woensdag 25 juli 2012

Singaporeans do things differently: Blogs and sponsorships

Recently, Singapore's favourite blogging personality Xiaxue moved with her husband to a new apartment and had it renovated. Even though every description of her contains some combination of the words "unashamed" and "sponsoring", I was still taken aback when she detailed in a blog post which items she still needed to be sponsored for (among them: air conditioning, temporary housing while renovating went on and movers). Later blog posts show that she managed to find sponsors for most of those (but not for the aircon, I believe).

Then I noticed that she's hardly the only blogger to take advantage of the advertising clout a big audience brings with it.

Another petite female powerblogger, Thy Dowager, has kindly agreed to be the spokesperson and Singaporean guinea pig for a Korean plastic surgery company (you can follow her journey on her blog and her facebook, and, of course, Instagram - @thydowager).

Satirical blogger Mr Brown, known for his anti-establishment jokes and critical outlook, had his living room transformed by sponsored LED lighting (it is not quite clear if this was a freebie or not - which in itself is cause for concern).

Cheekiemonkies, my go-to resource for all things child-related in Singapore, surprised me hugely the other day with pictures of cows and windmills. The family had been invited to the Netherlands for a week by a global, but Dutchland based dairy brand.

Marketing man Alvin goes into the specifics of his audience in quite some detail on his site Alvinology. Since I started reading his blog some months ago, I noticed that every single one of his posts is in some ways sponsored - either by inviting Alvin to special presentations, or giving out plane tickets, or some other form of freebie.

I myself, with my meager readership and tendency to post stuff in Dutch when the mood strikes, have received An Offer of sponsorship. (Thank you delivery service foodpanda!*) And of course I took advantage of the bloggers' presentation of the new Coca Cola Olympic themed glasses (a new one with your McDonald's meal every week, so go out and collect!) to meet my first Famous Singaporean. And I took home a full set of aforementioned glasses, so now we can invite twelve people to our house at any one time and offer them drinks in proper grown-up glass glasses, which is a 100% improvement compared to before.

Of course, not all bloggers are created equal. Dentist-cum-blogger Yours Toothfully took issue with Thy Dowager's sponsorship by a "high profile hair care institution" and asked: What is your reputation worth?

"Aren’t they afraid their reputation may be tarnished? Hell, no. They’re more afraid that another hair care institution named after a southern province in China might poach their customers and kill them off. So what if they have eminent TCM practitioners onboard? They still need Peggy Heng [Thy Dowager, K.] to bring in the customers."

Many well-read US blogs publish their views or even policies on advertising on their blogs. Usually, a blogger either refuses all sponsorship so as not to compromise their integrity, or they will only review products they enjoy using and would have, in all probability, bought or purchased anyway.

I have not found such a policy or view on any of the Singaporean blogs I read (although Xiaxue at one point exasperatedly pointed out that since she buys so many of her clothes from one particular brand, she does not understand why they don't simply sponsor her). Even marketing man Alvin restricts himself to "shamelessly plug[ging] myself a bit here". But he only plugs himself to advertisers, not to his readers.

Another thing I have not found yet on Singaporean blogs: a negative review of a sponsored item or product.

As a journalist, I would not have accepted the Coca Cola glasses. Or, if I had, I would have left them for general use at the office. I once won an iPod Shuffle during an assignment. I gave it back.

I have however, as a journalist, been to countless conferences and dinners and press presentations without having had to hand over any money. The understanding is that a journalist will write about these events or products. The understanding also is that however much the journalist is pampered, he or she will still write an honest opinion, praising and criticizing where necessary (which is not always in equal parts!).

Before my One Big Junket, a first class return flight to New York, including a stay in a designer hotel, the chief editor grilled me on my knowledge of the industry and prepped me with critical questions, so I wouldn't be overawed and taken in and ending up writing a praise piece out of thankfulness. That is not what readers expect of a journalist.

Or of a blogger, if you ask me.

But maybe that attitude is exactly why we have no such blog sponsorships in the Netherlands. Bloggers in the Netherlands write and publish to build their brands and market themselves. They make money by assignments outside of the blog-o-sphere. In Singapore, the blog-o-sphere itself can be a money-spinning machine.

