September 30, 2015

Announcing 2014-15 edition of Best Hindi Blog Directory

Dear English-only friends,
Allow us to address this post to thousands of our esteemed visitors who like to read blogs in Hindi and are interested in good blogging in Hindi. We are happy to announce the 2014-15 edition of the Directory of Best Hindi Blogs.

मित्रो,

हमें आज उत्कृष्ट हिंदी ब्लॉग्स की डायरेक्टरी पेश करते हुए बहुत ख़ुशी हो रही है. इसमें  160 से कम ब्लॉग हैं जो  हिंदी के सर्वोत्तम ब्लॉग कहे जा सकते हैं, अगर आप हिंदी ब्लॉगों का उत्कृष्टता के
मापदंडों पर आकलन करें जैसे समाहित सामग्री की क्वालिटी, ब्लॉगिंग के प्रति सजगता और डिज़ाइन. 

हालांकि हमने कंटेंट के स्तर को सबसे ज़्यादा अहमियत दी है, कई उत्कृष्ट ब्लॉगों को छोड़ना पड़ा जिनमें 12 महीनों में कम से कम 9 महीनों में भी कोई पोस्ट नहीं लिखी गई. 


ऐसे ब्लॉग भी छूट गए हैं जो उत्तम  स्तर के हैं लेकिन उनका लेआउट और डिज़ाइन  का स्तर बहुत कमज़ोर है, हालांकि हमने पूँछ सदृश ब्लॉगरोल और ऐसी लम्बी विजेट्स को अनदेखा भी किया है. 


पहले की तरह हमारी कोशिश रही कि एक ब्लॉगर का एक ही ब्लॉग इस डायरेक्टरी में रहे ताकि अन्य अच्छे ब्लॉगों को भी स्थान मिल सके. 


मात्राओं के प्रति हम संवेदनशील हैं लेकिन बहुत अच्छे ब्लॉग जिनमें कुछेक जगह गलत मात्राएँ लगीं हैं हमने उन्हें भी डायरेक्टरी में जगह दी है. 


ऐसे ब्लॉगर हमें क्षमा करें जिनके ब्लॉग हम इस डायरेक्टरी में सम्मिलित न कर पाए; हो सकता है इन ब्लॉगों में रंगों का प्रयोग फूहड़पन की तरफ़ ले जाता हो, कंटेंट का स्तर काफ़ी कम-स्तरीय हो, अपने मुँह मियां-मिटठू बनने की चाहत बहुत ही प्रबल हो या ब्लॉगिंग झटके में की जा रही हो - कभी बहुत कम और कभी-कभार बहुत ज़्यादा भी. 


ऐसे ब्लॉग इस डायरेक्टरी में नहीं हैं जो सामाजिक वैमनस्य पैदा करते हों या संकीर्ण विचार फैलाते हों. 


केवल धार्मिक प्रवचनों वाले ब्लॉग भी हमने काफ़ी सोच-विचार के बाद इस सूची से हटा दिए. लेकिन ऐसे ब्लॉग डायरेक्टरी में अभी भी हैं जो धर्म और आध्यात्म की बातें तो करते हैं लेकिन धार्मिक दुष्प्रचार नहीं करते.

ऐसे ब्लॉग भी हमें छोड़ने पड़े जो अब पर्सनल वेबसाइट, मैगज़ीन  या पोर्टल के रूप में विकसित/ परिवर्तित हो चुके हैं.


क्षमा कीजियेगा इस बात के लिए कि हमने कुछ ऐसे ब्लॉग भी डायरेक्टरी में शामिल किये हैं जिनका स्तर उन्नत ब्लॉगों की तुलना में कमतर है, लेकिन ये ब्लॉग यहां इसलिए आ सके हैं कि ये हिंदी ब्लॉगिंग को बढ़ावा देने में महत्वपूर्ण योगदान दे रहे हैं. 

