Monday, September 22, 2014

Moar Refreshments (mai multe piscoturi)!

The Romanian word “piscoturi”, loosely translated as “refreshments,” has become associated with the meagre price deontology or blogger ethics commands on the online advertising market (i.e., “piscotareala”) in that many are willing to sell not only their blog, but their soul and their mother’s soul for a few cookies and a coffee. Being a writer is a job everybody would love to have, except the writers themselves. Few other jobs (except maybe acting or singing) have as many people trying and so few succeeding. Being a blogger is somewhat less glamorous than being a writer, at least not in the traditional sense of the (former) word, as it combines traits of several other fields, such as IT, publishing, PR, but it still has a strong creative component. In this article, we take a look at the Romanian refreshment (piscot) market.

zoso-piscotarealaA micro-storm on ethics and the opportunism of a few less-than-ethical bloggers is once again brewing in . We had a look at what bloggers are making back in 2011 (paid articles) and the ethics surrounding this activity around the same time (zoso, arhi and brand courage). It’s time for a refresh.

First, Simona Tache gives an interview in IQads (iqa-stache), where she talks in part I about the readers who are allergic to any advertising on a blog and how they think of bloggers as being “some sort of slave”, but also about bloggers who never mark advertorials as such. In part II, she mentions her own rules: marking paid articles, neutral tone in advertorials, some verticality in what she accepts. In part III, she discusses abusive clients, who want to place ads on her blog because they like her product, but make requests that, if accepted, would transform her blog into something they would not like. She thinks that you can live off publicity as an individual blogger, but not as an entire publishing enterprise. She’s never done SEO or bought ads, she has only produced content. She then decries her net.addiction but is proud of her mac.addiction and tells us how she is jaded about censoring comments or individuals.

Then, her colleague with a horse avatar writes on his blog (pg-zoso) about ZBiM, whom he supposedly unfriended on Facebook for spamming him with his advertorials, comparing him with a MLM (Herbalife / Amway) robot.

That’s when I thought it’s a good idea to look at how the online market in Romania is doing. First, the bloggers.

  1. The aforementioned distorted cranium has an implicitly distorted view of reality:
    • /cine-pierde-cel-mai-mult-din-articolele-nemarcate/ (03.2010) – (P) – it’s different with blogs than newspapers because he has something to lose, whereas newspapers don’t
    • /tovarase-adrian-ciubotaru/ (04.2012) – dude wrote 20 advertorials in 30 articles, therefore he sucks but all suffer
    • /blog-jucaria/ (09.2014) –bloggers take cars for publicity, they break them, hence all other bloggers’ reputation is affected; Teodor Marin tells in comments the story of 20 bloggers emptying a buffet of refreshments, causing the organizer to conclude that such campaigns are not worth it
    • /despre-companii-produse-bloguri-advertoriale/ (04.2012) – bloggers don’t mention a product launch unless paid and that’s everybody’s fault
    • /advertoriale-bloguri/ (04.2009) – again, he does not disclose/mark advertorials because he “believes” in what he writes
    • /bani-per-post/ (10.2008) – “I would not another 20 ppl to know that I’m publishing an advertorial, and that’s the value of it, that people will think that it’s my opinion whether I’m paid or not”
    • /despre-sustinere-si-reclama/ (04.2008) – once again, he claims he does not mark advertorials because that’s his choice, and he’s not cheating anyone, because those are his opinions
    • /curiozitate-personala/ (04.2012) – how his readers see selling out
    He genuinely seems incapable to understand that in the same way others “break the toy” of blogging by being dicks, he’s breaking it for others by failing to mark advertorials. Bloggers have  a plummeting reputation, even Google has nearly eliminated “Blog Search” (still works with /?tbm=blg, but it’s hidden), blog advertising is drying up, still, he marches on.
  2. nwradu (nwr-adv) is a rather strange example. A few months or years ago, when I still had an iPhone (or was it with my Android on Google Play? can’t remember), I went to iTunes Romania and browsed the collection of eBooks. I could’ve sworn that a number of books, such as Jobs’ biography which had just come out, had been published by nwradu. It is unlikely that he had permission to do so, then again, even though I took screenshots, I can no longer find them. It’s possible it was someone else using his name, or I’m remembering the wrong person, but either way, strange things happen in Romania. However, in his article on advertorials he states that if the competition name appears in a suspected advertorial, it probably isn’t (implying that anything that does not mention competition is). In comments, readers state that marking advertorials causes the “reach” to plummet, to which he replies that he uses a special category, and besides, in the article body he state that he only writes 5-6% of articles as advertorials.
  3. China-man (china-value, 04.2013) – that’s his assumed (nick)name, really! – writes that his views are the same in an advertorial as outside it and those who criticize him for not marking it are haters or just envious of his tremendous success. In an earlier article (china-agentie), he was wondering whether to use an agency or not – his readers’ opinions are quite revealing.
  4. Groparu describes a speech he gave back in 2013 to PR students. You can only make money with a blog passively, by being invited in a campaign, or by sending them a project (tvdc, cbt, sb). He discusses advertising perception by the readers, and, much like stache, he claims to always mark it as such. Bloggers are publishers, not endorsers. He wonders why we have so few probloggers.
  5. Tolontan (tolo-fines) writes about the Competition Council having investigated monopolistic / market segmentation practices among players who were trying to ally against Zoltan Szigeti’s The Group. The fines would be of the order of millions of euros. (interview Bogdan Chiritoiu)
  6. Hoinaru (hoin-brbl) finds back in January that in 2013 online advertising on blogs continued to decline. Romanian Copywriter (ro-cw) has a top of the best campaigns of 2013.
  7. Back in 2011, Capilnean (cap-camp) made a list of agencies and consultants who campaign on blogs, while refresh (refr-prblm) expresses a preference for long-term campaigns or partnerships and decries the effect of agencies (late in payments). For 2014 we have Manafu’s top of agencies (z-pr) – it’s interesting to compare with 2011 and see who’s gone and who’s still on.

