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Mr. Potato rocks with Hujan!

After blogging about philosophy and potato chips for Nuffnang, I got invited to the 'Mr. Potato Fiesta' last week.

It was at the Mist Club in Bangsar
mist club bangsar

As usual with the Nuffnang events, there were prizes galore given out, food and drinks were provided - the beer was upstairs on the balcony for some reason and at first we missed it. The door gift was a big bag full of potato chips, a 'Mexican' hat (actually, it was one of those gardener's hats you see workers by the road using, painted in red - but it did the trick :-)), and a fake moustache. The bag is a good sturdy reusable bag, and I'm using it to go to the market now.
mr potato fiesta nuffnang mist club

Mr Potato rocked with Hujan, while others took photos. Hujan were good - rock/punk mosh pit stuff.
mr potato fiesta nuffnang mist club hujan

There were prizes for best dressed, and for the best blog post - top prize RM5,000! Nice! Second was 3K, and third 2K.
mr potato fiesta nuffnang mist club

The top blogger was Kecik, second place was The Egg Yolks, and the third created a new blog for the entry - Mr. Fussy, which was pretty smart I think.

There were multiple hampers and giveaways, and as for me - I won something in a Lucky Draw!
gsc signature vouchers

Two GSC Signature voucher :-D Actually, they're going to be an Xmas gift to my in-laws ('cos I'm massively skint at the moment), so I'll have to find out from them what it's like to luxuriate in wonderful seats, get service while watching the film, etc.

Thanks again Nuffnang, who have provided me with many enjoyable evenings and multiple freebies.

Nuffnang Awards - Whistle stop tour

The Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards were held last weekend, and various lucky nominees and bloggers were transported into Singapore from Malaysia, Philippines, and Australia. It was the first of its kind and, for me, the cut-off event for my data collection - from now on, it's time to start reviewing all my field notes, transcribing interviews and aiming to finish 100K word in one year.

Here is a rapid tour of how it was for me - we gathered at the Nuffnang offices in KL, and arrived at the Link Hotel at about 3pm. Yee Hou was our efficient shepherd, leading us safely to Singapore and back, even those who didn't declare cigarettes... :-P
nuffnang blog awards group
After we booked in (was a bit slow) - a welcome beer!
asahi beer singapore
Then, off to the Awards ceremony! Efficiently run, nice food, nice people, many awards - nominees from all four countries where Nuffnang has a presence. Blog celebrities and Celebrity Bloggers :-) (list of the nominees and winners)
nuffnang awards ceremony singapore
In the group photo (L-R): dork on the left, dunno who sorry, Swee San, Soon Seng, Wenli, and Jolene (click her name for a much more complete account of the awards).

Got back to the hotel for a pleasant surprise welcoming letter with a gift of cute cows from Exabytes, longtime advertisers with blogs
Continue reading "Nuffnang Awards - Whistle stop tour"

Do Malaysian bloggers think that blog advertorials need to be disclosed?

The recent plan by the American Federal Trade Commission to "Fine Bloggers up to $11,000 for Not Disclosing Payments" has got people talking about the ethical and legal aspects of paying bloggers for content, and apparently "Singapore's Media Development Authority is considering mirroring the U.S. government's new tough stance". There has been discussion on the NPR program 'On Point with Tom Ashbrook' (podcast here), a blog post by Dave Gilmor - A Dangerous Federal Intervention in Social Media; and in Malaysia it was discussed on the Digital Edge Podcast, a Twtpoll by @blogjunkie, and various tweets by various people (please tell me about more if you know of any, thanks).

It's important to distinguish between paid advertorials, and reviews of products or reports of events. For the former, the client vets and approves the final content, and only pays if they are happy with it. For the latter, a blogger may be given a product, or invited to an event, and it's up to the blogger to write what they want, if anything. Of course, most people tend to feel more favourably disposed towards someone who gave them something - but my research suggests that if a blogger does not like a product or event, they are more likely to just not blog about it, rather than blog something bad about it.

