Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Blog everywhere?

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?


  1. Well even I am new to this sphere and din't have much an idea about it until a friend of mine introduced me to it. I started writing on it myself as I felt it's the best medium to give vent to my thoughts and concerns.

    Came to know other aspects of blogging as well through this post of yours.

  2. it seems to be a site annotation tool and something that accelerates mail retrieval from your Hotmail account. i dont know why he calls it "blog everywhere". nothing that would excite me.

    as for "war for news" and the way its going..it will end with somebody getting sued or somebody getting fired or both.

  3. Sabeer bhatia seems to be generally riding a wave. Downloading a toolbar just to post comments is creepy ... I'll only download something like this from a company I trust...like Google or Linkedin. Sabeer Bhatia just doesn't have that trust !

    Yes and as I mailed to you, Rajdeep seemed too hyper about the dangers of blogging !

    I wish these guys "get blogging" before they talk about blogging !

  4. Nothing exciting about this new thing.It's neither novel nor convenient or pathbreaking.

    I guess GG has hit the nail well "I wish these guys "get blogging" before they talk about blogging !"

    I'd rather go for some functional utility stuff.

  5. More than about blogs, I am thinking more about Sabeer Bhatia at the moment. I think his only successful venture has been hotmail, and nothing else. I wonder if he is a one hit wonder. And he should have asked for a higher price for Hotmail, it was worth much more. Or is it that Sabeer's share in Hotmail was worth 400 million.

    The cyberspace is saturated now, its not the same old story as earlier. And there are some very good blogging tools out there, competition is going to be tough for Sabeer Bhatia.

  6. I personally prefer quality over quantity. Most of these blogs are wonderful, but if you wander into the livejournal/xanga realm, it's...well, not worth mentioning.

    I think it will have a large impact, though.


  7. Like it or not, it was always going to happen. If not Sabeer Bhatia, someone else would have come up with this tool.

    In two words, its called: whatever sells.

  8. I wonder that people are increasing on with knowledge of blogging, sametime i see them closing with there personnal era's.

    One must go hitting with it's Utility..!

  9. Rashmi,

    Though it is quite unrealted to this post, i guess u wud like to check out this link.

    blank noise project

    I feel u will be able to help their cause in a much better way.(i.e, if u hav not already done so)

  10. Rashmi , couldn't fathom the last question about launching in US. Since the tool is a net based tool is available everywhere. Of course the fact that it is nothing really path breaking might not get hotmail type userbase (or even a fraction of that). Sabeer Bhatia really looks like a one-hit wonder

  11. I've developed a new model while pursuing my MBA...it is called the "Think and Click" model. You Think about anything you find out more about and then you Click.

    Your post made me Think. So I Clicked a bit and found out. Abhinav's blog might be in the top 100 blogs of the world!! His blog got 767 hits yesterday.

    Interesting? Disappointing?

    Well, for me it certainly is disappointing. Obviously, me happy that a blog from India happens to be so popular...but...is a simple B-school grad's (a fantastic guy though) fun ramblings one of THE most post popular blogs on the Net?

  12. The first time i saw the news about blogeverywhere 2 days ago, i asked myself "whats the big idea?" .. it dint occur to me as something "path-breaking".. there are some firefox extensions which shows comments left by the people (on blogger or some other community)..

    the coolest feature, perhaps, was the customization offered in the bundled up extensions.. edit the scripts! but i dont think a normal blogger or an user would go about editing the scripts..

    and for the other features, i use more or less of these addons through other sources so i am gonna do without this extra toolbar..

  13. I beleive blogging has made this world flat.
    Now a lay person can communicate, share his views with the world.

    My thoughts about blogs and bloggers
    Friendship in Blogger's Park
    In Praise of Criticism

  14. Great Post Rashmi.

    I think Blogging has to evolve as any other genre and like any other activity on the net. All success stories in the click & get environment has had a gestation period. Blogging is no exception.

    By all indications it is growing and is also in the right direction. Totally agree with you that the benfits far outweigh the harm it can do.

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  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  17. Rashmi, as you pointed out, as of today, the popular blogs happen to be those of journalists/writers, for whom this medium has become an added channel to be able to express themselves, but nevertheless what cannot be overlooked is the fact that the blogworld has given an easy outlet to the voice of a common person, and a collective indication of the views and opinions held on an issue (atleast by the blog-literate population) - as was evident in the Jessica Lal case.

  18. There's a whole lot of issues that emerge when we talk about blogging as the 'new-age' media. There's computer illiteracy yet which is like a giant dragon looming over us. But perhaps the most important thing that IBN did was that it gave something like blogging prime-time coverage. Usuallu such topics would be left to the confines of the tech-shows. Essentially most of the bloggers yet update their sites only to write about their daily happenings and blogging is to a large extent looked at, as maintaining a personal journal online.
    The fact that blogging is form of media which encourages participation and interaction with the larger community is somehing that is still not put across, on a wider scale.

