If you were a child in the 1980s, you could not have missed it. Howser kept a diary on his computer and the episodes ended with him making an entry in the diary. That was possibly our first introduction to what is now known as web log or blog.
According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary a blog is a website that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.
Blogs have become tremendously popular among Malaysians as they look for an alternative source of information to supplement what is being reported in mainstream media.
By the end of last year, marketing research company NM Incite tracked over 181 million blogs around the world, up from 36 million only five years earlier in 2006.
So how big is blogging? NM Incite says three out of the top 10 social networking sites in the United States — Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr — are for consumer-generated blogs.
Blogger is the largest of these sites with more than 46 million unique US visitors during October 2011, making it second only to Facebook in the social networking category, and Tumblr was the fastest-growing social networking or blog site on the top 10, more than doubling its audience since last year from home and work computers to 14 million unique visitors.
Overall, these three blogging websites combined for 80 million unique visitors, reaching more than one in every four active online users in the US during October 2011.
And who are these bloggers and what else do they do online? A study by NM Incite indicates that women make up the majority of bloggers, and half of bloggers are aged 18 to 34.
Most bloggers are well-educated: seven out of 10 bloggers have gone to college, a majority of whom are graduates and about one in three bloggers are mothers, and 52% are parents with children under 18 in their household.
Besides this, bloggers are active across social media: they’re twice as likely to post/comment on consumer-generated video sites like YouTube, and nearly three times more likely to post in message boards/forums within a month.
According to Nuffnang, Asia-Pacific’s first blog advertising community, bloggers generate income through ads placed on blogs by various brands, and become part of a close-knit community through a vast range of exclusive events and contests.
“In Malaysia, blogging started growing exponentially in 2007 when Malaysians started seeing its commercial viability,” said Nuffnang co-founder Timothy Tiah.
Nuffnang has approximately 250,000 bloggers on its books and Tiah revealed that almost 50% of them are active.
“In the US, some bloggers have successfully evolved into full-fledged media companies that employ full-time writers and editors,” said Tiah who believes blogs and traditional media can co-exist.
“Clients do not view blogs as an alternative to traditional media. We are benchmarked against Twitter and Facebook.
For example, having an editorial piece in the New York Times supersedes one by an online publication,” Tiah explained.
Local blogging heroes such as Paul Tan and Vernon Chan, and Singaporean Dawn Yang agree that blogging with passion will eventually enable one to do it full time.
Chan said his site (vernonchan.com) was born out of the love for technology.
“I enjoyed writing but in 2009, I decided to take it more seriously and focused my writing on gadgets and tech-related news,” said the former graphic designer.
“The blog now operates as a tech website with four writers on board.
“The tech scene is fragmented with plenty of players, but it’s healthy competition.
“I look up to sites like amanz.my and soyacincau.com as they were pioneers in this field,” he added.
Chan said that to remain competitive, a blogger needs to focus on speed, frequency and being current.
“Whenever we attend an event, there’s live tweeting, live blogging, Facebook updates and we ask questions that our readers pose to us,” said Chan.
He walks around with a tablet, two smartphones, a laptop, a DSLR camera and is always connected with his readers thanks to U Mobile broadband.
Tan echoed Chan comments and added that an honest blogger serves the reader and not the advertiser.
“We have gotten ourselves in trouble with a particular company a few times as they were not happy with some of the comments from the readers that were published on the website.
“They stopped inviting us for test drives and events for a while, but we serve our readers, and readership is currency, ” said Tan, the founder of paultan.org, a leading motoring website in Malaysia.
Tan also debunked the myth that people will read any content as long as its free online.
“Online readers are looking for something fast so it is important to be quick.
“We do live updates and we have trained our readership,” said Tan, whose company now owns popular Malay blog site, Ohbulan.com among others.
Tan did not mince his words when asked to comment about bloggers who only write advertorials.
“There are bloggers who only attend events if they are paid and will only write a blog posting if there’s a monetary exchange,” he said.
Across the causeway, controversial fashion and lifestyle blogger Dawn Yang (clapbangkiss.xanga.com/) was in Kuala Lumpur recently to attend an event and the 27-year-old told MetroBiz that she started blogging to keep in touch with her friends.
“It started by accident but in 2005, I won an online competition as Singapore’s hottest blogger. That opened many doors for me,” said Yang who was sent to Taiwan for a year to be an artist.
She also secured several endorsement deals from international brands to promote their brands on various platforms.
“Blogging has evolved over the years with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We can’t just operate on one platform,” said Yang.
Blogging in Malaysia is seen as an easy way to make a quick buck, but to quote blogging guru Alister Cameron: “As I have repeatedly written in one form or other, blogging is not about writing posts. Heck, that’s the least of your challenges. No, blogging is about cultivating beneficial relationships with an ever-growing online readership, and that’s hard work.”
By Nevash Nair