As Indian blogs die, what about the blogosphere?

As most of you know, Desi Pundit died at midnight last night. The website has been shut down, and though you can probably still find old posts on Google’s cache, there are no archives on the site itself.

Desi Pundit is not alone.  Last week, Ultrabrown decided to close shop too.  At this rate, I wonder which other group blog’s turn it will be next week.  It’s not just group blogs even. Dozens of bloggers I follow have either decided to stop blogging, take a break from blogging, or are posting very infrequently.  (Yes, I know, I am also guilty of mysteriously absenting myself from my blog every now and then).

Part of this perhaps has to do with the demographics of the early bloggers – many bloggers I read started blogging when they were in school and had some measure of free time.  As they became older, the pressures on their time have increased – whether it’s because of work, longer commutes, marriage, children or a combination of all of this – and inevitably, blogging has taken a back seat.

Other bloggers have graduated from blogs to writing books and so update their blogs less frequently.  Still others are perhaps disenchanted with the drop (in recent times) in blog readers and commenters.  After all,  although every blogger starts off with a need to voice his/ her opinion, comments from readers are the oxygen that keeps one going.

There is also the issue of having competing avenues to express yourself.  Once upon a time, there were only blogs. Now you have Twitter and Facebook updates and any number of other means to comment about articles you’ve read or comment about news events.  Too often, it isn’t necessary to write a long blog post because you’ve already said your piece in 140 characters or less.


As I see it, the desi / Indian blogosphere is at the crossroads.  The old guard is now giving way to a new generation of bloggers.  At DP, we have linked up posts in the past that were written by bloggers in their teens (and some who are barely older). Perhaps some of them will start a group blog (and perhaps they already have).  These are the bloggers who are going to blog enthusiastically for the next few years. These are the blogs I should start reading now. If you know of any such blogs, please send me a link and I will add them to my feed reader.

Of course, there is the question on whether the nature of blogging itself will change over the next few years.  I hope that doesn’t happen.  While Twitter and Facebook are great for immediate responses, there is nothing like a thoughtful and well-analyzed blog post.

As for Desi Pundit, Patrix said it best:

Over at DesiPundit, people have moved on to other things and time & resources haven’t been as plentiful for those who have remained. The Indian blogosphere and presence on other social media networks has expanded greatly and in our experience, it is no longer possible for human-powered aggregators to keep up; at least on a part-time volunteer basis.

He’s right, of course.  Still, my fondest memories are those of my early days as a blogger and a DP Contributor, when I used to trawl through hundreds of blogs, trying to discover a new blogger or an interesting post.  What I discovered then was that the Indian blogosphere is still very much in its infancy – the number of high-quality blogs that can appeal to a general audience (i.e. not just family) is rather low considering the millions of Internet users in our cities.  And yet, its amazing how much this small group of people have been able to achieve and the attention they have received from the mainstream media.

So while I am really sad to see group blogs die (and especially Desi Pundit, given my association as a Desi Pundit Contributor and Community Member), I wonder if it is just one more event in the growing up process of the Indian blogosphere.

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46 Comments

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Indian blogosphere is at the crossroads | The Imagined Universe -- Topsy.com

  2. I absolutely agree /Twitter and Facebook are great for immediate responses, there is nothing like a thoughtful and well-analyzed blog post/.
    It is sad, so many popular bloggers have stopped blogging.

  3. Lekhni,

    This is not just an “Indian Blogging” phenomenon. Except for a handful of specialized blogs (academic or technical), most general interest blogs are on the wane. Some which are flourishing, are actually more in the fashion of Facebook – funny pictures, short captions and no lengthy commentary.

    We at Accidental Blogger have seen a similar slump – both in the enthusiasm of the bloggers themselves as well as in our readership. I wrote about this change a couple of months ago.

    http://accidentalblogger.typepad.com/accidental_blogger/2010/03/is-liberal-blogging-on-the-wane-.html

    • I read your post and found what you say about Facebook fascinating (on people preferring to comment on FB rather than on the blog and so on). I’m sure many people treat facebook like a feedreader with commenting ability and built-in twitter, That’s sad, because Twitter/ Facebook can only provide soundbytes, not lengthy analyses.

