Tumblr: low on blogging, high on teen socialisation

It made a good headline when last week Yahoo made a $1.1 billion acquisition of Tumblr. It reminded us of GeoCities, a very popular platform for hosting websites in the 1990's, which Yahoo bought and butchered. At that time, blogging was not as developed as it's today but you could make a decent website with tools available on GeoCities and host it too. It lacked interactivity and widgets but what an experience it was!

OK, we won't talk about what will happen to Tumblr. Yahoo CEO has announced that they would let it remain what it is. But what is it by the way? 

Tumblr is a blogging cum social networking platform. It boasts of over 108 million blogs and has been growing fast over the last one year or so (The platform is in existence for about 6 years).

What works for Tumblr is the ease to create blogs, write posts, and put photos and videos.  A blogger can follow other bloggers (almost like Facebook, Google+) and so get connected. It is reported to be popular among teens, especially in the US, and the biggest reason for this is said to be sexually oriented content on many blogs. The structure of Tumblr makes it difficult for snoopers (read parents) to find what the youngster is visiting / following. 

The ease of joining Tumblr and creating blog / posts apart, you may not find Tumblr very blogger-friendly. It lacks the community support that Wordpress gets for themes etc and the versatility that Blogger provides (besides Google+ features of late). We have come across very few regular bloggers from India joining Tumblr. Amitabh Bachchan, of course, has opened his blog on Tumblr after abandoning this blog on Blogadda. 

Types of blogs in the best Indian blog directory

In the last post on the process of compilation of blogs for the Directory of Best Indian Blogs, 2012-13 edition, we talked about the range of blogs in the Directory coming out on May 30. In the present one, we talk about the main types of blogs in the Directory.

The content superstar

A large number of blogs in the blog directory are going to have great content: analysis of current topics as well as academic matters; arguments from people agitated over social issues; rants against mis-governance; poems and fiction that move and make you think; good book-reviews; expert advice and guidance; great travel stories and photos; photographs and video of superb technical quality, subject and composition …

The foodie blogger

Don’t blame us for including a good number of cooking and food blogs in the Directory. We don’t have a soft corner for such blogs but what do we do when we find that a significant number of food bloggers maintain their blogs with passion? A good food blogger’s post takes no less than three-four hours to compose, we reckon. It has ingredients, recipe, photos, proper categorization and archiving, and a bit of context. After it is published, it also has comments that often need response. Food blogs, in general, have good design too.

The tech curator blog 

A large number of techies have blogs, often with good design, effort towards SEO and high frequency of blogging. Beyond that, most tend to be mediocre: commenting on new gadgets and apps, tech gossip or copy-pasting expert advice. Still, we picked blogs that had a better design, credible content and/or advice that makes sense (even if not very original).

The encyclopedia of ramblings

Well, this group makes any listing controversial but it IS the group that makes the blogosphere vibrant. It is like the ‘retail investor’ segment of stock market: small but collectively a force to reckon with. The Directory of Best Indian Blog has a large number of ‘personal’ blogs with posts on personal ups and downs, travails of parenting, poems, competition entries, hobbies, sweet nothings…

Almost all blogs in the Directory will fit into one or the other of these general types. Of course, there will be blogs that fall into very niche categories. We’d bring out the category-wise version of the Directory that will have blogs put in one or more specific categories.

Selecting blogs of different types: apples versus oranges!

What makes our task very difficult is selecting blogs of different types. It is worse than selecting the best oranges and best apples; you need to select watermelons, bananas, grapes and mangoes - fruits with different shapes, sizes, taste and aroma. 

We just give one example, that of frequency of blogging. In first glance, it would look very straight-forward. But can we compare the frequency of posts with greatly composed and detailed travelogue and many photographs with those tiny posts telling about one's daily life? Doesn't one original painting a month take as much time as thirty snippets on current affairs? It becomes even more difficult deciding on more subjective criteria such as quality of prose, use of widgets, and relevance and authenticity of advice tendered.

After selecting blogs, we are forced to reject them!

For compilation of the Directory, after we have a short-list of about a thousand blogs, we start the process of rejection rather than selection: we keep on checking blogs for problems and removing those with more problems [e.g. bleeding widgets, high loading time, images picked up from the web without attribution]. As we said in the previous post, content quality remains on our mind even during this process. 