According to a PwC study, online advertising is set to increase in Romania, yet the market remains the smallest in the region (zamoca-online).

Online advertising will register a 14.6 percent compounded annual growth (CAGR) in the next four years, and could reach USD 141 million by 2018, according to PwC estimates. This makes online advertising the fastest growing segment of the Romanian media and entertainment market in the analyzed period. The internet access segment, which represents money spent by people and companies for internet access, including fixed broadband connections, mobile internet and internet apps, will have the second highest growth, with a 9.9 percent CAGR and could reach USD 1.18 billion by 2018. Internet access and online advertising will account for more than 40 percent of the Romanian media and entertainment market by 2014, with TV subscriptions trailing a distant second, with an estimated 612 million by 2018. Overall, the Romanian media and entertainment market will register a 5.2 percent CAGR, reaching USD 3.1 billion by 2018, according to this year’s edition of PwC’s study Entertainment and Media Outlook. (..)

the smallest market in the region in terms of overall value, with USD 3.1 billion, compared with Russia (UAS 42 billion), Turkey (USD 17.5 bln), Poland (USD 12.6 bln), Czech Republic (6.5 USD bln), and Hungary (USD 3.2 bln).

According to European Commission data, despite having some of the fastest Internet connections in the world in its main cities, the average is incredibly low (za-ro-int).

  • Half of Romanian households had an internet connection at the end of 2013, but this was lower than the EU average of 76 percent. However, Romania ranks third in the EU on fast broadband connections – above 100 Mbps, which make for a quarter of all broadband internet subscriptions, compared to just 5 percent at the EU level, according to data from the European Commission, quoted by
  • Only a third of Romanians go online at least once a day, which is half than the EU average of 62 percent. On top of it, around 40 percent of Romanians never used the Internet, which is twice the EU average of 20 percent. Romania has however made progress and it has chances to reach its 2015 target on regular Internet use within the EU. The data was published in the EC’s Digital Agenda Scoreboard for 2014.
  • At the end of 2013, fixed broadband covered 90 percent  of homes in Romania, compared to 97 percent  in the EU.  In rural areas, fixed broadband covered 78 percent of homes, according to the EC.  At the same time, Next Generation Access capable of providing at least 30 Mbps download was available to 66 percent of homes, close to the 62 percent EU average.
  • Romanians are less inclined to buy online than other Europeans, – only 8 percent of them have done so, compared to the EU average of 47 percent. And only 1 percent of Romanians bought goods or services online from other countries, while the EU average on this segment is of 12 percent.
  • A newly developed Digital Skills Indicator shows that, in 2012, 85 percent of Romanians had low or no digital skills, compared to 47 percent for the EU average. Disadvantaged people in Romania, such as individuals who are aged 55-74, low educated and/or unemployed, retired or inactive in are less highly digitally skilled than is average in the EU, according to the scoreboard.

With all this carnage in their online market, why is it that so few Romanians don’t write in English? Could it be that they “no speak it”?

If you are curious how others do it, the Guardian (guard-wp) and wikiHow (wh- freelancew) have articles on how to become a Freelance Writer, you can find freelance writing gigs (fwg) on elance or odesk, and if in Canada, you can join PWAC. Other networks that can help with blogger outreach are BlogDash (see also se-bd for why this does not make a whole lot of sense), Blogger LinkUp, BlogSynergy, GroupHigh, GuestBlogIt, GuestBlogGenius, Guestr, MyBlogGuest, PostJoint (sej-networks).

Sources / More info: iqa-stache, pg-zoso, nwr-adv, china-value, china-agentie, groparu-spici, tolo-fines, ro-cw, cap-camp, refr-prblm, hoin-brbl, z-pr, wh-freelancew, guard-wp, fwg, pwac, sej-networks, se-bd, zamoca-online, za-ro-int

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