Will there be 500-600 million blogs in a few years time? Sabeer Bhatia thinks so and has launched a toolbar application called 'Blogeverywhere' to make that a reality.
I tried downloading the program yesterday afternoon at the office and failed. Tried from home last night and failed. Finally, I did manage to download the file but the toolbar does not show up on my desktop.
Shayad mera bad luck hi kharab hai, so I can't offer a user experience. But based on what the site itself offers as a description it sounds more like 'comments everywhere'.
A potentially powerful idea but I think equating the writing of comments with writing a blog is misplaced. It's clever marketing, since the term 'blog' has come to stand for the unfettered expression of opinion. But blogging is not something that you do only as a reaction to what other people write!
A blog is a medium which can and does bring up issues completely ignored by the mainstream press. As well as foster creativity and original writing.
It can and is being used as a medium for people with certain points of view or causes to express themselves. Take this page started in support of Jessica Lal, or this one by striking doctors.
And a blog - taken in totality, over a period of time, has a unique voice and personality. That of its writer. Comments scattered on a hundred websites do not.
So like I said, enabling surfers to comment on every web page that exists could work... but it's adding to the confusion about what blogging is about in the first place.
That is, assuming people even know what a blog is...
When I told my mom I was invited on CNN IBN's 'Face the Nation' last night to discuss 'Should blogs be banned' she was puzzled. "What do you know about dogs?"
Um, not dogs mom - blogs! Yep 98% of India is still unaware of what a blog is and so is a large part of America - the world's top blogging nation.
A scant 9 percent of users read blogs frequently, with 11 percent reading them occasionally. Out of the thirteen activities Gallup measured in its poll, reading blogs finished dead last. Email rated first, followed by checking news and weather, shopping, and planning for travel.
Although as the Chicago Tribune reported:
"[M]any bloggers will argue that the influence of blogs is immeasurably greater than their readership statistics would suggest," Gallup says, "because of the disproportionate influence they have on opinion leaders, political insiders and modern news media."
Secondly, the 'whole 28 million blogs in the world' statistic. Or 29 million, or whatever.
Well, first of all, we need to discount the huge numbers of blogs which are created but never updated. Here are some interesting statistics from the popular blogging site Livejournal.com:
- The number of blogs which are 'active in some way' is just 20% of the total.
- Those updated in the last 30 days number just 13%.
Now let's look at readership.
As Trevor Butterworth pointed out in an insightful FT article, the number of blogs with a significant number of readers every day is barely 1000.
According to the monitoring done by thetruthlaidbear.com, only two blogs get more than 1 million visitors a day and the numbers drop quickly after that: the 10th ranked blog for traffic gets around 120,000 visits; the 50th around 28,000; the 100th around 9,700; the 500th only 1,400 and the 1000th under 600.
By contrast, the online edition of The New York Times had an average of 1.7 million visitors per weekday last November, according to the Nielsen ratings, and the physical paper a reach of 5 million people per weekday, according to Scarborough research
So the answer to Rajdeep's question - are blogs the 'new media'? Will they replace the traditional media?? Nope, he won't be out of a job anytime soon and neither will I.
The FT article makes another interesting observation:
The dismal traffic numbers also point to another little trade secret of the blogosphere, and one missed by Judge Posner and all the other blog-evangelists when they extol the idea that blogging allows thousands of Tom Paines to bloom.
As Ana Marie Cox says: “When people talk about the liberation of the armchair pajamas media, they tend to turn a blind eye to the fact that the voices with the loudest volume in the blogosphere definitely belong to people who have experience writing. They don’t have to be experienced journalists necessarily, but they write - part of their professional life is to communicate clearly in written words.”
Blogging takes time, energy and talent - all three have to come together and hence, although the entry barrier to starting a blog may be low the barriers to sustaining a blog and a sizable audience remain very high!
So a majority of blogs actually cater to 'nano audiences'
What is below the water line are the literally millions of blogs that are rarely pointed to by others, since they are only of interest to the family, friends, fellow students and co-workers of their teenage and 20-something bloggers. Think of them as blogs for nanoaudiences.
Nanoaudiences are the logical outcome of continued growth in blogs... in practice many blogs have no more than two dozen readers.
Now this, I think, is where the 'problem' really lies. The bloggers who build 'brands' and sizable readership are generally going to use their power in a responsible manner. But when a frustrated or smart alec individual decides to use a blog in a corporate environment - that can become a serious and prickly matter.
One of the reasons CNN IBN put this relatively geeky issue on prime time TV seems to be to send a strong internal message.
A blog called the 'War for News' has been critically evaluating the 3 English news channels - CNN IBN, NDTV and Times Now. It started with discussions on the shows themselves, then moved to the anchors and reporters (also fair game - as long as it was about their professional competence).
But over time the War for News has turned into a forum to exchange gossip on the personal lives of TV journalists.
War for News is inspired by the now-defunct Mediaah - but it can never reach those standards because of its anonymous nature and the fact that it allows anonymous comments (far more damaging and vitriolic than the writing on the blog itself).
This is an issue many companies will have to deal with - especially media companies (remember the FT observation about journalists making up some of the most lucid bloggers ...). I have had a taste of this bitter brew myself.
As the boss you know there are always going to be a few people who have issues with you. They bitch behind your back. But seeing stuff written about you on a website really really hurts. If the blog is anonymous it's worse because you start getting paranoid about who the malcontent might be...
And no, the answer is not to 'start another blog in retaliation'. As the boss you cannot dignify the original blog with an official response.
Ironically, IBN is the first Indian media company to start 'official' blogs - which is a good idea because it allows journalists an outlet for their creativity. The fact that journalists discuss issues they feel strongly about or what happens behind the scenes makes them more human and accessible to the viewers and ultimately, I think, builds the brand.
But there are those in the organisation who'd rather be snipers in this proxy 'war'...
And yet, I don't think blogs - or the internet in general - can be or should be censored.
It's the old question of the 'negative' side effects of technology and the answer is the benefits of blogging far outweigh the few rogues and screwballs out there (although not all of 'em see themselves that way!).
And please, do not bring up the IIPM issue in the same breath as 'are bloggers accountable'. I am tired of repeating it but the IIPM story started as an investigation by JAM magazine which took us 2 months to complete. Keeping all the rules and procedures of responsible journalism in mind.
Yes, the fact that bloggers linked to it and endorsed our findings added fuel to the fire and resulted in threats of lawsuits.
But the latest IIPM ads stand testimony to the truth in what we reported. Each and every point we raised about the misleading nature of their advertising has been removed from the copy!
One last question:Wouldn't it make more sense to launch an application called 'blogeverywhere' in the US where the audience reading and writing a blog - and sheer number of people consuming content online - is far far greater?