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Profit Blogging Bootcamp - Meeting for money?

Well, I signed up for a "Profit Blogging Bootcamp" workshop with Asia Online Mastery. It is free and I kept on seeing the ads in the newspaper, so I finally gave in to temptation :-)

Their headline on the ad is:
"Discover How I Made USD 36,322.57 On The Internet in ONE MONTH And How YOU Can Do It Too"

Well, I suppose he did do that at least once, but I'm sure it wasn't in his first month, anyway :-)

I was speaking to someone the other day who had started a blog because she had been reading another blog that was successfully making some money. Like many others, more than a year down the line she had yet to reach her USD100 Adsense payoff point. It reminded me that it's not unusual for people to start blogs to make money - I have no statistics, but I have been told that more than once, and seen it online.

However, the most popular blogs in Malaysia were not started to make money, maybe just because when they did start, that was not an option. I wonder how it will be in five years, when people starting blogging now have the examples of leading bloggers who get four-figure sums for blogging, invited to events, freebies, etc. It's definitely true that people are more likely to follow what others do (though of course they adapt, and some people are truly innovative): so when five years ago blogging was mostly defined by people talking about their life, often anonymously - or at least without having met each other - now, blogging is seen by many as a means to become something of a celebrity, and meeting up with other bloggers is more commonplace and, in many instances, facilitated by other interested parties.

Here's an interesting quote from a paper by Reed - it is a quote from a blogger who describes the first time they meet up:
"At ?rst we sat there on this table looking at each other in stupe?ed silence, slightly nervously, and then someone just went ‘you know what you wrote the other day about Princess Diana, that’s so completely true’, and then suddenly the conversation exploded. I think the weirdest thing about meeting people face to face is how normal it feels very swiftly."

Anyway, back to the workshop this evening. It is free, but I wonder what they get out of it? I suppose they will try to sell some extra training package, or something. Anyway, I'm sure it will be interesting, and I'll meet more bloggers :-)

*****
Reed, A., 2005. ‘My Blog Is Me’: Texts and Persons in UK Online Journal Culture (and Anthropology). Ethnos, 70(2), 220-242.

Blogging and constitutive practices

I use the term 'constitutive practice' quite often, but I'm not sure where I got it from - it sounds very Bourdieu-like though.

Basically, what I mean by it is that some things we do have a tendency to promote regular practices that in turn shape the 'habitus' (i.e. the dynamic collection of habitual practices that become normalised and taken-for-granted): it is very relevant to the study of the interaction of technology and culture.

A classic example could be the handphone and the appointment. Think of meeting up with someone twenty years ago: you arrange a time a couple of days before, and then you turn up. If you're late, you can't call them or anything and so you make a real effort no to be late. Fast forward to 2009 - you make an appointment, and if you're late what do you do? Text the person and tell them you'll be late. So, one can argue, the availability of the handphone means that people are more likely to be late to meet up, or cancel rendez-vous more easily.

Well, I don' t know if that's precisely the case, but it's possible. It's not the phone itself that is encouraging anyone to be late, but the practice of using it in a particular way.

The reason I mention this is because there's one particular practice relating to blogging that I think may have particular effects. One of the key requirements for a successful blogger is to do regular postings, I discussed once before how part-time bloggers have to find ways of managing their time, but ever since I have tried to make a point of blogging every day, there's something else I've noticed.

Blogging every day is not easy! :-O In fact I missed out on Saturday and Sunday because I had things to do, although I started this one yesterday. When you have to blog every day, finding something to blog about can be difficult, as well as finding the time to do it. So, one solution is to do shorter posts, and to blog on relatively simple matters.

One solution is using photos: put up three photos that tell a short story (meal at a restaurant, meeting with friends, attend an event) and link them together with short captions and narrative.

Another solution is something like what I'm doing here: writing quickly on a random topic, not worrying too much about the details or quality of the post. I'll be thinking something like: "As long it's not completely crap, it'll do. In any case, I'll have another chance to write a better post another day - some will be good, some not so good."

Another solution is to use content from another source - a newspaper article or another blog, for example. If it's done well, this can work, but too often some blogs just become a series of reproduced material. In fact there are some services that will send you stuff to blog on every day, something I'll talk about another time.

So, I can conclude something like this: as a technology, blogging lends itself to being done by an individual (as opposed to a newspaper, for example); the content also tends to be more time-sensitive - i.e. whatever you post goes online quickly, and after a day or two it's already old. So, regular short posts make practical sense. These regular short posts are the constitutive practice - the habits they induce are: a more informal tone, a less rigid quality control, the use of photos, and subject matters that are not too complicated or, at least, fit the readers expectations.