आशा है आपको यह संकलन पसंद आया होगा. अगर आपका ब्लॉग उत्कृष्ठ है फिर भी उसे इस डायरेक्टरी में स्थान नहीं मिला है या फिर कोई ऐसा ब्लॉग इसमें गलती से आ गया हो जो नहीं आना चाहिए था तो हमें लिख भेजिए इस ईमेल पर: kpnd2008@gmail.com


हिंदी ब्लॉग संसार की बात कभी फिर विस्तार से करेंगे, अभी एक अच्छी बात जो हमने देखी, वह आपसे साझा कर लें. अंग्रेजी के ब्लॉगों की तुलना में हमें एक अच्छी बात नज़र आती है कि जहां अंग्रेज़ी के ज़्यादातर ब्लॉग खुलते हैं धूम से और फिर बंद हो जाते हैं, हिंदी के ब्लॉग कम ही सही, चलते रहते हैं. इस बार तो हमने इस बात का रिकॉर्ड भी रखा: पिछली डायरेक्टरी में से 65 ब्लॉग इस बार इसलिए बाहर हो गए कि वो पिछले 12 महीनों में 9 महीनों में भी अपडेट नहीं हुए थे, दूसरी तरफ़ 23 ऐसे ब्लॉग जो अच्छे तो थे लेकिन कम उपडेट होने के कारण पिछली डायरेक्ट्री में नहीं थे, इस बार फिर आ गए क्योंकि वह हर महीने अपडेट होते रहे.

अगर आपका ब्लॉग इस डाइरैक्टरी में है और आप हमारी मेहनत और ईमानदारी को सराहते हैं तो आप नीचे दिया हुआ बैज अपने ब्लॉग पर लगा सकते हैं. इसके लिए आपको दिये गए कोड को कॉपी करके अपने ब्लॉग की html विजेट /gadget पर पेस्ट करना होगा. आप इसे ब्लॉग पोस्ट में भी लगा सकते हैं, जिसके लिए आपको इस कोड को html/ code मोड में पेस्ट करना है.
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डायरेक्टरी का लिंक हम दुबारा दे रहे हैं. लिखियेगा, आपको यह डायरेक्टरी कैसी लगी.

September 28, 2015

Connecting the US and India through social media dialogues

@NarendraModi figures in a number of ITB posts on social media. Modi figured when he charmed Chinese social media users before visiting that country and the Modi-Chinese premier Li selfie went viral. We also carried an exclusive post on Modi's growing Facebook following. Now is again the time he must figure big as he deserves it.

September is the time when a number of national heads visit America for the UN General Assembly session. Many are there this year too. But while others are busy honing their speeches at the UN, only a few are busy transacting business that would benefit their nations. Among them too, nobody is doing business of finding investment and soft diplomacy like Modi.

Modi went to Silicon Valley to not only invite IT biggies to invest in and work from India, he used the opportunity to connect with the huge community of non-resident Indians there. He did both very efficiently. 
 
Modi's meeting with IT heads was great, with many big investment offers being made at the meet itself. His visit to Facebook and his fielding of questions at the 'town hall' was stupendous. His constantly-applauded speech at SAP Center reminded of his last September's Madison Square event. 

Indian PM has made profound statements on social media and internet connectivity. He says, cities in future would take shape not on river banks or around highways but along internet highways. He reminds world leaders that earlier their performance was assessed once in 4-5 years, but now their sayings and deeds are before the world in five minutes. He chides them to not run away from social media but adopt it. He recalls how he could catch so much information in such a short span [of his being at the helm] due to internet and social media which he could not have in ages by reading books or from advisors. He has sold his 'Digital India' mission like a great salesman.


How many PM's have got his presence felt in the Silicon Valley so much? When did you see last the Facebook boss's page full of His interaction with a PM  and his photo with a shade of the PM's national flag? When did you see Google garlanding a political leader on its homepage and carrying a special blog-page to showcase his boss's meeting with the leader?

September 25, 2015

9 blogging myths that all bloggers must be aware of

There are people who create myths to misguide others and then make hay. There are myths that get created on their own and people spread them for their gain. AND THEN there are the gullible folk who repent for having believed the myths and taken wrong actions. Bloggers just starting their blogs also fall prey to myth-mongers.

So, friends, let's bust the 9 major blogging myths. Our blogging can be successful only when we are clear about the right actions that we need to take.

Myth 1. Blogging will make you millionaire within six months.


We put it on top of the list because of our long experience with compiling blog directories. We have discovered that thousands of bloggers create blogs with the intention of making quick money and are left frustrated when such money doesn't come by. 

Well, there may be stray instances of a smart blogger choosing a paying niche, his tricks paying off and he making a big sum in a short time. But these are exceptions. All others have to work hard consistently for a long period to make money from blogging.

Even if money is not the goal, reaching a big audience and becoming a web-authority on the subject takes time and perseverance.