And I got some really nice glasses, a lovely evening and the chance to satisfy my craving for chicken nuggets. (Thank you pregnancy gods! That was a timely intervention.)

So, if any liquorice company would like to sponsor me (I'm looking at you here Panda and Autodrop), feel free to contact me. I have a lot to say about the mint-filled Panda log liquorice, which, incidentally, is not yet available in Singapore. Speaking of mint - Lipton, I could do you a rave review of Minty Morocco tea for a year's worth of bags. It's a steal, really.

*This shout out is for free, simply because I was so tickled to be asked.

dinsdag 24 juli 2012

Plaatjespost & Picture post: Cameron Highlands and Ipoh

So sorry for the long silence! I've been working on my tan.

(And, writing that, I've just realized that is generally considered a bad idea for someone who's pregnant.)

No, really, S., E. and myself have been out and about all over the place, and the reason I've found the time to type this is because we're in the eye of the storm, not because the social typhoon season has passed.

In boring chronological order, which does not in any way reflect the actual enjoyment of various activities, first we went to the Malaysian Cameron Highlands for tea and scones and cool weather ("there's no aircon in this room", worried S. shortly after our arrival and just before he decided to put on a second sweater). Then we headed back down into the hot plains around Ipoh and did some cave temple sight seeing for the lovely ladies and some bicycle racing for The Man, who proved his status by riding over said plains at a furious pace of 41 km/hr and passing the finish line after 160 km as 12th overall out of 1800 participants. (S.'s fierce female colleague snagged an impressive 4th place of about 60 female riders).

On Monday sister F. arrived amidst a flurry of presents and activities, which was not only brilliant for reasons of filling a sister shaped hole in my life, but also for reasons of entertaining the toddler while mummy takes a shower and other similar activities. Toddler E. very much enjoyed teacher F.'s practised voice and story telling capabilities, seeing as how boring mummy generally does not want to read more than two stories at any given time. E. also caught another bout of bronchitis, which meant no daycare, a very peaceful day in the Gardens due to fever and accompanying general drowsiness on the part of the toddler, and lots of quality time with auntie.

After I physically restrained the toddler from entering the gates with auntie (so unfair, really, why could she not hop over to Vietnam for a little while with her godmother?) we headed over to arrivals to pick up another auntie and E.'s godfather. (Well, technically, we went home, slept and then S.'s brother P. and his girlfriend IJ. got themselves a taxi from the bus station to our house, but there's factual truth and poetical truth.) We spent a lovely weekend on the beach, and in the Botanical Gardens, and at the Gardens by the Bay and S. managed to fit in all his favourite Singaporean activities bar one. Two, if you count napping. (I'm not mentioning the first, so as not to rub salt into his wounds.)

Now I'm trawling the internet to find our own next holiday destination (apparently it's humid and rainy and hothothot all over South East Asia in August - who'd have thought?) and planning more sight seeing trips for S.'s other brother who's visiting next weekend and bringing yet another auntie with highly developed reading skills (or so I hope). We are loving the visits and all the touristy tearing around Singapore (there is no such thing as too much beach and whomever said shopping was boring obviously never went into the Mustafa maze), but it has also led to One Big Question dominating all our conversations: how much longer can I keep S. out of that overrated and expensive cable car*?

*Views greatly differ on the quality of said cable car, S. being of the opinion that is The. Best. Thing. Ever. in Singapore.

woensdag 11 juli 2012

Singaporeans do things differently: female blog-o-sphere

Blogging in Singapore is all about food and females.

Blogging in the Netherlands is all about being funny. 

But in both countries the newsy blog-o-sphere outlets are the best read and most visited, all according to Alexa rankings.* Also, it is worth noting that although individual blogs don't show up until much further down, in both countries the hosting sites (such as blogspot and wordpress) are actually in the top 20 of most visited sites, implying that blogging is by no means dead. (Also: the first adult site shows up much much earlier in the Netherlands than in Singapore, as does twitter, which is much less popular on the little red dot than in frog country.) 