  19. Ya, the poor Bhatia is up again. After Microsoft bought Hotmail, he has been virutally paid to do nothing by Microsoft. Hotmail definitly kicked in, but was nothing much more than a discovery. It is definitly not an inovation but just a marketing tool. Now his new venture as the author has reported is just a marketing tool.


  20. your blog's one of the most professional and informative ones. have been reading it for quite sometime and it never fails to make me think or see things in a different light.

    oh yes, it never fails to entertain too:-)

  21. nice post. The blogogsphere is also a good platform for the many writers who dont get a publisher....

  22. No medium has been able to completely replace any medium that has existed until then. When the Internet arrived, people were claiming that newspapers will have to have their shutters down, but now what do we see? A print boom. Similarly, blogging will never replace tradational media, BUT ... it can surely be a rather effective parallel medium.

    To be effective however, it will take time. A majority of people aren't even sure what a blog means. But the way there have been issue-specific blogs, oflate, like the Jessica Lall blog or the blog that supports Daya Nayak, I think things are picking up.

    And as a parallel medium, I think there are already a few blogs around, Youth Curry being one of the prominent ones, which are opinionated and deal with issues that are in the news. I believe the youth can use blogs a lot more for this very purpose. Instead of just using a blog as a mere diary, it can be our voice, our opinion. My blog has a similar purpose.


    - Raj.

  23. South Korea is actually a bigger blogging country than the US. That of course stems from the fact that they have 98% connectivity (98% of the population are connected to the internet) over broadband (45MBps minimum as opposed to 512Kbps as the broadband norm in India). Most people blog via their mobile phones regardless of where they are. Photo and video blogging is hot out there.

  24. Lots of blogs as indicated just go derelict, very few stand the test of time because they publish content that is of importance or is interesting to the readers. Thanks for the tit bits regarding blogs.

  25. I dont think too many people understand what BlogEverywhere actually does. It allows people to post comments on ANY website, and read the comments that other people have placed on those websites before. I think this is a wonderful tool, although the name can be slightly misleading, as Rashmi points out. It is more like commentEverywhere. If well implemented, it will be great in weeding out pages that are nothing but fluff, as you could read someone else's comments on the blog or website, and determine what the site is about before even reading a word of it. However, the idea of downloading a toolbar will prevent many power users from using it. It would have been much better implemented as a firefox extension, and a toolbar only for IE

  26. Hi! Rashmi,

    For some strange reason I blindly accepted the 28-30 million figure.

    Maintaining a Blog takes up time and effort. And I am not even considering the talent that is/might be required to maintain one. It is therefore not surprising that the numbers updated monthly is just 13%.

    I wonder what the figure is for Blogs that are updated on a weekly basis.

    However I feel if Audio Blogging gains in popularity we will see more Blogs updated regularly.

    Nyayapati Gautam

  27. bah! all the sites worth commenting on will remove themselves from this blog everywhere thingy! whats the use?

    ha ha! i guess the first comment would be on sabeer bhatias site itself saying how much his blogeverywhere sucks! :)

  28. Hi rashmi,
    Intresting post once again...

    Blogs are making its mark and the most amazing part is the speed with which the blogs are increasing everyday so the figures quoted by you is no surprise to me.

    I tried searching for the figures(money) involved in whole blogging business and coudn't found but am sure it must be huge.....

    Another blog....Whatever

  29. Interesting post as always. I am not sure how the blog business will evolve but it certainly is the first time in history that one individual can literally reach out to millions of other people; the potential network effects of that phenomenon are mind-boggling to contemplate.

  30. I had a chance to meet Sabeer and his partner shiraz, as our company is the development partner of this venture. Some points that he made clear follows...

    1. there are thousands of bloggers who are un noticed(like me:-) ), its platform for them to post their opinion against some websites or blog itself. Maybe idea is we(indians) are good at responding but not in making independent post or views.

    2. Their business model is something like, if google can make money from sidebar why we cannot make money from posting advt in blogger screen(If u install, bloggereverywhere toolbar u will find a screen split below your browser bar where in you can make ur post.).

    3. In simple words, its like making a website(Or response repository) parallel to all websites in the world.

    If my explanation is not clear to you, you can either mail me(s_lajiraj@rediffmail.com) or post your comments or feedbacks to bloggereverywhere.com.

    Hey, they are also giving out one ipod every week for the best blog.Try out..

    Anyway, it was gre8 listening to him for 30 mins. But 30 mins had so manythings to take home, absolutely a great experience.

  31. "time, energy and talent - all three have to come together"

    yeah u r so right.

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