2. You must blog many times a day to become popular.


Frequency of posting on a blog depends upon many factors. The subject of the blog often decides the optimum size of post and frequency of blogging. 

Analytical blogs on serious topics would gain fame and audience even if they have updates once a week or less. In fact, less frequency may be desirable in some cases, for example blogs on research. However, news and current affairs blogs cannot afford to wait even for a day.  It is also logical that bigger posts would be posted less frequently than short posts. 

In short, there is no uniform frequency that suits all blogs.

3. You need a lot of SEO to get quality traffic to the blog. 


SEO shops often convince bloggers and website owners that they must use a lot of search engine optimization (SEO) on the blog to get more traffic and more money. Those wanting a quick buck (myth 1 above) often fall prey to such arguments.

Blogs do need SEO to be discovered by potential visitors. But such SEO is simple and does not need knowledge of coding etc, except for a few technical actions that you can ignore. Moreover, you must use only ethical SEO techniques and not 'tricks'.
 

4. You must keep blogging and people will discover you. 


This is the opposite of the myth that you will not succeed without big SEO. Think of the blog as a shop that lies in a market full of similar shops (or a house in a huge street of similar houses, if you hate money part of blogging). If the shopper does not advertise his merchandise or even put a board  outside the shop, it is likely that only a few buyers would visit him however good his stuff may be. He will have to wait for ages till the word-of-mouth publicity pulls buyers to him. Even then, it is likely that he'd get visitors only from a small locality. 

The point we are making is, you need to popularise the blog online as well as through personal contacts. The quality of content matters the most, but it is not discovered and appreciated unless people know about it.

5. Only paid blogs succeed, not free ones. So let me go immediately for a wordpress blog on a big web host.


Many [successful?] bloggers having affiliation with web hosts brainwash you into believing that you cannot succeed without putting your blog on one of these hosts. 

Agreed that hosting the blog on an independent server (not on Tumblr, Blogger, Livejournal and Wordpress.com platforms) is a big advantage when you blog for money. It gives you the freedom to customize and also many resources and tools that free platforms do not offer. 

However, (i) free platforms too have a fair range of tools and resources that are good enough for majority of bloggers; (ii) for putting on independent hosts, you need to create the blog. For this, you will have to use site creation tools such as wordpress (not wordpress.com) and Joomla (agreed that many hosts provide free templates and web tools as part of package); (iii) you have to worry about the host giving you enough resources when you need them later, security and speed of server, and so on. On big free platforms, such aspects are taken care of; (iv) you lose the internal mechanisms for popularizing blogs, which are available on free platforms (e.g. Google has the option of simultaneous posting on Google Plus; Blogger and Wordpress has numerous widgets to integrate with social networks and vice versa).

Our advice would be to not fall for the myth of 'only independently hosted blogs succeed'. Consider all pros and cons coolly and decide.   


6. Blogging is, after all, writing. 


Blogging is not just writing; it is many things together: making the blog beautiful, complementing the written word with images and multi-media,  arranging elements such that visitors easily get what they want, telling and guiding visitors (including asking them effectively to buy a product), helping visitors to reach more resources, providing for engagement and feedback...

Blogging suffers when the blogger concentrates only on the writing part. Writing is the essential part of blogging, but not the only part.  


7. We must write short posts as web surfers' attention span is very short.


If you are convinced that you must write many times a day (myth 2), your post will likely be short and without the required effort. Such posts, generally speaking, go not give the value that the visitor seeks.

It has been found that though web surfers' attention span is short, the satisfaction level is much higher when they read a well-researched post as compared to hurriedly written short ones. Long and content-rich posts are better shared, promoted and bookmarked. 

On long posts, we can use techniques for retaining attention of the visitor (e.g. short paragraphs, visual inputs, sub-titles).
 

8. I must put a number of widgets on the home page to give the visitor a lot of stuff in one go.


Nothing spoils the appeal of a blog more than clutter. And nothing adds to clutter more than widgets, especially the short ones and those with animations. Clutter also makes navigation difficult. It also immediately gives the impression that the blogger is amateurish in his approach.

Keep only those widgets (and other elements) that add value to the blog.


9. Blogging will fade away, so let's be active only on social networks.


Yes, blogging will fade away like all other things in this world. But, it will remain a medium for serious discussion and excellent web resources for a long time, because it is not a fad. Rest assured, it will outlive some of the mighty social networks that we have today. 