      I also agree that the LoLcats and puppy pictures are far more popular than blogs with lengthy commentary. Perhaps it has to do with people’s attention span, which seems to be getting shorter and shorter. Plus, a lot of internet content – whether youtube videos or blogs – seems to be aimed at teenagers or immature adults – Annoying Orange is one example.

  4. It’s true that blogging is going through a slow death. The demographics is definitely an issue as I was a student when I blogged frequently. Now it’s mostly once a month or so.

    I also see that personal blogs have gone terrible out of fashion. Or are they? I am not sure. Updating on personal matters, life events are rarely found.

    And also, most of us are confined to one or two cults, however bigger, and among us, we see all this. I am sure there are fledgling bloggers or those who are just hitting their prime and that lot is having fun even now! Pity they don’t have a Desipundit though.

    • Yes, pity the fledgling bloggers don’t have a Desi Pundit helping them to reach out to a wider audience. There is certainly a need for a Desi Pundit; I hope someone else starts a similar site.

  5. I’m so bummed, I check DP every other day, where will I get my fill of blogs now? I’ve discovered so many nice ones through it.

    I’m on FB and enjoy it immensely but can’t see how it can substitute for a blog post, even less with Twitter – are people increasingly content with staccato and (rather) banal updates?

    • I share your feelings on DP exactly.

      It’s true that Twitter and Facebook make for rather staccato updates. While some people like them because you can post really quick updates on them, when you consider the total time per day spent on Twitter/ Facebook by people, it’s much more than bloggers spend on their blog. So time alone cannot be the reason, then? I wonder what it is.

  6. Sad about Desi Pundit. Yes, blogging and commenting, in general seems to have gone down. But I guess it’s just internet fatigue. I think people who are serious about writing would continue blogging, because neither FB or Twttr could give the same creative satisfaction as a blog. I’m sure something new will emerge.

    • That’s certainly true for me about neither Twitter nor Facebook being satisfying enough. But do you think the decline in blogging is a temporary phenomenon, or are you saying a new platform will emerge?

      • Maybe a new platform. Though I’m not tech-savvy enough to know what. But I think there will always be a need for lengthier, well-written posts, and a readership for them, so can’t see blogs or something like blogs vanishing away.

        • I wonder if people will gravitate more towards corporate blogs and newspaper blogs. There is also room for group blogs run as companies (like a Huffington Post or a GigaOm).

  7. I thought after the invention of computers, the old art of conversation has been totally lost, Things went really fast paced and there was no time to smell the roses. I thought at least the blogs were probably going to take that old fashioned conversation back to our lives and suddenly you have twitter and facebook. I don’t really know if I will be happy to convey anything in 140 words…

    • The good thing about having a conversation in Twitter is that you’ll get an immediate response from someone who follows you, and you can go back and forth on the discussion. So the conversation is much more real-time than in a blog. The downside is that you can only say so much in 140 characters, and the chances of misunderstanding the other person’s argument is high.

  8. Lekhni: DP was curating (as opposed to merely aggregating) and I almost always found something of interest there. It will be missed. (But I agree, there’s an opportunity for another curated site….)

    • In the sense that we weren’t blindly linking up to every desi blog/ post and we did a lot of searching, yes, you could say we were curators rather than aggregators.

  9. I think FB and Twitter have taken a large chunk out of blogging- if nothing else, it encourages people to interact through short directed comments rather than the free-for-all and longer thought process needed when commenting on a blog post. It’s ‘microblogging’ for the lazy blogger, not needing the effort in composing and posting an expanded piece.
    I’ve been rather remiss in my own blogging efforts, primarily because of a summer lassitude setting in, not a dearth of material. There’s many a day when I think: that’s something interesting to blog on, and then pass on it (and even on the FB propagation) out of sheer inertia.

    • Completely agree on the “summer lassitude”. I too become an infrequent blogger in summer, and what I do write makes people wonder if this is a gardening blog :D

    • You know how it goes – one does remember every reader who has commented on one’s blog. I brighten up every time someone comments on my blog and want to put out a “Welcome back” sign when someone who hasn’t commented in months says anything. But I also miss a lot of readers who used to be frequent commenters :(

  10. A gardening blog? I am game! I have a brown brain (know very little about plants) but a green thumb (almost everything I plant, thrives).