It can be a very cheap and effective strategy for a company: for the cost of a freebie, or by including a few bloggers into a product launch party, they might get some exposure to a few thousand, or maybe even tens of thousands, loyal readers who value and trust the bloggers' opinion. Particularly when this audience is typically less likely to read a newspaper, watch television, and so on. Even advertorials, which can cost from a few hundred to a few thousand (I estimate), are much cheaper than - for example - a full page newspaper ad (average cost, RM10K?), and the post will stay online too, rather than ending up in a recycle bin (hopefully).

My research so far has indicated to me that some advertisers explicitly require bloggers not to disclose that the post is paid for, but these seem to be a smaller minority. Most bloggers do disclose in some manner: some in a very obvious way - in the title or at the head of the post - and most in a more subtle way, giving the post a tag such as 'advertorial', 'pocket money', or something like that. Other bloggers say that they do not need to disclose, as their readers will know when they are doing an advertorial anyway.

In the myBlogS 2009 survey, I asked questions about disclosure, and the commercialisation of blogs. Here are some of the results.

The charts compare the responses by Bloggers (in pink; n = 356) and Readers (in green; n = 197); as well as the Monetisers - i.e. bloggers who try to make money from their blog (in orange, n=183) and the Non-Monetisers (in blue, n=173). If you see more on the right side, it means more agreed with the statement, and disagreements show up on the left; a peak in the middle means more were 'Neutral'. The more of a difference in their attitudes, the more of one colour you can see. You should also be aware that these graphs are not always directly comparable - because the scale on the y-axis changes sometimes.

There was a “Not applicable to me" option too: rather than including these responses in the graph, I've put them on the side in order to let the graphs show the trend of those who did address the question. Most of the time, the amount is only one or two percent. It's impossible to know why, when asked an opinion, people answer “Not applicable to me" - it suggests that either they don't understand the question, that it doesn't address their experience, or maybe that they have no opinion.

malaysian blog survey attitudes disclosure
Here we can clearly see that most think that advertorials should be disclosed. The “Not applicable to me" answer was 4.4% for the Monetisers, and 10.4% for the Non-Monetisers (for some reason I couldn't get it on the picture). The high number for the Non-Monetisers suggests that some read the question as referring to them, rather than being a general opinion.

But anyway, there is a clear preference for disclosure; though there are more than a quarter who are neutral, suggesting that they believe it's up to the blogger to decide. The Monetisers are (unsurprisingly) the most likely to sit on the fence on this one.

What may be the impact of bloggers doing too many advertorials?
malaysian blog survey attitudes commercialisation
There is a tendency for bloggers and readers to think that blogs are too commercialised, but the readers seem to be less worried about it than the bloggers - this may reflect the fact that bloggers may have been around longer, and thus seen more changes. Both Monetisers and Non-Monetisers see the commercialisation as excessive, the the Non-Monetisers feel more strongly about it.

malaysian blog survey attitudes commercialisation
Continue reading "Do Malaysian bloggers think that blog advertorials need to be disclosed?"

Twestivalkl - first tweetup!

On Sunday 19 September, I went to the #twestivalkl tweetup at the Mist club in Bangsar. It was my first one and so I went along to check it out. At the back of my mind I was wondering how it might be different from a blog meet, but I was also thinking that I should try to give fieldwork a break for once, and just enjoy. Which may be why I ended up drinking too much beer and regretting it for two days afterwards... :-|

They had stalls by 1901
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur 1901 stall

and New Zealand ice-cream
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur New Zealand ice cream stall

they were 'free flow', as was the Tiger beer (hence the morning after...)

I met a bunch of ex-students which was nice: reubenhot, cheeChingy, another guy whose name I forgot (I think it was Bryan? argh, sorry... beer...), and last but not least, DJ Prem :-)
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur DJ Prem

It always reminds me of my age to meet students who are now working in real jobs and so on, but it's also nice to see them outside of class. Honestly, teaching is a great job sometimes, and it's such an honour to have an opportunity to make a small difference in the life of so many people - sounds corny, but it's true. For a great rant on this topic - check out "What teachers make", by Taylor Mali.