Since we want to accommodate many more blogs in the Directory than our Platinum Rankings, we are less strict with rejection. So please bear with us if you find in the Directory a few blogs that are good in most compartments but not the top-of-the-heap in one or two respects or have a few blemishes.

Finally, we select or reject blogs based on what we find when we visit them. If a marvelous blog did some funny experiment during our selection process, it is likely to be rejected and a blog that was great when we visited it but has subsequently become private or has deteriorated, it might remain in the Directory till we re-check the Directory after a few months.

Google PageRanks of Indian Blogs

In the series on our observations during our survey of Indian blogosphere this year, this second post is on the dynamics of Google PageRanks of Indian blogs. 
The first post in this series was an overview of the Indian blog-world.

Google assigns rank to a webpage based on how the page is linked on the web. This ranking, called PageRank [not about webpage, but because Larry Page developed this ranking tool], measures the web entity’s importance. Higher the PR, higher is the bolg's web reputation and its chance of being shown high on the search engine. In general, it becomes harder to get a higher ranking as one goes up. So, it is much more difficult to jump from PR of 4 to 5 than to climb up from 1 to 2.

We have a gut feeling that Indian blogs in general have a lower Google PR as compared to those by American and European ones. Though in the Directory of Best Indian Blogs, we have quite a few blogs with PR of 5, 6 and 7, majority of Indian blogs tend to have PR of 0, 1 or 2.

As shared many times earlier on ITB, a majority of Indian blogs either hibernate or die as early as within a year. So, it is not surprising that these blogs get either no PageRank or a very low score (0 or 1). Another big number of blogs that run for sometime and then collapse, manage to get a slightly higher PR. Even among regularly updated blogs, the majority have PageRank of 0 or 1 as can be seen in the graphic below.

Since we have been examining Indian blogs for the last 3 years, we have comparative PRs of thousands of Indian blogs. We find that in the last one year, the PR of about 10% of blogs in our database has gone down (in some cases, by two points) even though they were constant in updation and their quality of content. We have not analysed whether this was because they gathered bad links during this period or fewer people linked to them due to declining content quality or they stopped linking / SEO that they were doing before and stopped later. 

This graph shows the PR of about 3000 regular blogs
for which we have PR data for 2012 and 2013.
The thickness of a line reflects relative number of blogs
following that trend.
Trends with fewer than 3 blogs
have not been captured in the graph.
Only a few blogs have their PR gone up in the last one year. Most of this has happened from 0 to 1. Though age matters, what seem to matter more than age are the quality of content and a bit of ethical SEO. We have earlier discussed SEO in detail. Just to tell in short, ethical SEO is mostly a common-sense approach to making your content search-friendly and popular without trying to hoodwink search engines.

Blogs that were good and regular but are now less active have retained their earlier PR or lost it only slightly over one year. This could be the reward for their content. 

The adage ‘content is king’ is proved right when you check thousands of blogs for their PageRank. Blogs that have well-researched posts, graphics to support written content and original content tend to have high PR while blogs with mediocre content, even though updated many times a week, seldom go beyond 2 or 3. 

Though all blogs on a reputed platform have a reasonable PR, there are some blogs with very high PR while others remain at the bottom of the range (e.g. on http://indiatimes.com, blogs usually have a PR of 3 and individual bloggers have no role in blog’s design or SEO, but a few have a PR of 5 due to their popularity which in turn is due to their content and regularity of updation).

The next topic in this series of discussions is on what you can expect in the Directory.

Initial observations on Indian blogosphere 2013

As we announced earlier, we will bring out the 2012-13 edition of the  Directory of Best Indian Blogs by May 30. 
In the process of surveying the blog world for good blogs and then scrutinizing individual blogs, we always get wiser about the status of the Indian blogosphere and the habits of bloggers. We plan to bring out a number of posts on what we are observing this year.