Top 5 of Singaporean blogs

1. Temasek Times (49 in Sg, 13,802 globally)
A news site which, as they recently put it themselves, "focus[es] only on 'sexy' news which are [sic] of interest to Singaporeans instead of the mundane run-of-the-mill stuff. Rather than following the mainstream media for lead, we set the agenda ourselves to bring you to new terrains not explored by anybody else". Presumably this is why they report every time the MRT has a few minutes delay.

2. Tainyan (203 in Sg, 56,533 globally)
A blog explaining how to blog and properly protect your blog. Very useful information.

3. Xiaxue (1,302 in Malaysia, 58,512 globally)
Singapore's premier blogging personality, a tiny powerhouse who met her Texan husband through her blog. She's honest, she's explicit, she's had plastic surgery and she has youtube videos to tell what and how. 

4. Lady Iron Chef (343 in Sg, 80,177 globally)
A food blogger, telling Singaporeans where to go and what to eat. One of many, many, many such food bloggers in Singapore. Actually, even non-food bloggers (including female personality bloggers such as Xiaxue) make it a point to photograph and rave about their meals.

5. Asarikaisin.blogspot.com (312 in Sg, 89,841 globally)
This is, according to Google, a Japanese written blog and I can therefore not comment on it.

Top 5 of Dutch blogs

1. Dumpert (25 in Nl, 2,995 globally)
Videoblog, off shoot of newsy satire blog Geenstijl, with generally funny or embarrassing or painful-to-watch video's. (If this does not sound attractive, it's because I really dislike both this blog and its parent.)

2. Tweakers (29 in Nl, 2,586 globally)
The go-to site for all tech lovers and all those who seek tech information. Brilliant site, even noobs like myself can find information and useful knowledge there, written in such a way that it's understandable to my analog-wired brain.

3. Geenstijl (30 in Nl, 3,117 globally)
Satire or tasteless, it all depends on your taste. And, according to Alexa, your gender and age. (But watch out: those young testorone bombs reading this site generally have a graduate level education. I'm looking at you, S.)

4. Frankwatching (117 in Nl, 13,557 globally)
Trendwatching in social and digital media, an early adapter who shares the love.

5. Autoblog (202 in Nl, 15,773 globally)
A blog about cars, cars, cars. I used to use this blog a lot actually when I was an automotive journalist.

Now here's the thing. Singaporean blogs are much more geared towards women (and are read more by women) than the Dutch most popular blogs, which happened to be quite male oriented. Interesting, no? 

Also, Dutch blogs HAVE to be funny. Singaporean blogs seem to have to be either informative, shocking or chock full of "cam-whoring" pictures (their words, not mine, and I shall persevere to not ever use them again). 

I don't know why this is. But I do know that many women try to get into blogging in Singapore (many people in fact) and that there's an industry to blogging that I was not aware off before coming here, an industry which I think is (sadly?) lacking in the Netherlands. More on that later!

* Disclaimer: I checked the Alexa rankings on 11th July 2012. I tried to limit myself to blogs, and more specifically, homegrown blogs. This presented some problems, so there are exceptions, most notably the blog of Wendy Cheng or Xiaxue which is registered in Malaysia. I have compared her global ranking to that of Singaporean bloggers as I know she lives in Singapore, but as this shows it is quite possible I have missed other blogs which are registered outside the respective countries. So by no means I am pretending to be either complete nor without oversight. The figures are meant to support my argument of a difference in trends in the two countries.

dinsdag 10 juli 2012

Plaatjespost & Picture post: Supertree Grove

The weather has been lovely in Singapore lately. It's been raining almost daily, with a little bit of thunder and lightning thrown in and a constant breeze billowing in from the sea (as Singapore is an island, all breezes come in from the sea).

The weeks before were hellish, with lots of sun, no shady clouds, no breeze and steadily climbing humidity. Streets emptied, and the only people venturing outside were tourists - Western ones in tank tops and flip flops, Asian ones with hats and umbrellas. Thankfully we're getting to the end of the sunny season, and the humidity will relieve itself again in daily bursts of torrential tropical rain.