Noticed this? Some of these myths say the opposite of one another because these have one thing in common - an extreme view-point. IndianTopBlogs supports the 'truth' part in these myths, as you'd see from the links. 

September 22, 2015

Chat privacy issues force Indian government to withdraw encryption draft...and social media teaches lessons to Donald Trump and Rahul Gandhi

The Indian government came out with a draft encryption policy, taking into account the need to protect information assets, international trends and concerns of national security.

The draft has been withdrawn and link removed from their website after public hue and cry about it. 


The proposed policy mandated all internet users (including people like you and us) to keep their chat data intact for 90 days. That means you'd not delete your chats over WhatsApp, Google Chat, Facebook chat, Viber, Yahoo messenger etc till it is 90 days after the chatting was done.

This  provision would mean chat providers to have their chat servers in India, and they must bring out special updates of chat apps with automatic storage and deletion provisions. 

Netizens and mainline media alike, people raised concern about their privacy, forcing the government to announce today that the draft is shredded.

Why does social media pounce on Rahul Gandhi whenever he opens his mouth?


We are serious jokers here at ITB but we too laugh at times. For example, this week we had a laugh at the expense of #RaGa (Rahul Gandhi, the scion of India's top political family for over six decades). Not that we are Congress-baiters or in the anti-RaGa brigade, but what he said and with so much force made us laugh.

In a public meeting called by Congress party to tell farmers that the current PM #Modi was trying to snatch their land in the name of development, Rahul pronounced: "...everybody has a mother and there is no person without a mother." Once he thought farmers were convinced they had a mother, he said, "Modi is snatching farmers' mother by taking away their land. He is giving away our mothers to others."

What could be a better line on the social media to laugh at a public figure? For days together, we could hear funny jokes about Rahul's wisdom, his parentage, association of his statement with a film dialogue and the controversial godmother Radhey Ma, and so on. 


Past catches up with Donald Trump


In the US, Presidential candidate Donald Trump didn't realise that making a hashtag '#AskTrump' would generate so much sarcasm and people would question him about his uncharitable comments on President Obama and others. There is no bigger shovel than social media to dig up your past utterances and deeds, no?

However, Trump's recent social media performance has been steady. This interview of McConney, his social media director, has a good piece of information on how social media managers maintain social media entities of the big and mighty.

September 19, 2015

Change Blogger comments to Google Plus and be prepared for surprises!

Before we come to the subject, we'd recall our old post on dynamic views on Blogger. We found it aweful in its initial avatar, and had hoped that it would improve. It has improved a lot, with side links to many missing resources, but jury is still out whether some of the views are worth it.

Google has two options on Blogger (.blogspot.com) platform for comments. You can integrate blog comments with Google Plus or you retain the older version. After some study of the advantages of the new offer (Google Plus), we switched to this on ITB. But we are disappointed - as of now.

This post, thus, is to inform bloggers about pluses and minuses of shifting to Google Plus enabled commenting system on Blogger so that they take an informed decision.

The old, traditional, commenting system has these features:

  • You can see comments in the 'Comments' menu of the blog. There, you find the list of all the comments - published, those awaiting moderation (if comment moderation is on) and spam.
  • You can moderate comments, i.e. decide which one to publish and which one to block. You can, additionally, choose to get an email notification when  a new comment is received.
  • In the 'Settings' menu and 'Posts and Comments' sub-menu, you get options to moderate. You also can allow or disallow different commenter identities including anonymous comments. You also an option to force a capcha. Finally, you can place a greeting message on top of the comment box. 

On the Google+ enabled comment system (as of now), 
  • You can't see all comments in one place.
  • You cannot allow or restrict comments according to identities. Only visitors with Google+ identity are allowed to comment.
  • You can't moderate comments before they are published. You can mark them spam only after they are public, but removal from the blog does not mean the comment will not appear on other places where the post appears.
  • You can't greet commenters in a customised way.
  • It is not available on classic template, adult blogs and private blogs.
  • If you shift back to the traditional system, the comments made during the Google+ system will disappear. Thankfully, when we change over to Google+ enabled system, we retain all the earlier comments.

But then why would anyone like to put Google+ enabled commenting system?

