Ekaterina Belan is a Moscow resident and co-founder of online brand magazine Popsop. The webzine covers a wide array of topics, ranging from Marketing and Consumer Insights to Technology and Design. The site's stable of 70 columnists contribute opinions and analysis in their areas of interest and expertise, while interviews and other features serve to make this site a wormhole of inspiration and ideas. To paraphrase Ekaterina's own words, Popsop aims to "separate the wheat from the chaff" by helping marketers, designers and others refine their communications and other core processes.
8 Questions with Ekaterina Belan
1. How do you reset to be creative?
First off, I am on a flexible working schedule. When I don’t have meetings, I prefer working from home just because it saves the time and energy I’d otherwise spend to get to the office. Moscow is a busy city with poor and uncomfortable public transportation, aggressive drivers, traffic jams, horrible cold climate and huge distances. So, sometimes working from home is a salvation.
To reset my brain and stay creative I never open my laptop after 7 p.m., nor do I use my smartphone for business—just to check some cute puppy pictures on Instagram from time to time.
During my working hours I strive to be productive and do not waste time on distractive things like chats or social media. After work I walk in the park, read non-fiction, listen to my favorite music (Coldplay, Okean Elzy, Robbie Williams etc), I watch TED talks and inspirational videos with the greatest entrepreneurs of our time. Particularly, I’m an Elon Musk’s fan, his charisma and zeal inspire me a lot.
Another great way to reset and break free for me is travelling. I adore Spain, its climate, language, friendly people, beautiful nature and excellent fresh fruits and veggies. Having had vacations abroad I always feel like I’m born new.
2. What motivates you?
When I turned 30, I realized that life eventually comes to the end. Nothing can motivate you better than acknowledging the fact that life is too short, that there’s too little time left to give up on your dreams, be lazy or negative. Nothing motivates me to be a good person and a professional better than realization of a simple fact: I am a mortal creature with a certain expiration date. So I always tell to myself: seize the day, be happy, help others, do good—be here now and live like there’s no tomorrow.
Speaking more specifically about my motivation in work, I’m proud that Popsop is a source of refined, hand-picked news and thoughts on the ‘brighter’ side of brands—on ethical marketing, consumer insight and sustainability in all its forms. The site’s mission is to collect the best practices and celebrate Brand That Teach. I feel that this educational, ethical and sustainability vector is what our readers—who are marketing professionals either from the client or agency side—really need. While I’m at the forefront of this all—this is what keeps me optimistic and motivated every morning.
3. What is the biggest challenge you face?
My biggest current professional challenge has been to monetize Popsop, find commercial partners or investors who could support my new business strategy and turn the site into a meeting place for industry professionals. I believe that a niche media like Popsop can be profitable only if it organizes professional events. The classic media business models of selling ads or paid subscription don’t work due to many reasons, including high competition and lack of resources.
4. What is your favorite way to interact with viewers of your site?
Well, in the age when readers have turned into ‘viewers,’ the only platform to communicate with them is social media. Twitter and Facebook have become the main tools of news delivery and, overall, sources of information for many people. So Popsop adjusts to this trend. I also collect feedback though biannual reader surveys sent out in regular newsletters.
During my time in London in 2012, I used to organize webinars and quizzes with book giveaways.
5. Are there any adjacent industries outside your own that you actively source for inspiration?
As we cover a broad scope of topics, there are many industries where I glean inspiration: from fashion to science to culture studies.
6. Where do you see the future of blogs heading?
I agree with Steve Jobs who once said in an interview during the D8 conference in 2011: “News and editorial gathering organizations are really important. I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers.” Thanks to Internet and digital technologies informational buzz is overwhelming these days. People need reliable and professional sources of news. I think blogs will either remain a niche, thematic and specific stuff, or will steadily grow into something bigger like a news/media organization with its editorial, commercial, sales teams etc.
If we speak about celebrity blogs, I think they will migrate into the social media space and reincarnate as photo/comments feeds on Instagram, YouTube or Twitter. I’m sure in a 10-year time purely textual blogs on WordPress or Tumblr may become as rare as vinyl recordings now.
7. What is the mission of your blog?
I’ve briefly touched on our philosophy of “Brands that teach.” (http://popsop.com/2013/05/brands-that-teach-insightful-responsible-beautiful/). Our mission is to separate the wheat from the general marketing chaff, to distill the best practices in marketing, design and sustainability, to be the herald of change from sales-driven to human-centered brand communications.
8. What makes your blog different? How can viewers leverage the content on your blog?
Popsop doesn’t do ‘quick’ news any longer; instead we spot trends, gather interesting statistics, consumer insight and benchmarking data that our B2B audience (or ‘viewers’ as you call them) can use in their everyday work. We also cover some bright philanthropic campaigns that simply make you stop and think about eternal human values—this is rare and priceless.