    Ever since I moved to tropical Houston twelve years ago from the frigid midwest where the growing season was roughly ten minutes, I have had a ball with tropical flowers and fruit. Last December there were several days of uncharacteristic hard freezes here in southeast Texas. It played havoc with my garden. An eight year old, twelve feet tall, prolifically blooming hibiscus tree was the most prominent casualty. But the ravages of winter gave me an opportunity to go out and start planting anew this spring. Now the garden looks wonderful again although not yet so lush and mature as I had gotten used to. I am being a bit more conservative this time around. More cold resistant jasmines and roses in place of ixoras and hibiscuses.

    • I have had the same experience – having a hibiscus plant die on me in winter. I probably shouldn’t have planted it outside in the first place (though the garden store assured me it was “hardy” and could be).

      The trick, apparently, is to cover up the tree in a plastic bag if it snows or you get frost. The ground itself is going to be still warm in TX even if it snows. So you should be fine with this method.

  11. That websites or blogs shut down would happen, and it in no way is a trend we should be alarmed about. Bloggers are growing on a daily basis; although niche, and pro blogging is yet to take off in India

    • I agree on new bloggers coming up (and I said as much in my post) and also on the fact that there is enormous scope for blogging to take off in India.

  12. Pingback: DesiPundit shuts down | A Time To Reflect

  13. Its cyclical..you are correct about blogging though..a few years ago I couldnt wait blog anything that happened…or comment on other peoples blogs..after that some kind of boredom sets in… I almost didnt finish this comment :-)
    I still read your blog though … just no comments of late :-)

    • I agree it’s difficult to remain motivated to blog frequently for years together (and I have always wondered how some people do it). One way i try to get around to this is start multiple posts (mostly half-finished) when I have the time and enthusiasm to write. It’s a different matter that I usually end up not completing even these half-finished posts :)

      Hadn’t seen you in a while, good to know you are still reading, though :)

  14. To grow up it’s not necessary that something has to die first, or that the skin has to be shed for a newer one. Yes, demads on time has increased, and so have avenues for expression as in FB, Twitter et al. Still, maybe there’s another explanation as well. My few (no many) cents for what they’re worth.

    Like with every effort, it takes readers and commenters in equal measure to keep it going. In the olden days there was state patronage, now it is market patronage. So if the audience is dismayed at the demise of DesiPundit or blogs that no longer update as frequently then it is time to ask if we, the audience, are partly responsible as well.

    Elsewhere, like the US, blogging is only getting stronger, and I don’t mean in numbers alone, but in quality and utility. Indian blogosphere has been largely, I say largely, limited to personal blogs, and among them much of the attempt comes across as half-hearted to say the least though some are very good, and entertaining.

    Unlike a non-personal blog, a personal blog is likely to be dumped after a time, when the blogger no longer has the inclination or the time to spare details of his/her life. But if the blog were to be based on an interest, a passion, it might just survive the ‘growing up personally’ phase. Possibly, one reason why so many Indian blogs died out.

    For a country like India, which I believe affords as great a diversity as any for blogging material, it’s inexplicable for things to have to come to such a pass as in a dearth in quality blogging across a wide spectrum, unless of course it implies that the demands of the blog is less suited to us, Indians, as say the fun and irreverence of Twitter and FB both of which are exploding.

    As for the audience, the next time you find a blog you like, like say a NIFT, a NID, or a FTII student chronicling their time learning Textiles, or Design, or the time spent learning the craft of film-making, tune in, and yes, get involved as a reader. The same goes for someone charting their time spent developing a kitchen garden, or say pursuing a career in painting, or even a book blog where they review books, add them to the feed reader, and visit the blog.

    While it’s convenient to read in the Reader, to a blogger, a visit counter that records footfalls on the blog is as important as the comments they get, else they’ve no way of knowing if anyone visited or if anyone found anything worth reading.

    As a reader, make your presence felt on the blog. It could well mean one less blog in the Indian Blogosphere’s graveyard.

    • Great comment, and I couldn’t agree with you more. I too have been guilty of not commenting on many blogs I read and reading them on my feed reader, even though as a blogger, you’d think I would know better.

      You’re right that it’s inexplicable why we have so few quality blogs in India and fewer of them with a specific focus/ theme. It’s something I have wondered many times. Is it an issue of time? (But surely you can blog when you are sitting in your company bus?) Are the good bloggers blogging in closed Corporate blogs? What is the reason?