However. Having said all that, I wouldn't have minded a short dry spell when we went to visit the Supertree Grove at the new Gardens by the Bay. (I know, I know, we were the very last people in Singapore to manage to get over there, so very not kiasu. We need to get our act together.) It was lovely though, with a concert by cover band 11th Hour, who managed to energize if not all of the visitors to the park at the least the ones huddled next to the stage, a string quartet whose flamboyant elderly violin player let his bow wow his demure (but red dressed) Asian lady counterpart and a running race in the background, carefully watched over by the skyscrapers of the financial district, where S. lives during the working week.

At night the Supertrees light up with the solar energy they've stored during the day.

I apologize for the (g)rainy quality of the pictures, but our plans to go back on Sunday night and do a spot of proper ball room dancing (am not joking) fell predictably through when a. it rained again, b. we had lovely people over who offered to get us proper Chinese food and c. we'd already been cycling and swerving around the monkeys at the Peirce Reservoir Parks while aforementioned lovely people looked after napping E. Such a wonderful weekend.

Anyway. Here are my, admittedly bad, pictures.

vrijdag 6 juli 2012

Ik ontmoet een Bekende Singaporees

Ik heb een Bekende Singaporees ontmoet! En niet zomaar eentje, nee nee, eentje van de variant Jonge God,  met een indrukwekkende borstpartij, een rechte houding, slordig zwart haar en een verlegen glimlach. Zijn moeder en zusje keken vanaf hun hun tafeltje aan de zijlijn trots toe terwijl ik, al hyperventilerend, zijn hand mocht schudden.

Ik ga nooit een goede journalist worden.

De promotiefoto.

Het was geen toeval dat ik boogschutter Dayyan Jaffar, Singapore's hoop in Olympische dagen en samen met de Turkse Beguenhan Uensal winnaar van een bronzen medaille voor het mixed team event op de Jeugd Olympische Spelen in 2010, de hand mocht drukken. 

Dayyan Jaffar in het wild, Ang Mo Kio juli 2012

Ik was uitgenodigd door omy.sg, de organisatie die PR events voor bloggers organiseert, en werd bij de plaatselijk McDonalds onder bezielende leiding van Coca Cola-vertegenwoordigers vergast op allerhande filmpjes en quizzen over de Olympische Spelen, Dayyan Jaffar en, vooral: het belang van gezond eten en een actieve levensstijl.

Om te zorgen dat we geboeid op zouden letten, werden we uitgebreid voorzien van eten en drinken.

Het doel van de bijeenkomst was dat de introductie van de nieuwste set Coca Cola-glazen ter ere van de Olympische Spelen. Wij hebben nu dus 12 glazen in huis en kunnen een Echt Feestje geven. Hoera!

De Glazen. Maar we kregen ook een set schone mee in een doos. Ang Mo Kio juli 2012.

Internet vertelt mij dat Robin Hood de held van Dayyan Jaffar is. Dayyan (ik ben blogger, dus ik mag voornamen gebruiken) begon op zijn negende met boogschieten. Zijn droom was om de Olympische Spelen te halen. Hij is nu achttien, en vertelde mij dat boogschutters hun piek bereiken zo in de twintig - precies op tijd voor de volgende Spelen dus. Op dit moment komen de beste boogschutters uit de VS en Korea. Hij is dol op computerspelletjes.

Hij was zo verlegen dat ik hem niet meer durfde te vragen. En ik was bang dat zijn moeder zou zien hoe mijn hart aan het smelten was want ze leek me het type dat met deegroller in de hand de eer van haar kinderen beschermt. 

Dayyan was de langste en meest imposante figuur op het event.

Op mij na.

dinsdag 3 juli 2012

Plaatjespost & Picture post: Construction site

E. knows the word "bouwplaats" and this is why.

These pictures have been taken on three sides of our building. On the fourth side there's Clarke Quay, the watering hole of all beautiful people and filled with bands, music, alcohol and good vibes throughout the night. E. much prefers the construction sites.

Another word she learned very quickly: "BOEM."

(She can also distinguish between "auto" and "taxi" - and she will hail said taxi if we stand at the curb for any length of time. Ah, the joys of city life.)

(Also, it's raining.)