Yes, that is the moot question. We looked for user responses on the web and found some answers:

  • Google Plus commenting integrates all comments relating to that post, whether on Google Plus timeline or any community or the blog itself. It also leads to only one profile of Blogger and Google Plus. This results in greater social media visibility. As the G+ universe grows, it means that much more exposure in future.
  • The integration definitely leads to many more followers for your Google Plus timeline.
  • The system pre-supposes that commenting is a community activity and must be visible to all. To that extent, this is a move towards more freedom of expression.
  • It has also been reported that these comments become available to Google for search, leading to better visibility to the blog in search results.

On the other hand, some users have found the loss of control and customisation a retrograde move. Some feel, spam-marking of the already published comments might lead to revenge from spammers. Not allowing visitors without Google account to comment is taken as Google trying to arm-twist people to register on Google; this also discourages non-Google-registered visitors from commenting.

So, friends, we have done our job. You decide about your blog. Amen!

September 16, 2015

Social media updates: Modi to visit Facebook, Outlook social media awards, Twitter for news and Bihar elections

When tech trend-setter #MarkZuckerberg meets political giant #Modi


Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg is hosting India's PM Narendra Modi later this month. They will field questions, perhaps on all things technical, Indian, geo-political and economic.

If you are interested in details, it will be 9:30 Pacific time, 27th September, 2015. According to Zuckerberg, they will discuss how communities can work together to address social and economic challenges.

On his Facebook page, Mark has invited questions and within four days, over 32 thousand comments have been received with varied suggestions and questions to Modi and Mark!

Twitter is now the first choice for news!


We carried a post recently about growing use of social media as the first media choice; this was our observation about celebrities lapping up social media before going to the mainline media.

But are the visitors / common people checking social media before going to the mainstream media such as television and print? Ok, you knew that. But nothing validates gut feelings better than surveys. So, have a look at what a recent survey by the American Press Institute has found (We have taken off a lot of data from the survey results).
  • According to the study, 9 out of 10 Twitter users say, they use Twitter for news. Most of them do so every day!
  • Users depend on Twitter for alerts as well as general news. 
  • Among those who follow news, three-fourths follow journalists, columnists etc. A slightly smaller number of them do follow institutional accounts.

Legal notices to bloggers: one more from a company


Just as Flipkart thought it proper to send a legal notice to blogger Amit Bhawani for hurting its reputation, Medianama has received a defamation notice from Star India for referring to Peter Mukerjea as Star's ex-CEO. A better counsel seems to have prevailed in this case as Star later withdrew the notice. Medianama has given details of the sequence and analysed the subject of online defamation in great details.

Outlook magazine announces Social Media Awards

Outlook, a popular English news magazine of India, has announced what it calls 'India’s first social media awards'. It says, Aimed at recognizing and rewarding the Outspoken, the Outstanding, and the Outliers of the social media universe, OSM awards will acknowledge stellar work by individuals, brands and corporations across categories.

Elections and social media: our pet subject!


ITB has discussed use of social media in elections umpteen number of times. Now comes a very keenly fought election in the Indian state of Bihar. Its current Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, is trying his best to retain power while NDA, the Indian PM's coalition, is trying its level best to uproot him.
Till recently not inclined to pitch in the social media, Nitish has deployed an army of youth to support him digitally. His Facebook page now has 800 thousand followers and he uses it often to attack his bête noire Modi. Nitish's old foe but now friend Lalu Prasad, who used to lampoon social media till last national elections, has 445 thousand followers.

With 782 thousand followers, Nitish's main rival Sushil Kumar Modi (SuMo), the Bihar chief of Indian PM's party, is fast catching up.

Indiscretion on #socialmedia; this time by one who should be guiding against it!


This doctor seems to have got too excited to learn about his yet-to-be-born child's sex - male. It is reported that he uploaded on his Facebook timeline
a report and sonography images disclosing the sex of the foetus, and a comment announcing his likely date of birth. (We could not find a matching profile; maybe, the account has been taken off.)

Dr Upadhyay has invited much deserved criticism on social media and also a legal case against him for announcing the gender of his child. Sex determination of foetus is banned in India as in some sections of the son-obsessed society, parents tend to abort the foetus if it is a girl.


All social media updates on ITB can be visited at this link.

September 13, 2015

Indian bloggers don't want money; brands say, small blogs of no significance

While discussing the relationship between Indian blogs and brands, we had mentioned about a little survey that we recently carried out among bloggers.