First, our journey so far. 
By the end of April, we had compiled a database of nearly 50,000 Indian blogs. We kept on adding new blogs to the list so that we didn't have to recheck blogs already checked by us. But a database with majority of entries that do not meet our criteria was proving a drag rather than a help in scrutiny of individual blogs. So, at the start of our short-listing exercise this time, we decided to drastically clean the database. After removing mirror blogs, blogs that have not been updated for over a year, blogs with automated content and blogs with obvious poor content / design, we are left with only about five thousand blogs. Good blogs suggested by our fellow bloggers and well-wishers and the blogs we spotted by surveying the blog-world added about two thousand to this list. Compliment us for a small database that has only those blogs that are live with activity.

We have checked these seven thousand blogs on a number of parameters and now on we’ll be re-re-re-checking them and ranking them so that we pick up the best blogs for the Directory.

The way we, Indian bloggers, behave

We intent to come up with a set of observations during this month. This first set talks of the overall blogger behavior. Our big sample size makes us confident that our observations hold true for majority of Indian bloggers. Bloggers outside India, we feel, would also display similar behavior.

Before that, let us refer to our detailed observations during 2011 blogosphere survey [Where do Indian bloggers stand?, Trends in the Indian blogging scene]. In these posts, we have given details of our observations, and we stand by them two years later too. Let's share some more details:

Yes, most bloggers post in spurts, including the disciplined ones. But even if they they do go up and down, their frequency of posting is not too volatile and they keep going while others take big breaks. Among those few who manage to update the blog at a constant pace and maintain the quality of content too, columnists and those on blog-communities are prominent. Stand-alone bloggers of this type are very rare; Indian Top Blogs salutes their perseverance. 

A large number of bloggers start with personal blogs and then start one or more niche blogs. However they lose interest in extra blogs soon. The ones who are able to sustain blogs with narrow themes beyond a year or so tend to stick with one blog and their popularity and authority grows fast. 
A few Indian bloggers maintain a number of blogs but the design and content of their blogs are horrible to say the least. [If there are one or two exceptions, we apologize to them for this generalized comment.]

Even those bloggers who update their blogs do seldom look at design aspects. Some of them start with a fairly good design and then concentrate only on content [e.g. bloggers/ columnists on newspaper platforms], and some start with a bad design and either leave it that way or butcher it further over time. Most others experiment with photos, title, widgets etc but not always for the better. They often clutter blogs with too many poor-value badges and useless widgets.

As many as 5% of live blogs that we've scanned have become private or want some sort of authentication to visit them. Another about 5% want the visitor to log-in before commenting.

Not many bloggers refresh their blogrolls. We found a good number of Hindi bloggers giving long lists of blogs they read; the number is less in the case of English bloggers [or they list blogs under profile rather than on home page], but nor updating the list is common among English blogs too. In a rather good blog, we found a list of 110 blogs that was compiled six years ago and 95 of these blogs have either not updated themselves for years or gone fully dead.

Most bloggers who maintain their blog rather well seem serious about their blogs, but not about blogging as a craft. They do not bother about the reader’s convenience in checking blog’s archives and commenting, readability, design and navigation aspects, linking, etc. Some blogs have great stuff but have been turned into websites, having been rid of chronological arrangement of posts, commenting facility, even updating. 

Our next post in this series is on the dynamics of Google PageRank of Indian blogs.

Facebook says, rising fast in India, Brazil

Facebook’s latest quarterly report says, Brazil and India have contributed massively to its growth over the last one year (March 2013 over March 2012). While its Brazil MAUs (Monthly Active Users) grew by 62%, they grew by 50% in India. Globally, Facebook’s MAU base grew by 23% to 1.11 billion. India has 78 million Facebook MAUs (7% of global MAU).

Facebook also reports that while its PC-based usership is nearly flat, mobile usership is rising fast. In terms of MAUs, it rose by 54% in the last one year.

Facebook defines a monthly active user as a registered FB user who, in the last 30 days, logged in and visited FB through its website or a mobile device, or took an action to share content or activity with his or her FB friends or connections via a third-party website that is integrated with FB.

As expected, Asia does not contribute significantly to FB's revenues. FB's explanation to this: Our revenue ... in United States & Canada and Europe are relatively higher due to the size and maturity of those advertising markets as well as our greater sales presence and the number of payment methods that we make available to marketers and users.

You can see the FB quarterly report here.