March 6, 2016

How we supported blogging in the last six years

Friends, this post is NOT on a blogging aspect but on the 6-year journey of IndianTopBlogs.

Four friends, employed in the fields of journalism, writing and tech, joined hands in 2010 end to support good blogging. We started with reading, experimenting and internalizing, discussing things threadbare and evolving our understanding of how the world wide web works. We wrote on all such subjects, but blogging remained our primary focus. We were also conscious of the fact that while the web was full of advice (not always genuine, of course), non-techie bloggers needed hand-holding.

The www has grown over this six-year period, yet most bloggers still do not seem comfortable with different aspects of blogging. So, we still remain relevant.


ITB circa 2011
We experimented with various aspects and niches; we ran a free advertisement campaign to promote social action, also gave away a few free stock images, carried a few affiliated product ads, added a Q-A widget to answer blogging related questions, supported a campaign to promote cleanliness through blogging, surveyed the [Indian] blogosphere twice for the type of blogs it has, showcased good blogs on ITB, reviewed good free software with bloggers in mind... Most significant of all, we offered detailed review of blogs - and when we closed this offer, we had reviewed over 1200 blogs, all for free. 

We continue to bring out blog directories, review blogs (not in detail), showcase some, discuss blogging, advise on different aspects of blogging and suggest good software. But we have discontinued others.


We started with making a database of all Indian blogs in English, which swelled to over 60 thousand blogs at one time. We checked each blog and tried to judge their quality based on simple algorithms that we could handle with a spreadsheet. That created numerous contradictions that we couldn't handle, and then removed all blogs that were not being updated at least 6 times a year, then manually checked the remaining blogs. We are able to manage this process and so it continues till date: we check regularity and quality aspects of each of the about 20k blogs in our database plus the ones we discover during the year. Checking of blogs for 2015-16 edition of the Directory of Best Indian Blogs that comes out on 30th May, '16 is already on.

Initially we had a number of listings, called platinum, gold, bronze and excellent. We've retained the platinum list, which is the creamy layer among the blogs in the directory.


Ya, that takes us to social media. We had never been active on social networks but we kept on being active on one or the other platform in short bursts. This gives us a chance to understand the medium more than anything else. With experimentation, we are able to validate or disprove what we read elsewhere. We joined many communities/ forums and some forums too with the same aim, and now are hardly on any community or forum.


We fervently argue in favor of engagement on social media, but recently decided to remove comment form from ITB as we were being visited by fewer bloggers who engaged meaningfully but more spammers. We have opted for a contact form and are happy with the queries we receive that way.

Though we have been blogging at a steady pace, we've noticed many ups and downs in traffic, comments, social scores, offers for advertisements, etc. Spammers too love and hate us spasmodically.

Many visitors would know that we are on Blogger platform, though with an independent domain name. At times in the past we have discussed whether we should go for an overhauled website/ blog hosted independently, but have so far not found that practical. None of us is leaving the job for full-time blogging yet.

For about five years, our leaning was towards Indian blogs and so we focused on Indian blog directories, showcased Indian blogs, talked more about problems of Indian bloggers, studied Indian blog world. We started the Directory of Best Hindi blogs and had plans to bring out similar directories for blogs in other Indian languages. Now, our focus is universal and so we call ourselves TopBlogs (without Indian) in many places. We now also talk on all aspects of social media, not only blogging.

We recently saw a question on Quora (one of the platforms we are experimenting with at present, and we might persist with it because it allows us to answer questions from bloggers.) wanting to know how much we earn. Frankly, earning has never been our goal and our play with affiliation was mostly for experimentation. We do have one or two AdSense ads but they pay us hardly anything. We get offers for advertisements and other collaborations but have to politely decline as we are unable to accept such offers either due to their terms or our ethical commitment to ourselves or operational issues.

We recall the early days, when we received very bad comments, some doubting our intention and taking us as rogues wanting to dupe bloggers in the name of putting them in our directories. Humans as we are, we felt vindicated when some of the erstwhile critics put our badges on their blogs.

We had a tough time when our group broke for as two of us got busy in their offices. We got two new members, etc etc. Now too, we are four of us. Prabhakar is our oldest member, and our social media face.

We are part techies, but not in coding. When it comes to the social media we find that since technology is growing fast, all are learners. Some excel in content, some are more comfortable with tech, some can do both. We strive to belong to the 'both' category.

What keeps us going as bloggers

We love blogging. Since we have chosen it as the very subject of our study and experimentation, the craft associate with blogging interests us immensely. We'd keep loving that.

We can take pride in many things but if we were to choose one, it is our commitment to a very high ethical standard. We have not budged an inch on that, even if we had to forego some (not many) good commercial offers. Even if we are low on traffic, design, money making, regularity, engagement and other parameters you'd judge a blog on, we'd never be low on genuineness and good conduct. 

We have bared our heart. Any comment? 

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