The last point may need a little more explanation: what I mean is that if the blog post has a relatively simple content, the reader can grasp it quickly and enjoy it. Rather like an advertisement, the message of which needs to be grasped in a few seconds. But this is not to say that all blogs just have brainless content - the specialist blogs cater to a niche audience that knows the subject well (e.g. photography) and can go straight into the topic; the SoPo blog addresses known issues and gives one slant to it; the emo blog moans about life; the personal blog discusses friends and parties; and so on.

The 10 types of commenters


By now, anyone who reads this blog should know that I find the comments of blogs to be one of the most interesting things about blogs. So, I thought of doing a rough categorisation of different types of commenters (by the way, I know it’s meant to be ‘commentators’, but I just don’t like the sound of it…).

They are categorised in relation to position they take to the post and/or the blogger, and also their ‘Identifiability’ - i.e. how much information they leave about themselves.

The Firster
(aka Kiasu Commenter) Loves to be the first to comment. This phenomenon is restricted to a few high readership blogs. (Interestingly, according to one of my respondents this practice originated from Slashdot.org; does anyone have any thoughts on that?)
Examples:
‘Yay, first!! Na na nananana :p’
‘FIIRRRRSSSTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!’
‘NoOOooo – I tot I was 1st but den by the time I post some1 beat me oledi :(‘

Identifiability: High – probably not anonymous and probably leaves a link.

The Follower
May overlap with the Firster; will leave comments that say little more than ‘I was here and I think you’re cool/cleve/correct’.
Examples:
‘Haha lol this one so funny lah’
‘ROFLMAO you brighten up my day haha’
‘Once again you have nailed the issue. My hat off to you!’
'Interesting - never thought of this

Identifiability: Has name and probably links to blog.

The Hater
A version of the classic Troll, but distinguishes him/herself by never missing the chance to insult the blogger, whatever the post is about. It’s impossible to know if it’s the same person coming back, or not, because s/he always posts anonymously, or uses a pseudonym such as ‘Blogger_is_a_fugly_bitch’.
Examples:
‘You’re a fat idiot’
‘F**k you pathetic fool’
‘I hope you choke on your cigarettes, you poor excuse for a human’
‘Your thighs are fat and you have to photoshop out your ugly zits, I know because a friend saw you at the mall’
‘You’re a disgrace to Malaysians/Chinese/Malays/Indians/men/women/penguins…’

Identifiability: Lowest – typically anonymous and has no link. Continue reading "The 10 types of commenters"

The Part-time Blogger


The great majority of bloggers are 'amateurs', or perhaps 'part-timers' is a better way to put it. They blog in their spare time: students have more time to do this of course, but at the moment the leading bloggers in the Malaysian blogosphere are working adults - typically working in an office in some kind of executive/managerial position. To be noted however is that many of them started blogs when they were students.

Few are those like liewCF who "made the jump from hobby blogging to blogging as a full-time, successful career." (here): as such, he is the epitome of the 'problogger', i.e. a professional blogger. Another leading figure in the Malaysian problogging scene is 5xmom who manages to combine the full-time job of parenting with maintaining five different blogs.

In a sense, I am also a 'problogger' - or fulltime blogger - in that my work at the moment revolves all around blogging - but at the same time that's not all I do. I have to read blogs, write blog posts, and keep up to date with developments in the blogosphere, while at the same time managing the collection of data and trying to put it all into an academic context.

One thing I have noticed recently is that some bloggers will be up and blogging early in the morning: I try to start about 6.30-7am, and I notice that some other bloggers are also 'out and about' at that time. So, my guess is that the part-time blogger will do something like this: get up early to write a post and check out other blogs (using Google reader, for example), leaving comments when desired; go to the office and keep a track of comments using either the office computer or a handphone/mobile device; maybe dash off a quick post during the day if time and work permits; in the evening, perhaps some event beckons - a product launch, dinner with friends/bloggers, etc; after that, go home and download photos - blog if time permits; go to bed.

So - a warning to all - if you think it's easy to blog, make money, become famous and get invited to events with free booze and delectable eye-candy, think again!

How about you? How do you fit your blogging into your daily life?

Advertorials and the blogger

OK, must blog every day right? A quick one before supper, dog walk, and bed. Hmm... will pour myself a little nip of whiskey first though :-) Reward at the end of the day :-)

I finally selected the ten blogs I want to focus on. It was difficult as there are so many interesting blogs out there, and all with useful aspects: in the end, my decision is based pretty much on popularity (i.e. the blogs with the highest visitors) and relevance to Nuffnang. It feels bad to let go of some others though.

