Meets people's desire for information about things that matter to them

While the Internet is the very fount of ideas and creativity, it does, by no means, guarantee the longevity of something born of it. An idea can be a fad, a short-term trend, disappear into that black hole the Net hides within it somewhere, or even be still born. What of metro-blogging or regional-blogging then?

It has almost been half-a-decade since Metblogs — the alternative news source in Los Angeles that focussed on local issues — quickly developed into a network of city-specific blogs. Experts suggest that metro-blogging is not just an off-shoot of blogging but caters to people's desire for being informed about things that actually matter to them.

It was a reaction to mainstream news sources providing local news syndicated from the other side of the country and the national news that had nothing to do with the city, says Sean Bonner of Metblogs. Soon, the idea spread to Chicago, Portland, Karachi and Vienna, with more than 50 Metblogs dotting the web. Local politics, event reviews, lunch recommendations and ways of avoiding big traffic jam downtown — these blogs had everything.

In India, after Mumbai, Chennai took to metro blogging seriously. Mr. Bonner had said then that with the launch of Hyderabad, there were four Metblogs (including Bangalore) in India, making it the most Metblogged nation outside the United States. These metro-blogs focussed on topics such as commuters' woes, civic problems, heritage, auto-rickshaw tariff, neighbourhood crimes and negligence on the part of government bodies.

However, the temporary closure of Metblogs last year, owing to financial problems, saw many contributors making experiments of their own. “Now that they have revived, we, in Mumbai, are looking forward to renewing account connections,” says Satish Vijayakumar who runs ‘Bombay Lives,' and also contributes to Mumbai Metblogs.

The future of Metblogs has evoked a wide deal of speculation and analysis. “It is very country-specific and works differently with cities depending on the cultural context,” says Nizham Wahid, a contributor to Karachi Metblogs. “Many end up focussing on their own blogs, after contributing to metro-blogs for sometime.”

Blogger Krish Ashok agrees. “If you have the right set of bloggers driving Metblogs for a city, they will be passionate about local events and keep readers engaged. I see that bloggers dedicated only to Metblogs tend to do better than popular bloggers roped in to contribute occasionally.”

Taking a critical look at the concept, blogger Kiran Jonnalagadda says: “Metblogs is interesting because the focus is on a geographic region, instead of the area being incidental to another activity. But they also limit posting access to those who are invited, require bloggers to maintain a minimum frequency, and since posts are unedited, do not guarantee quality.”

Furthermore, that it rained in your favourite city might be welcome news, but that the writer lost his umbrella might be unwanted clutter.

Incidentally, platforms such as the nine-month-old The South Reports provide interesting alternatives. Its editor T.S. Sudhir says the site features “anything and everything a South Indian living anywhere would be interested in.”

“Most websites carry a Delhi-centric view of the country. We wanted to give a platform to citizens to write about things that may or may not be the news of the day, but are interesting enough.”