Australia’s most original, idiosyncratic, enigmatic, visually exciting, infuriating, catchy, smartarse, profane, iconoclastic and flat out funny group. Ever. This is how irreverent Aussie pop band TISM has previously been described, however I feel some of the same adjectives apply to the six man team behind the hugely popular Things Bogans Like blog, and recently released book.
I sat down with guest author Michael Jayfox to ask a couple of questions around the socioeconomic status, online success, and the future of the bogan.
Long Straws: Not so long ago, defining the Aussie “bogan” was a pretty simple affair. Now, reading though the blogs list of interests and activities, it’s fair to say the modern bogan does not fit into a single socio-economic background. Boganism has ceased to recognise breeding, background, or class. What’s happening here?
Things Bogans Like: There may have been a perception in the past that bogans were poor and simple souls. But 20 years of almost unprecedented economic expansion in Australia has significantly eroded the relevance of that idea. The modern bogan is likely to be well above the bread line, have access to a lot more information, and use bank finance to make itself look even more prosperous.
We see boganism as a state of mind that can develop in people from pretty much any background. Our bogan is impulsive, self-interested, and lacking in tolerance and perspective. Far from being an exercise in bashing the poor, our blog gets stuck into consumption decisions and undesirable mindsets.
The resource and trades boom has turned traditionally bogan careers into the money spinning roles in the current economy. What impact is this causing to these industries? Are white collared professionals tossing in Powerpoint for a powerdrill?
I’m not aware of many white collar professionals switching into tradie roles, but the buying power of workers in some previously low-paid lines of work has definitely increased. That said, you will find many bogans in our nation’s CBDs, yelling into their Blackberries, and trying to poach the parking space you’d waited patiently for. Whatever its line of work, the bogan is more likely than ever before to have the money to purchase a grotesque McMansion, regularly visit Phuket, and do all of the other things that we mention in our blog (and recently released book).
Long Straws: The cashed-up bogan represent a huge opportunity for service providers. What are going to be the growth business opportunities targeting CUBs over the coming years.
Things Bogans Like: One of our key messages is that the bogan is enormously marketing-malleable. Because the bogan wants to be a celebrity, and celebrity is pumped to it via the media, the media has the capacity to convince the bogan to do or purchase almost anything. While there are categories of products pitched repeatedly at the bogan (fitness fads, things that consume petrol, garish fashion, premium liquor), if I had to nominate one thing, it’d be tattoo removal. While tattoos have become quite mainstream, a certain percentage of bogans will either grow out of their tattoo fad, or find that one of their highly prominent tattoos inhibits their professional or personal life.
Long Straws: Has there been any negative backlash as a result of calling out a sizeable chunk of Australia’s favourite past-times?
Things Bogans Like: Certainly not everyone “gets” satire. We receive occasional threats of violence, and at one point we had a number of American white supremacists threatening all manner of things. 99% of the time, however, it’s been fine.
Long Straws: Greatest bogan film of all time?
Things Bogans Like: The easy answer would be something like “The Castle”, where the shallow, middle-class bogan can project itself into some sort of heroic, underdog battle against society. But really, the modern bogan has a gut-wrenchingly deep love of Anchorman, and its vast array of sexist jokes, funny clothes, and sight gags.
Long Straws: The blog pretty came out of nowhere to attract a huge following in a relatively short space of time. Why do you think this topic has proven so popular?
Things Bogans Like: We didn’t fully appreciate the power of the term ‘bogan’ when we got started, but we do now. It seems to be a very efficient way to cut to the heart of the Australian psyche in a provocative way, and people seem to be naturally curious about it. I recall vowing to a mate very early on that we were out to change the definition of boganism to fit a more 21st century reality, and I think we’re now some of the way towards doing that.
From the start, I was very interested in using social networking websites to reach out to an audience, and wanted to use the blog as a sandpit for some marketing ideas I had. Initially I spammed some random internet forums, but got fairly limited results. The facebook group was another thing we got started within the first fortnight, and I can remember how proud we were when the first few people from outside of our immediate friends joined it. We also taught ourselves how to use twitter, and made an attempt to create connections with thought leaders, journalists, and other creative types. Using these methods, we were able to get to about 3,000 page views per day within the first week of actively promoting the blog. Subsequently, we were given a very helpful leg up by a friend of mine who mentioned us to a journo friend of his, which resulted in a news story which generated a lot of new traffic.
In terms of blog commenters, it was very much a case of reaching some sort of critical mass. People are much more likely to comment and interact on a blog if there are already a bunch of other people doing it, which is an odd sort of chicken and egg thing. We only became aware of this in hindsight, and I guess it was just the volume of page views that ended up getting some people commenting, rather than anything we did.
Long Straws: How did the book deal come to be?
Things Bogans Like: The publisher actually approached us. We got a second opinion on the offer, and decided to go with it. Writing isn’t any of our day jobs, so didn’t try to haggle or make it unpleasant.
Long Straws: You’ve blogged almost 200 entries thus far. How has your style/approach changed since early posts?
Things Bogans Like: The entries have become a bit longer, but we don’t like going past about the 500 word mark. As we’ve progressed, I guess the increasing amount of back-entries has made it possible to cross-reference our earlier posts, and develop running gags. Once the audience became familiar with our style, I guess there was less need to provide context in each post, also.
Long Straws:Despite high levels of traffic, you chose not to implement an advertising model on the site. Any particular reason behind this?
Things Bogans Like: Disorganisation, along with the desire to keep the project primarily as an enjoyable hobby rather than a business. The introduction of money into a lighthearted group dynamic represents a bit of a risk, and it was one that we only decided to take on once there was the chance to do a book. Other reasons, such as an increased susceptibility to lawsuits, and the prospect of some sort of readership backlash also weighed in.
Long Straws:Any interesting insights around your website traffic analytics?
Things Bogans Like: We recently clocked up our three millionth pageview. In terms of the media coverage we’ve got, the only thing that matters for web traffic is hyperlinks on other sites. Yesterday we did about 5 radio interviews, including a 15 minute one on Triple J, and had 19,000 page views for the day. When we had a very rudimentary review of the book run in The Age newspaper the other week (featuring a hyperlink), we got 70,000 views on day one, and an extra 30,000 the day after. We’ve never used Google Analytics or anything like that, because we haven’t been able to identify any strategic use for the type of information it’d produce.
Long Straws:When’s the Things Bogans Like iPhone app coming out?
Things Bogans Like: That’s one we haven’t thought about!