I mean, one question is - is it a good idea just to look at the most popular ones? Aren't the less popular just as important, or maybe even more so, in revealing everyday practices of bloggers? Just like if I want to know more about Malaysians, I wouldn't just look at the lives of the rich and famous right? Argh, now I'm wondering all over again... My real problem is time - i.e. I can't track everyone, and I need to focus on those who do advertising, advertorials, etc.

I will also track (but less diligently) other blogs, and of course the comments in those I do track (the 'A-listers') will give insight into how bloggers/readers react.

On that note, here's something I was wondering about today:

When there is an advertorial, normally the blogger indicates that it is one - for example by putting a tag, or prefixing the post title. However, advertorials are usually written in the blogger's usual style, and typically they start like an ordinary post, but by the time you get to the end, it's quite clear it's an advertorial. On one post I read today, the blogger had forgotten to put the tag in and two commenters asked 'hey is this an advertorial or not?' - the blogger responded in the comments and put in the tag which s/he had forgotten. So, there was an example of readers wanting to know if the post was an advertorial or not.

This got me thinking a bit: do different readers of blogs respond differently to advertorials? I have seen readers criticising the blogger, praising the advertorial, asking about the product/service being profiled, and just ignoring the fact it's an advertorial.

It's my guess that - depending on the blog - the readers will respond differently. In Blog X - readers who are used to seeing the blogger try out different ways of doing an advertorial may comment on the quality of the advertorial; in Blog Y - which has lots and lots of comments, there are always some who disparage the blogger and use the advertorial to make accusations of selling out, etc; in Blog Z - the blogger makes more of an effort to discuss the product with the commenters.

I suppose, in a way a blog is a mini-microcosm of social interaction, coloured by and dominated by the blogger. Therefore the regular commenters will reflect that persona to a certain extent. So a blog will shape its readers in some manner, while they also shape the blog/blogger... The advertorial comes in as a specific genre that will get more or less reactions, depending on how the blogger presents it, and how much that diverges from the usual style/content of the blog. Which would also explain why an advertorial in a SoPo blog would be quite out of place; but one in - for example - an automotive blog - would hardly be noticed.

Decisions, decisions: ethnographic focus

I have to blog everyday!! Two reasons:
• As an anthropologist, I need to keep a diary to record thoughts and impressions. Later on, I will refer back to these when writing up my theses.
• As a blogger, I should update regularly. More importantly, as a blogger who is focusing on 'personal' or 'lifestyle' blogs, I need to write about what I'm doing, giving that personal aspect to it all.

And, I am falling behind in my schedule for my research and getting pretty stressed :-O Need.To.Work

Argh!

So, anyway, I have decided to focus only on lifestyle/personal bloggers who have Nuffnang ads. I will not ignore other blogs, but I am finding that the work of tracking blogs takes up a lot of time - about four hours a day or more. Normally I wake up around 6am and am at my computer before seven; typically, with a break for breakfast, I will be reading blogs, archiving, and writing notes until lunchtime. During this time I may or may not have the time to write a post myself. In one month, I have archived 362 posts! This is a lot and basically, I need to focus. So - no SoPo and only Nuffnang.

Why not Advertlets bloggers? Well mainly because I have been with Nuffnang since starting, and I prefer to have the 'Glitterati' status (which means I can't have Advertlets ads) to improve my chances of getting invited to Nuffnang events. Also because the biggest bloggers seem to be with Nuffnang.

Why not SoPo? The two main reasons are: 1) they are not the focus of my research; 2) They don't carry ads (usually)
Exceptions to the last point are Screenshots... and Che Det (for those who don't know, the latter is the ex-Prime Minister of Malaysia's blog, Dr Mahathir (aka TDM))

Interestingly, for those who wonder how much money can be made by blogging, here are the details of Che Det's advertising rate: the minimum is RM300 a day, and the top banner is RM1000/day. So, he can make RM30,000+ a month. That is a lot of money! For non-Malaysians, consider that the Malaysian Trade Union Congress is asking for a minimum wage of RM1,200/month.

I doubt that even the top bloggers such as Kenny Sia are able to ask for R1,000/day for banner ads - my guess is that on the one hand TDM has the most popular blog in Malaysia (average 40-50K visitors/day), and on the other hand he just puts the price higher to have to less requests to deal with.

So, overall in my thesis I will deal with SoPo bloggers, and all other kinds. But for my ethnographic, in-depth aspect, I will focus on Nuffnangers :-)