Earlier this month, Technorati, the search engine for blogs, published its annual ‘State of the Blogosphere' report, an update on the status of blogging. In it, it noted that blogging was in a state of transition as it was “no longer an upstart” and that the social network revolution was driving its reach further.
The findings of the survey, based on answers given by 7,200 online bloggers who responded to the search engine's call, also drove home some interesting points: mobile blogging, powered by a brand new generation of smart phones, was on the rise; and blogging itself was veering towards more crisp formats, thanks to the popularity of micro-blogging platforms like Twitter.
Interestingly, another study conducted earlier by this year by Pew Research Center, a non-partisan “fact tank” providing information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America, noted that blogging was losing out as a social phenomenon, especially among teenagers and young adults. Their mind share was taken more by ‘limited networks' that social networks sites offered. And this makes an interesting time to figure out the status of blogging in India. According to Technorati, the entire Asia Pacific region accounts for just seven per cent of all the blogs.
There are no specific studies commissioned on the status of blogging in India though. But even a cursory look at some of the blog ranking sites for India over the past couple of years as well as checking out some of the individual blogs that were popular on the lists as recent as 2008 point to a steady decline in interest among both the writers and the audience.
Surprisingly even some of the bloggers who had been quoted by the mainstream media in the past few years have drastically reduced blogging and moved on to social networks where it is easier to brandish a list of followers. Sharing has replaced writing.
Some senior journalists, who have followed new media trends closely over the past decade, agree with the trend, though “it is not necessarily easy to put a finger on the reasons why.”
It is also hard to fathom why blogs have not gained as much mainstream acceptance as they have in the West. By and large, the traditional media groups in the country have shied away from hosting blogs.
Frederick Noronha, an independent journalist, says he does not see the audience for blogs here as much as there might be in the West. “There are just far too many choices at the end of the day, and maybe the public feels that there is no necessity for blogs as an independent arm of the media when we have a free press.”
The few blogs of any substance in the Indian blogosphere space seem to be the ones performing a watchdog function on the mainstream media and offer independent political commentary that may not find a place anywhere else — such as Sans Serif, Churmuri and Kafila.
Subhash Rai, web editor of Economic and Political Weekly online, says one of the reasons for the blogs having not caught up with the Indian mainstream media as much as they have in the West is the reluctance in handling user-generated comment.
There are some silver linings though. Regional blogging is vibrant, at least in some parts of India. N.P. Rajendran, Deputy Editor, Mathrubhumi daily's online edition, says the Malayalam blogging scene is very active and still sees a lot of participation.