Anyway, back to the twestivalkl.
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur

It was a charity event too - in to help Destiny Starting Point (video here). It's there to help boys who have dropped out and got involved in various delinquency problems - helping them to get back into schooling and get back on track.

Here is the Pastor who founded the place handing over a donated Lenovo computer to the fortunate Lucky Draw winner (looks happy, doesn't he!)
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur lenovo winner

and here he is again with @nikicheong, one of the organisers of the event,
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur niki cheong Pastor Stephen

the others being @davidlian, @suanie, @eevon, @radianceleong, @nigelais, and @Ling_Chan

Other prizes were a Poken, won by @kellster (who always seems to be winning things!)
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur kellster poken

And here are various Poekeners - with @aprilyim invading from the left :-P
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur poken

There were also some of the usual suspects: @dustyhawk, kruel74, @joshlim, and the intrepid photographer - @benjicajess
twestivalkl tweetup kuala lumpur benjicajess

and others who I can't remember...

So. Were there significant differences with a blog meet-up? Basically, no. If they had had the live screening of tweets it could have made a big difference - with people interacting on and offline but in the same physical space. I'm sure that if I had a mobile access to the tweets it would have been different too - and would have contributed to and read what other tweeples were doing.

Many of those there are also bloggers, but not all. I reckon that many people who find blogging too much work, will enjoy tweeting a lot more. There would also be less of this kind of post happening after a tweetup (i.e. what happened, photos, etc). For a tweetup it's a lot more spontaneous and co-synchronous (happening at the same time). And once the event is over, there may be a 'thanks it was cool #twesitivalkl' tweet, and tweeple move onto whatever is happening in their life and tweetzone at that time.

[did a few edits - forgot to include a photo intially, some typos]

Blogging and business cultures - comparative survey on blogs

davidlian (who says many interesting things about blogs, advertising, and public relations, and tweeting) alerted me to a survey just recently completed by a PR firm Text100 (which he also works for I believe). There is a press release, a Global report, and an APAC report.

The press release quotes Prof. Michael Netzley of Singapore Management University as saying
"Very little data exists at a global level allowing us to compare blogger behaviours and preferences at both a regional and even country level. Text 100 offers what might be the most comprehensive data to date about bloggers and how they practice their trade." (here)

I'd agree very much about the lack of comparative data for blogs - it's something that bedevils me somewhat, because I have ideas about how Malaysia blogging practices may be different from elsewhere, but I have no way of checking it. However, I would also like to blow my own trumpet at bit, and suggest that the myBlogS 2009 survey is also a pretty comprehensive survey on "bloggers and how they practice their trade". Though, to be sure, I did not approach it from a business studies angle.

One of the most interesting aspects of the results are differences between APAC and European and American respondents. However, one methodological caveat is that the number of American bloggers is pretty small (the numbers for most answers are: APAC 233, EURO 189, USA 27) - which means that I would not be confident that the USA responses give highly reliable results.

Here are some quotes:
"Globally, more than 80% of bloggers say that they would acknowledge sponsorships of blog postings. Asia across the board is less likely or willing to acknowledge forms of sponsorship.
The cultural precedent for gift giving in Asia as a part of business practice, and not having to acknowledge this, is likely to contribute significantly to this difference." (Global Report: 8 )

However, there are still a majority that do think it's important. There are also less APAC bloggers (75%) who say that they should "clearly state their employer or association if
blogging on issues or topics that relate to their businesses" - the figures for EURO and USA are 87% and 96% respectively.