In response to a questionnaire sent to randomly selected bloggers whose blogs are in the Directory of Best Indian Blogs, we received 23 responses, as follows:

Have you worked to make your blog especially relevant for brands?
  • Personal blogs (14): 13 - no and 1- yes
  • Blogs on fashion, travel, photography, food, decor, book reviews (9): 4 - no and 5 - yes
  • 'No' means they did not especially look for making the blog attractive for brands.
  • 1 food blogger said, she started the blog only after she was widely recognised as a cook and so didn't care for brands (brands themselves came to her).

Has any advertiser / brand approached you with any offer including affiliation, buying ad space, sponsoring a product review, or collaborating in any other matter other than just sending a gift for a product review?  

  • Personal blogs (14): no - 14
  • Food, travel etc blogs (9): no - 4, yes - 5

Have you been given any offer for product reviews? (This question was posed only to food etc bloggers, and not to bloggers with a personal blog.)
  • No - 3 and yes -6
  • Blogs reviewing beauty products quite often received hampers and book reviewers routinely received books. 

Have you approached any advertiser or seller on your own?
  • Personal blogs (14): no - 13 and yes - 1
  • Food etc blogs (9): no - 4 and yes - 5

Do you have a plan for monetising the blog? 
(This question was posed to 8 blogs with no form of monetisation on the blog.)
  • No - 5 and yes - 3
  • Two who said yes seemed to be influenced by our queries.

Do you have a plan for any form of monetisation other than AdSense? 
(This question was posed to bloggers who had only AdSense advertisements and no other form of monetisation on their blogs.)
  • No - 6 and yes - 8
 
Do you think, anybody planning to buy kitchen items or books would look for your opinion? 
(This question was posed to 5 bloggers whose blogs are popular in their fields: cooking, travel and book reviews.)
  • Yes - 2; don't know / friends might - 3

We also approached a mid-sized, Delhi-based, media company. They had a social media strategy department; in the name of  strategy, they just thought of sale of advertisements to big websites. 

What the head of this department told us:
  • They do not consider ordinary blogs when devising their social media strategy. 
  • They had heard of Huffington Post India and would consider such big names, whether blogs or other types of websites. 
  • In the industry, number of hits (They think hits and page-views are the same!) is what is tossed by advertisers in getting advertisements for their web media clients such as big portals. 
  • DAVP (Indian government's arm of advertising)  gives advertisements to only big websites and newspaper / television portals, and this guides other advertisers. 
  • AdSense is too pervasive but Indian advertisers do not know how to proactively deal with targeted advertising on small websites / blogs. 
  • The impact of affiliate marketing on overall brand creation or sale is not clear to Indian advertisers.

So, allow us to conclude, based on this small interaction, that:
  • Most Indian blogs, who happen to write on personal matters and comments, do not work hard to monetise their blogs and do not connect with brands.
  • Most blogs in categories that see online buyers or are amenable to product reviews have the aim to earn from blogging.
  • Even those bloggers whose main aim is not earning through blogging put AdSense ads in their blogs.
  • Brands and advertisers do not bother for small blogs. 
Articles in this series:
1. How active and influential are Indian bloggers?
2. What is the future of Indian English blogging?
3. Are Indian bloggers so much worse than American and European bloggers?
4. Are Indian English bloggers relevant for brands and advertisers?  

5. Indian bloggers don't want money; brands say, small blogs of no significance (present one)

September 11, 2015

One of India's best bloggers reveals her blogging secrets

She is an accomplished writer today thanks to blogging. Meet Alka Gurha, whose blog Freebird is a  neat blog without frills.


alka-gurha-blog
Alka has been blogging since 2010 and has earned a name for herself as a blogger and a writer on reputed sites through her perseverance with blogging. You can see a lot of visitor engagement on her blog. Not for nothing, her blog has been on the Directory of Best Indian Blogs year after year and is also one of our topmost Platinum blogs.
blogger-alka-gurha
Alka (photo taken from Freebird)
Alka Gurha shares her blogging experience and also has a few tips for budding bloggers. Read on.
 
What do you consider your biggest blogging achievement?

If I have to name my biggest blogging achievement, then it has to be my personal growth.

When I began six years ago, my blog was my own little space where I was able to rant, rave, reflect and reminisce. Each time I wrote a post, I felt happy. There was something about articulating thoughts on a public platform and comparing them with others that was truly transformative. Moreover, there was an addictive kick in knowing that people living in different continents could read what I was writing.

