October 10, 2016

Why should governments support blogging? An Indian perspective and an appeal

Indian government has been supporting small newspapers and magazines since long, with the promise that these promote expression of free thought and support grass-root democracy. Besides giving freebies and taking their reps on press-tours, the government issues advertisements to them through an umbrella advertisement wing called DAVP. A similar system prevails in state (=provincial) governments of India.

The system of their empanelment and giving advertisements is highly corruption-ridden, but successive governments have been perpetuating that.

Government ads are mostly propaganda ads, but almost all have something that is people-centric. Many times, governments want to send social messages, which are very important especially in developing countries.
Bloggers are in no way in competition with these papers but have come up as a means of free thought much stronger than the small print press. The influence of blogs is much more than small print, and they promote exchange rather than being just the broadcasters of information and messages. 

As a prominent Indian blog, ITB has represented to the Government of India that blogs may be considered for a similar support. The government may, for fair play, invite applications and thoroughly screen them before empaneling them for advertisements.

But governments are not likely to respond positively to such a suggestion unless some highly influential person/ lobby supports it or a large number of people petition the government. 

May, we, therefore, appeal to bloggers and their organizations everywhere - especially India - to create an atmosphere in which governments consider the merit of supporting blogs.

The letter sent by us to the Government of India (main letter to Information & Broadcasting Minister, copies to others) a fortnight back is reproduced below:

I am writing this to you on behalf of Indian blogging community, which now plays the role of mass media much more effectively than most medium- and small- newspapers and magazine.


The fact is well known that a very large number of small newspapers are published just for getting DAVP registration. Once the registration is obtained, it is used to get ads from others. They also get government ads on special occasions and publish those editions just to have a proof of having published the ad. Some of the papers registered with DAVP just have classified ads and nothing else; some have content copied from elsewhere and published for showing to DAVP!

It is also a fact that many magazines and souvenirs survive on PSU ads and serve hardly any social purpose.

You, as a grass-root politician for lifetime, would know that many small newspaper owners use their publication to blackmail businessmen, contractors, politicians, even policemen and district officials.


In theory, and in practice in olden days, small publications serve(d) the purpose of supporting democracy and also taking government initiatives to people.

You would appreciate that blogs of all hues serve this purpose much better than even genuine small papers. Even the Prime Minister started his social media ascent with his very thoughtful blog created on a free blogging platform.

During 2014 elections, major political parties (especially BJP) placed ads on the web. Blogs displayed such ads all the time but through AdSense; so while Google made big money, blogs ended up showing them to visitors, with not much gain.

May we list some ways blogs serve great value as a new form of mass media:

· They promote free expression.
· Most blogs are either personal and thus have good credibility.
· On the other hand, professional/ non-personal blogs receive good traffic. Niche blogs are often maintained by experts with good following.
· Blogs have interactivity (which is furthered by their links with social networks) unlike printed newspapers. Blogs also have followers who receive feed and email subscription and thus have a committed clientele which may be small but focused.
· It has been found in a number of surveys that opinions on blogs are more influential for marketing than advertisements.
· Blogs that are popular, and have good content, are eminently suitable for government advertisements with social themes.

These are just some of blogs' strong points. Individual blogs have their own strengths.


Now the purpose of writing this rather longish letter.

Sir, you could consider supporting blogs with DAVP advertisements. This should be direct and not through intermediaries. In return, you will get many more views at a small cost. Besides gains to you, it will also fulfill your social purpose in supporting small media and through it the democracy.

Right now, DAVP wants huge circulation and huge investment from any website that DAVP can consider for empanelment. Bloggers are mostly small publishers who often publish on free platforms such as Blogger and Wordpress. So, they just can't fulfill your conditions.

DAVP can call for applications from bloggers and website owners for its ads. It can easily examine blogs for their content, genuineness, history, traffic and other parameters that your experts can devise. In fact, you can have a graded payment system and could be paying based on the number of visits that your ad on a blog actually received! This would be much more genuine and scientific than print media's fake figures.

You could have a strict policy on content on the blog so that only good blogs get your ads. You could disqualify any blog that is found to have inappropriate content (and checking this is a child's play).

Hope you consider our request and ask DAVP to immediately work in this direction.