Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Changing Indian Blogscape

Blogging in India is yet to mature enough, to attract substantial interest either from traditional media channels for them to depend on blogs for rich, unique stories and headlines or from the regular netizens to adopt blogs as their staple source of information. The blogosphere in the US for example has in certain areas outgrown the print and TV media. One prime example would be Michael Arrington's TechCrunch Blog. Web 2.0 startup companies prefer, on any day, a coverage on this blog that has close to half a million syndicate subscribers, than a coverage via the conventional print media. This is because the readers of this blog are a filtered group who are genuinely interested or work in areas similar to what is being blogged about. Anybody in any form of media would prefer to reach such a focused and niche group to announce new products and services rather than splurge precious Ad money on traditional channels and hope that a fraction of the readers are the actual intended audience.

Turning attention back to the Indian blogging space, I feel that blogging in India, will venture into an untrodden path. The blogosphere in India is turning into an absorbing amalgamation of 3 groups. One, the media strong-holds that fling the reporter's net far and wide to capture news. Two, the news-creators themselves, reporting the events to interested groups. And three, the netizen blogs who either recycle news or broadcast personal views, opinions, standpoints and perspectives. The dividing line between these groups is slowly blurring out.

Here's a glimpse into the 3-zone blogging space in India.

Encroachment by Traditional Media
Traditional media is voraciously adopting to blogging as a means to hold on to net savvy readers for whom, the TV and newspapers are too limited a source of information when it comes to seeking out news from domains that represent their interest areas. Consider a technology guy who is eager to lap up tech news right till the last drop. Or the die-hard football fan who won't rest till he knows of the latest Beckham hairdo or Zizou's Cannes film festival appearance. How is traditional media expected to satiate the hunger of such niche groups ? There are limitations. An average Indian newspaper might carry a tech supplement once a week. A news channel like BBC too may have a tech related program once or twice a day. Football too might have print coverage just enough to show how much Beckham scored, not how many times he has changed his hair-style. How are they expected to cover minute to minute updates on these fields and retain the niche readers?

Blogging seems to be the panacea. CNN IBN Live website encourages each one of its news-reporters who cover a specific sphere of interest to blog regularly with the spotlight on happenings in that area. Rajdeep Sardesai blogs on politics, Srikkanth on Cricket, Ankit Fadia on happenings in the Hacker community, etc. An amazing 73 different blogs by various domain experts hosted on a single news site. Indiatimes has its own acclaimed O3 blogging community. Exceptionally well written blog entries have links right from the Indiatimes homepage. The idea behind all this is to create more of a community. You create community and you'll increase traffic and loyalty.
If this is one constituent of the emerging "blogweb" I was talking about, wait till you hear of the more amazing and dynamic other constituents.

News Makers and First Hand Reporters
Even the non-news agencies that have first hand access to news as it happens have taken to blogging. Dakshina Kannada district police department in Karnataka has kicked off its blog under the aegis of it current superintendent of police, Mr B Dayananda. The blog he says, aims to serve as an interface between crime investigators and the press and also the net readers. Or take the case of Munjal Shah, an employee at the recently launched Riya Photo Hosting Site who gives a first hand report of the first 60 days after the Web 2.0 photo application went live in March. Who better than the best in the business to narrate current happenings and forecast trends?

Citizen Journalists
The third component would be the self proclaimed free-lance writers who have been slowly but surely gaining credibility for their efforts in India. These 'Citizen-Journalists' as ZDNet UK puts it, have been slowly but surely creaming off users from the traditional media. They add the much needed spice and masala to the news by acting as converging points for related news from various other channels. They don't just stop at that. They even allow a free expression of readers opinions and act as vehicles that aren't restricted by the usual political and legal constraints that bind conventional media.

Law of the Land
Going forward, it would be interesting to see how these three emerging forces shape up the blogging scene in India. What would also be of importance is the real possibility of one of these forces completely overwhelming the others.

The Indian IT law that as yet does not have any concrete framework for bloggers, will also be a force to reckon with. With the Indian government contemplating a revision of IT laws shortly, the blogging world might get the legitimacy that has long been lacking. Equally possible are curbs on the enormous freedom that the blogging community enjoys (just as was the case in Singapore during the recent elections). The law of the land might turn out to be the Hand of God that would ultimately decide the future course for the Indian "blogweb".

3 comments:

Bit Hawk said...

Good one!

Anonymous said...

Hi Vijay Rao,
Your article gives a view that blogs is going to be well accepted in the Indian scenario. But has it not already reached India and doing well. Now we have to talk about the laws in depth and the government policy. Also we need to consider the freedom of speech and expression while working on any of it.
Do tell me if I made a mistake in my assessment.

Vijay said...

Though the number of bloggers is rising in India, we are no where near in comparision to the number of bloggers in even small sized western countries. A simple experiment to this end is to ask a computer graduate what a blog is and see how many have even an idea of what a blog is, let alone blog themselves. Blogging is still in its infancy in India and is more a pasttime than a serious affair to most Indian netizens. However on a optimistic note, even at this stage blogger power was felt during the recent Mumbai blasts when government banned access to blogs for nearly a week.

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