August 22, 2015

How active and influential are Indian bloggers?

It is four years since we last published Indian blogosphere survey, giving details of how Indian bloggers were faring. These four years have seen fast rise of Facebook and decay and death of Orkut, slow but steady rise of Google Plus and its integration with Blogger, meteoric rise of Twitter, people shifting to smartphones and tabs from desktops and laptops, growing internet penetration, advent and great popularity of chatting apps such as Whatsapp, and so on. These have had a considerable impact on blogging.

Let's now move to what we found this time (during compilation of the Directory of Best Indian Blogs) about Indian English blogs. We find that our earlier observations about Indian blogosphere though four year old remain valid even now (Trends in the Indian blogging sceneWhere do Indian bloggers stand?). A few months back, we carried the survey of Indian blogosphere brought out by Indiblogger in 2014, whose results validated some of our findings while disputing some others.

In 2015 too, the blogosphere is live and kicking though pundits were pronouncing way back in 2010 a quick death of blogging. Indian blogosphere is no exception. But we can't agree with Indiblogger that Indian blogs are highly influential, a source of 'majority of content', and 'the fastest-growing web medium.

Five-seven years back, blogging served as a platform to show off our web presence. Now that we have many more platforms for self-expression and digital communication, blogging seems to have become a matter of prestige. In the crowd of people constantly Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagraming, Pinteresting, Digging and Whatsapping, the blogger is seen as one with grey matter and substance.

Indian English bloggers continue to follow the pattern of starting blogs, posting like mad for a while, and then abandoning all or most of their blogs. That, as compilers of blog directories, we suffer year after year because we give a chance to new blogs that are good and regular for about a year, only to see them turn irregular the next year.

There are not many blogging communities and blog aggregators in Indian English blogosphere. On the other hand, language blogging, as we shared elsewhere, is ably supported by such collective action.

Overwhelmingly large number of Indian bloggers have their blogs on Blogger and some on Wordpress.com. Very few blogs are hosted independently.

Some portals of newspapers, television channels and other organisations have been providing a blogging platform to their own journalists. Though seldom good in terms of navigation and design, these blogs have a special place in the blogosphere as they professionally dissect current issues and are free of language infirmities. But some of these platforms are now either not maintained properly or have been closed. One such prominent platform was CNN-IBN's that had good blogs by its lead anchors.


BLOGGING REGULARITY


There must be a few million English blogs on India / by Indians, but only a few thousand are active. Out of these active blogs, not even two thousand could be seen regular enough to publish at least one post a month.

Some technology and gadget blogs post many posts a day; they have a logic - they want to give their loyal visitors all the current information before it is seen on other websites and blogs. However, their posts are short on fresh viewpoints and linguistic refinement. 

A good balance of regularity and quality can be seen in many food and travel blogs, blogs on newspaper portals and blogs by expatriates till they are in India.

You will seldom find a well maintained celebrity blog. Forget their investment in design, they do not write regularly and do not interact with their fans. Times of India keeps providing celebrities a platform to blog but most of celebrity blogs on this portal too are inactive. A great exception to this is Amitabh Bachchan's blog; he writes without fail and also allows readers' comments. 

Many public figures, on the other hand, have their rather active accounts / pages on Facebook and Twitter. Yes, blogs cannot offer them huge following and quick 'sweet nothings' that short form media can, and that explains why there are not many active blogs by public personalities.


MONETIZATION BY INDIAN BLOGGERS


Not many blogs are monetised, for various reasons discussed earlier on ITB. 

We also find that when Indian bloggers do try to monetise, they do it in the most sloppy manner: overuse of advertisements, random placement of ads, obtrusive use of pop-ups and text ads, and so on. (We'd discuss blogger-advertiser relationship in detail in another post soon.)

Out of the various ways of making money from blogging, bloggers choose AdSense followed by affiliation. Direct ads are seen only on prominent fashion, food, travel and IT blogs.


COMMENTING HABITS OF INDIAN BLOGGERS


Most comments on Indian blogs are niceties such as "Beautiful poem!", "You are looking gorgeous!", "The child is really cute!"... Even literary blogs have plain praise. 

Some types of blogs do receive more substantive comments, e.g. food blogs (where people often ask why a recipe did not work well, etc), tech blogs (where visitors are often keen to know more technical details) and current affairs blogs (where people freely give their views, sometimes of trolling nature).

Blogs not getting many serious comments is a big reason for sleepiness in the Indian (English) blogosphere (to be discussed in detail in another post in this series).

Indian bloggers who want to turn rich overnight through blogging seem to be suffering from lack of confidence. Compare their comments on big technology blogs by Americans with those on Indian blogs. Most Indians' comments on foreigners' blogs are in the nature of seeking advice and thanking them for great tips; on Indian blogs, they often ask how the blogger became so successful (purely in $ terms) or "Bro, you are lucky you made ...$s so fast!"

We find a distinct gender divide among bloggers: kid blogs, food blogs and fashion blogs are dominated by women while technology and current affairs / political comments are male-dominated niches.

These trends beg many questions and we'd deal with some questions in the following posts, such as: 
1. What is the future of Indian English blogging?
2. Are Indian bloggers so much worse than American and European bloggers? 
3. Are Indian English bloggers relevant for brands and advertisers?
4. Do brands and blogs care for each other at all?