As luck would have it, the editor of a city based newspaper was looking for writers. He read some of my blog posts, based on which I received an offer to write for the paper. An otherwise small step was noteworthy on two accounts. First, I was able to see my articles in print, and second, I was able to tap my educational background (Major in Plant Physiology and minor in Biochemistry). I wrote several ‘Wellness Articles’ based on plants and their health benefits. Since current affairs and politics intrigued me, generic writing paved way for media critique, political commentary and focused analysis. One article led to another, and I began writing for websites like The Hoot, The Indian Exponent and The Huffington Post.

Apart from social recognition as a writer, there has been phenomenal personal growth. A study by Clive Thompson, a Canadian blogger, shows that when we write for an audience, we think better. We can win an argument inside our head, but when we write for an audience we try to be convincing. We put in our best when we know that what we write is going to be read by millions of people across continents. While this consciousness is stimulating, it is also empowering. 

As far as I remember, my mind was always flooded with little thoughts pulling me in different directions. However, I am pretty focused when I blog. Hours pass in minutes, minutes in seconds. Amazing how focused writing becomes almost meditative. 

From your experience, can you offer any tips for quick growth of one's blog?

I am unaware of any shortcuts for long term growth as a blogger. If you want quick popularity, create a controversy, write about religion, bash a gender, provoke people, and insult a celebrity. But that is unlikely to take you far. 

To my mind, passionate sustained writing is the only way to go.

What is your take on maintaining high quality of content, and the craft of blogging?

There are millions of people who blog. Not all blogs are popular. At the end of the day, it all boils down to quality and content. 

Apart from being clear and concise, your words have to connect with the reader. What is your reader gaining from spending time on your blog? Is it information, inspiration or entertainment? There has to be something on offer for the reader. 

Since my blog reflects on news and media, it is a spicy mix of information and entertainment. 

Social media interactions on Facebook and Twitter have helped me in popularizing my blog.

Finally, what do you think should be the ideal frequency of posting on the blog?

It makes sense to write when the urge is overwhelmingly strong – so strong that you have to flush the thoughts out of your system. Do not write just because you have to write. Forced writing seldom connects with readers. Nevertheless, one should not neglect the blog for long.

September 8, 2015

Taj Mahal on Twitter, stalker on Facebook, refugee kid on social lap, politics on Viber!

The last fortnight saw us delving deep into the habits of Indian bloggers, so we could not update you on what is happening, especially in South Asia, on the social media. Let's catch up with some interesting developments.

The photo of a young man went viral after it was posted by a Delhi girl, accusing the boy to be harassing her everyday. The boy was arrested and later released. Delhi Chief Minister instantly congratulated the girl.
girl, accused boy


Later, the boy also wrote a Facebook post accusing the girl of threatening him and posting the photo for her publicity. The jury is out, but the Facebook post created a lot of drama on TV news channels, print media and of course the social media. 'Trial by media' is passé; talk of 'trial by social media'.

tajmahal
Wah Taj!

Visiting Taj Mahal? Use your mobile phone creatively and snap lovely photos of yours and your family. Broadcast it to the world by posting the  photos on the Twitter handle @tajmahal

The state tourism department says, Taj is the first historical monument to have its verified account on Twitter. 


Aylan-syrian-boy
One of the photos; taken from the web
You might have seen nothing more moving in the recent past than a Syrian refugee kid's body lying on a beach in Turkey. It generated a huge outcry over the way refugees were treated in  Europe. The little boy #Aylan alongwith his brother and mother were washed away when their boat sank off Turkish coast. 

Hope, the stir caused in our minds by the picture stirs European leaders and helps in resolving the migration issue facing the region.

Elections and the social media


Singapore goes to polls this week and all its big and small parties have lapped up social media in a big way. However, despite the small nation being fully tech-enabled, the role of new media may be only marginal, say observers. It could, at best, make an impact in closely-fought constituencies, they reckon. 

Nothing comes close to real action on the ground, and meeting the voters in person, no?

Yet, in another island nation, Sri Lanka, the recent elections saw a decisive impact by new tech platforms of communication, it seems. Prominent Sri Lankan Leader , Chandrika Kumaratunga has disclosed that opposition parties used Viber, Tango and Skype for secret communication, and the government did not know how to monitor that. Otherwise the government would have snooped over them and even got them killed, she says. 

Intelligence agencies, listening?

A blogger gets notice in India for using a company logo!