This is very interesting for me. Recently I was thinking about how there has been little reaction to the monetisation of blogs in the Malaysian blogosphere - you get the odd complaint about over-commercialisation and the most obviously paid-for-blogs (of the PPP/Izea type) don't seem to attract much traffic, but overall people don't seem to mind too much. Then I remembered how when I first got here, I was surprised by how the division between 'business and pleasure' or, more accurately, 'business and social life' is not as clear here as what I was used to in Belgium. For example, WW would get phone calls late in the evening about work; or dinners with friends and/or family would also double up as 'business meetings' where different commercial ventures were discussed; the way I was brought up was that if - for example - you are having a social meal with someone, it's kind of rude to start talking about 'money'.

Anyway. With that in mind, and thinking of other results from this survey such as
"In APAC, 88% prefer an introduction before receiving information from a PR firm or corporation with whom they have not had prior contact, compared with only 41% in the USA... Introductory face-to-face meetings with new contacts are more important in APAC than in Europe or the USA" (Global Report: 17)

it's clear that in order to understand the way in which blog monetisation is happening in Malaysia, I need to look more into culturally-specific business practices.

Which reminds me that I recently met up with classyadele, who is researching corporate blogs in New Zealand, and she also had some thoughts about different business practices in New Zealand. It was nice to meet someone who seems to spend as much time as I do thinking about blogs :-)

It's a very interesting survey, and the APAC report breaks down the results into countries - such as:
"Computers, technology and the internet are the subjects most blogged by surveyed bloggers. Malaysian bloggers seem to be more interested in entertainment/arts/music and culture/community, while the latter is also most popular in Australia." (APAC Report: 10)

There are more comparisons - again, the numbers for each country are relatively low, but still there are interesting results.

What do you think? Is there a particularly Malaysian, or 'Asian' way of doing business which influences how the Malaysian blogosphere is developing?

Edit 04/07/09: here are a couple of short videos by Text100 in case you're too lazy to read the pdfs :-)

The 'ideal type' blog?

As promised, here is some more analysis of the survey. In this post, I'm going to compare responses to a series of statements that were asked to both bloggers and non-bloggers about their opinions on blogs in general. The idea behind this set of statements was to see whether there was some sort of consensus amongst bloggers and readers about what a blog should be like - i.e. is there an ideal-type blog that the members of the blogosphere believes should be a model to follow? There were some questions on more objective matters (e.g. photos or not, comments or not), and some more subjective matters (e.g. whether a blogger should be honest or not).

For me, often the most interesting questions are usually those that ask people to rate their level of agreement with certain statements (it's called using a Likert scale normally); social science is never an accurate science, and reflecting people's range of thoughts and practices accurately based on a structured questionnaire (i.e. with choices of answers) is very difficult, but this way does give one way of reflecting the many shades of gray that make up human behaviour.

You can see the details of the responses by clicking on the thumbnails below
myblogs2009 malaysian blog survey blogger attitudesmyblogs2009 malaysian blog survey blogger attitudesmyblogs2009 malaysian blog survey blogger attitudesmyblogs2009 malaysian blog survey blogger attitudes

but what I'll do here is compare them using area charts to get a feel for the trends. The charts compare the responses by Bloggers (in pink; n = 356) and Non-Bloggers (in green; n = 197). If you see more on the right side, it means more agreed with the statement, and disagreements show up on the left; a peak in the middle means more were 'Neutral'. Where there is more of a difference in their attitudes, you can see the colour stand out. You should also be aware that these graphs are not always directly comparable - because the scale on the y-axis changes sometimes.

Functional features
These compare the more 'functional features' that bloggers and non-bloggers prefer.

myblogs2009 malaysian blog survey blogger attitudes
The clearest preference is for comments - overall just over 80% of bloggers and non-bloggers think that blogs should have a comments function; compared to the chat-box, you can see that there is a lot less interest as to whether or not there is a chat-box on a blog.

myblogs2009 malaysian blog survey blogger attitudes
There's a general preference for photos, but many are Neutral, and about one-fifth think they are not a necessity. The Non-Bloggers tend to think this is more important.

Continue reading "The 'ideal type' blog?"