  15. Lekhni, maybe it’s not always an issue of time, at least not most times. I’ve come to think it might be an issue of ability, possibly an issue of a lack of inclination to develop the ability. And it’s an issue of a lack of passion. To this mixture add the lack of reader support as in the points I raised in my earlier comment.

    There’s a reason why DesiPundit closed down, and it is not merely limited to P being able to devote less time. There’s more to it. And one indicator could be had in the vote button DP had put up against the link to each post that went up on the main page. It was meant for the audience. Ever saw that move? I mean no could be bothered enough to even click on it. And it was not as if all the posts that ever went up on the main page were bad. So what is someone running the community to make of it?

    And then there’s blogging opportunities. If India cannot provide sufficient blogging material, then I doubt if any country ever will!

    Now I think it’s a case of folks who could have blogged great, as in an ability to create compelling, useful, contemporary content, are outside of the blogosphere, far removed from the demands of understanding and operating the tools to run one. So, most of the rest, that is the urban ‘us’, either lack the experience to write beyond the personal pale or couldn’t be bothered enough to maintain a focus in the blog, assuming we’re capable of looking beyond our own lives every once in a while.

    There’re plenty of Indian Opinion blogs, and we are an opinionated people, and there’s an equal number of Personal blogs, and we are a people whose lives are centered around self. Nothing wrong with it. They draw large readership, because there’s scope for debate. So, would we, the audience, care enough to visit the ‘other’ blogs, outside the ‘Opinion’ and ‘Personal’, like for instance an Indian birdwatcher’s blog (if there’s one)?

    Does this then mean that the Indian Blogosphere lacks horizontal depth? Yes, it does. Can we then assume that it’s partly to do with a lack of audience ‘support’ or ‘patronage’ for the same. Probably yes.

    While some great bloggers might be tied up in ‘closed’ Corporate blogs it may not automatically mean they’d be good at other blogging themes.

    Bottomline, and I’ve seen my share of them as likely you have as well, footfalls and interaction on the blog will go a long way in sustaining blogs, at least the good ones, longer.

    Nothing lives in vacumn, nothing was meant too.

    • Yes, people never voted on DP because no one bothered to visit the site. For most people, DP became something they just read on their feeds. The idea of clicking on a ‘vote’ link, or commenting on an article, was too much effort.

      On the other hand, there was no shortage of a certain entitlement culture – from bloggers who would submit each and every post of theirs for linking up on DP to others who came only to comment that we were linking up too many posts of a particular category. You would think that these complainers would also use the hat-tip link in DP to suggest posts that they found more appropriate. You’d be surprised (or not) at how few hat-tips we received, given DP’s wide readership.

      It’s noteworthy that complaints about DP almost never included any constructive suggestions for resolving whatever issues they had raised.

      When a website/ blog post does get lots of comments, you can be very sure the comments will very quickly degenerate to name-calling and North Indian/ South Indian typecasting.

      I sometimes wonder if all this is just a microcosm of what happens in Indian society as a whole – how we respond to any issue – civic, social or political.

      • Yes, people never voted on DP because no one bothered to visit the site. For most people, DP became something they just read on their feeds. The idea of clicking on a ‘vote’ link, or commenting on an article, was too much effort.

        Feedback is a big problem. I found many friends and relatives who read my blog regularly but have never commented. Email subscription lets the author know there are people who place much importance to their posts but I think there is no way to track how many feed readers are there for your website.

        Though website visit trackers give a nice feedback but I think tracking feed readers would be added benefit.

        • Yes, and Feedburner doesn’t do a great job in tracking feed readers. Even the number of feed subscriptions is only an approximation, says feedburner.

  16. am going to miss DP. having said that when DP started, i missed the Blogmela (remember that).

    there are a lot of good Indian blogs out there. some get featured on Blogbharati.

    I think that a lot of older bloggers have moved on . maybe now attention will move to the ‘gen next’ of blogging :)

    The coming in of twitter & FB has improved the quality of blogging – most of us no longer use our blog to put up stuff that others have written, and we find interesting, with a link back to the original writer.. that has moved to FB & twitter. More original stuff is getting put up, which is not bad in itself.

    there is a lot of interesting regional language blogs.
    my personal view is, that the original community has moved on … a whole new bunch are there writing some good stuff !