Indian e-commerce biggie, Flipkart, has sent legal notice to a tech blogger, Amit Bhawani, for  copyright infringement and cyber squatting. Amit, a blogger of repute, opened a blog comparing Flipkart with rival Amazon, and used company logos etc. Flipkart feels that the way its trademark, domain name, and artistic work have been used by the blogger can create confusion among the public and harm its reputation.

September 3, 2015

Are Indian English bloggers relevant for brands, advertisers and buyers?

Indian bloggers, advertisers / brands, and buyers are not on the same page. There is a big disconnect of brands with bloggers; and this problem is not going to disappear overnight. A fact check:

Look at these observations about Indian blogs that are almost irrefutable:

Most Indian blogs are on free platforms.
On most Indian blogs, there are not many comments. Out of the comments, very few have substance.
Most Indian blogs have very few visitors.
Indians have started online purchases in a big way but they seldom look to blogs for advice. 

From the above, we can draw these inferences:

Brands and advertisers do not see much value in Indian blogs because (i) there are not many people looking at display advertisements; (ii) not many people are likely to be influenced by the advice of particular bloggers; and (iii) not many people will be influenced by the engagement taking place through comments.

It is not that firms don’t patronize Indian bloggers at all. In the last one year or so, many bloggers have won cars for promoting them (e.g. Ford, Mercedes) on their blogs; bloggers routinely win prizes on platforms such as IndiBlogger and BlogAdda by participating in promotional campaigns / competitions; bloggers’ meets do get sponsors; travel bloggers get offers of all-paid trips and hotel stays; beauty and book review blogs get hampers and books; sometimes blogger-exclusive competitions / events are organized and bloggers are rewarded handsomely (e.g. Kerala Tourism). But this all is more of patronage or at best part of a social media engagement; it does not amount to blogging being seen as an influential medium that has influence on buyers.

Now look at the bloggers' attitude towards brands. Not many Indian bloggers use blogging for earning money. Even if a blogger is serious about monetisation, he is likely to take the quick route of remotely placed advertisements (e.g. AdSense) as he does not invest time and energy in building a relationship with brands.

This is a lose-lose situation: bloggers lose and brands lose. Brand apathy in India is also aided by general lack of appreciation among advertising and media companies about blogs. For them, it was websites earlier, and social networking sites now. If at all, they prefer AdSense route for advertising on blogs because it is well-aggregated, effortless and hassle-free. 

(Our observation is at variance with a one-year old Indiblogger study saying that 86% Indian blogs monetise, 45% are approached by brands and 56% blogs influence buying decision of buyers.) As expected, Indians settled abroad properly monetise their blogs and some of them earn handsomely from blogging.

Blogs as influencers of buying decisions: many a slip between the cup and the lip.


Many surveys have made us believe that blogs are taken as reputed web spaces. But this reputation ends with seeing the blogger as one who can write or who has a formidable archive of posts. A buyer takes many actions before making the purchase: She makes a search on Google / Bing / Yahoo, or compares different products and prices offered by different sellers, she may have an app on her mobile phone or laptop to help her take the decision, she might like to use up the discount / coupons / cash in the mobile wallet, and this might also influence her decision. She might like to take her friend's opinion or visit / call up the seller. Etc etc. Where does a blog fit in? Perhaps nowhere, unless it is a well-known blog-turned-website dealing with the subject?

So, what makes a knowledge-blog a buyer-friendly blog? We would like to discuss this broad issue later. For now, let's not digress from the topic, i.e. how Indian blogs fare in being relevant for brands, advertisers and buyers.

Our observation tells us (and pardon us for repeating that), Indian bloggers fare extremely poorly. When people search for products or services, Indian blogs are likely to come too low in search results to be of any relevance. On the other hand, by virtue of their popularity and also their advertisements on search engines, comparison and review sites take the limelight. Most Indian bloggers are too small to offer a discount on a purchase made through them; that reduces the chance of offline and word-of-mouth publicity. For advertisers, blogging is an advertising medium in which there is less reward per unit of effort made.


We conducted a quick survey during the last one fortnight on how Indian bloggers look at brands. We also approached head of a media firm. The findings  have helped us write this article with greater authority. Since some other articles are waiting for publication on ITB, we'd post the survey sometime later.

Articles in this series:
1. How active and influential are Indian bloggers?
2. What is the future of Indian English blogging?
3. Are Indian bloggers so much worse than American and European bloggers?
4. Are Indian English bloggers relevant for brands and advertisers?
(present one)
5. Indian bloggers don't want money; brands say, small blogs of no significance