.

julian on :

Thanks for the feedback Samantha. I did decide in the end to tell the bloggers that I am tracking them closely.

ahlost on :

seems like you've answers to certain questions written there ;-)

Anyways, all the best for your research ;-)

julian on :

Thanks :-) Some answers, but sometimes these just mean more questions! Sigh... :-|

Angie on :

There must be something wrong with the date you posted the thing...

julian on :

No it's a sticky post :-) It's been up here for almost a year now. You see, for research ethics this means that I am not trying to dissimulate myself and pretend to be a 'normal' blogger when in fact I am recording and analysing a lot of what I see.

NaDNeuRoTiC on :

-I don't think blogger would mind if you store all their posts and maybe to some of the bloggers it is flattering that people actually do care about what they have to say.

-Yes, u should ask their permission first to view their blog in more detail because maybe they like people reading their blog and such but still, to observe, its more appropriate to ask permission. You don't want people to call you a pervert do you? ;-)

- No, malaysian bloggers didn't see themselves as helping a more democratic society, even if they don't blog about politics. I mean, not all bloggers blog to express their thoughts about politics. People blog about what interest them, and if politics is in their field of interest, then maybe they're helping people to understand about their political view but not to help democratic society.

-Yes, bloggers feel that blogging is getting commercialised and some bloggers sees it as an oppurtunity to spread their talent in writing or even to make money. As for some bloggers like me, I feel that it doesn't matter if its commercialised or not, because bloggers write to express themselves and wants people to share the experience.:-)

julian on :

Thanks NaDNeuRoTiC :-)

AleTheElf on :

Hello!Great site!I love anthropology!Greetings from Italy,Ale.

hilm96 on :

hello buddy, Great site ! I love anthropogu and make money like magic

julian on :

AleTheElf - Ciao! Grazie per la visita!

hilm96 - Thanks for the good example of how comments are used to both to open up conversations between bloggers, to drive traffic to one's blog, and also as a direct means of harnessing key words to funnel traffic. :-)

sarah on :

it's very interesting topic in different angle (anthropolgy) scope.I guess it is something new for academic research which involving human how is it going? am from malaysia too and thought of doing PHD research on new media content too or related to new media contents policies.upcoming researchers or scholars like you might have differents points of views.what is your suggestions?is there is something left in new media issues?would really appreciate ur comments,julian.

julian on :

It's going slowly, thanks :-) A lot to do with limited time...

There are lots of things left in New Media - the main difficulty, if you're starting a PhD, is choosing something that will still be relevant when you finish, in 3-6 years time!

Some interesting areas would be: Twitter, Social Network Analysis (SNA), cross-cultural comparisons of new media use, mobile internet, education...

Actually there are many! Please contact me via the contact form if you want to talk further.

Honey on :

I love the first cartoon

julian on :

Thanks for dropping by :-)

nasriza on :

drop here to say whatzup...

aminjohar on :

To have blog, need to learn. To earn money from blog also need to learn. Blogging also need to work harder..

So, nothing is easier in our life.. :-D

julian on :

Yes, many people think it's easy to maintain a blog (difficult enough), and then to make money too is not easy at all.

Beth Charette on :

I am having a bit of difficult with the referencing system here.

For example,please disregard the "in reply to" designation. #26 doesn't mean too much to me. I've searched for that number on the blog without success.

I believe what you are doing is noteworthy and would like to participate.

However, in order to do that, I am going to need a bit more in the way of direction, especially in terms of how to navigate the site and the type of inputs that would be relevant to your study.

With regard to the sketch above, my feeling is that it generates a lot of psychological energy relative to blogs.
My first image was one of a God exacting judgment on earthly powers.

That would seem to me to be appropriate relative to the impact bloggers have had throughout the world. For the first time, each individual has the power that once only very wealthy individuals had.

It's almost as though each blogger has the power of a William Randolph Hearst in miniature.

If we can get more traffic coming to this site, the site will begin getting closer and closer to William's idea of power.

I remember a humorous story about William Randolph Hearst.

He was speaking in the Senate when he said the following. "I believe this Bill is ruff. R-U-F-F.

Another member of the Senate rose to his feet and said, "Why should we listen to a buffoon who can't even spell the word rough."

Heart rose in reply, "Honorable colleagues, why should we listen to a moron who only knows one way to spell ruff, R-U-F-F?"

julian on :

Hiya thanks for dropping by. The numbers are not displayed, but the name is - but if you just want to add a comment rather than reply to anyone specific, you can just choose 'Top level'

I've actually come to the end of my data collection now (I did a survey in April, interviews, etc.). But any thoughts and ideas you have on the monetisation of blogs are welcome. You can go here for some of the results of the survey:

zuwairiaiman on :

hope for the best for all bloggers out there

julian on :

Yup :-) Thanks for dropping by!

SaifulPenipu on :

Helo,nice blogging,nice info,erm ingin mengetahui kisah misteri,pelik tapi benar ? jom ke blog saye ni di ,ok bye.....

Jebat Haziq on :

Its not weird anymore when blogging make you closer for each other. However you need to realize between reality and fantasy :-)

julian on :

Everything is real, but not always reciprocated...

rahmanlew on :

Nice Blog…
Program latihan Motivasi Dato’ fadzilah kamsah

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