    • I started blogging after the times of the Blogmelas (but I was reading blogs then) :)

      That’s an interesting viewpoint – that Twitter/ FB have reduced the quantity of blog posts but improved their quality. Not sure if that is true for everyone, but if it, it would be a terrific thing to happen.

      I agree with you that it does seem like a changing of the guard – the older bloggers are moving on and hopefully, a newer. better generation will take over. Can you point me to some good new ones?

  17. Interesting discussion, sure. It wouldn’t have happened if each of us had stuck to reading this post on the feed reader and not visited the blog to participate, wouldn’t even have known of it if we hadn’t clicked through to your blog, unless of course we were subscribed to the Comments rss feed, a rarity.

    You rightly said, of folks not clicking through to DP from feedburners, atleast the regular readers. If I remember correctly DP had a comment form for each link put up on the home page, for readers to comment on DP’s home page. Nobody, almost nobody did. Eventually, if I remember rightly, it was removed, and the user ‘accidently’ clicking on the comments link on DP home page was now directed to the blogger’s post on his/her blog. Tells a story doesn’t it, the decision to change the navigation, not that anyone clicked it even then.

    It would’ve been difficult for DP to survive a seemingly visible lack of interaction among the community for long, even assuming that contributors had “not moved on” so to speak. The moment a blogger or a community blog aggregator like DP feels “People wouldn’t care less if this survives or not”, the fate is sealed irrespective of other extenuating circumstances. And it happens all the time. Or we should be prepared to let efforts like DP die out and not agonise over it, instead philosophise with “Oh, someone else will come up with something better.” If only it was that simple.

    Brevity will not automatically make a blog post interesting or useful, so it’s highly unlikely if Twitter or FB will improve quality of blogging, assuming folks are left with time to blog after the mandatory Twitter and FB time-outs. Only time will tell if it hasn’t already.

    Also unlikely if Twitter or FB will have any links to tweet or add to status messages if there’s no blogging happening. Sure, there’ll be enough interesting links to put up from online newspapers and news portals, but little or nothing from the blogosphere.

    What DP did well was try and level the playing field for new and upcoming blogs, the blogs that had interesting content but were likely to suffer from the lack of an early mover advantage. With DP going, they’ll miss the leg-up. And no, it would be too much to expect Twitter or FB of regular users to go around looking for these blog efforts to tweet or link the way a set of DP contributors mandated to do the task.

    Unless the links are scandalous, or controversial, or related to current affairs or the like, it’s unlikely that a tweeted link will get more than 1-2% of clickthroughs from the Tweeter’s followers. And FB is anyways a closed circle, unlike say, DP.

    About the hat-tips you mention, not surprising. If folks are not visiting blogs they’re unlikely to stumble upon new blogs to recommend you, more so if the blog-rolls were mostly restricted to linking to the usual suspects like Amit Varma, or Falstaff, and the like. It’s in comments sections of blogs I discovered many interesting blogs, rarely in bog-rolls. But then it’s back to square one, isn’t it. Stick to feed readers and there’s little chance of knowing of discussions in the comment spaces (like here for instance) and even lesser chances of discovering newer blogs.

    • That’s so true, and that’s what I am missing in this age of Twitter/ FB – a long discussion in the comments section. Twitter/ FB are great for posting links with a few thoughts on the link. You can even have a short discussion on them (always sticking to the 140 char limit). In other words, great for soundbytes, not so great for reasoned arguments.

      I’m sure some other DP-like aggregator will eventually come up, but the new one will have to start from scratch. I have a problem in letting any established brand die. To the thousands of people who read DP, it stood for something they liked and wanted. A new aggregator can come up even without DP dying, and you can also have niche aggregators – those who discover new tech blogs, or travel blogs, or celebrity blogs, for instance. There is so much that’s possible in this area, but none of these ideas can survive in the vacuum of reader apathy. A community blog needs community participation to thrive.

      The other problem is that the Indian blogosphere is very highly fragmented – there are lots of tiny groups of bloggers who have a closed group of friends/ bloggers/ readers. Most of these groups have never heard of DP. Many of them are not even in any blogging groups. It takes a lot of time to hunt down these blogs, after which, 90% of the time it will turn out either that the quality of posts is not that great, or that the posts are only written to the limited audience of the blogger (some shared college experience, say). It was a rare pleasure to find the few good ones who did write very well and they, in turn, were pleasantly surprised to find how much of a difference in traffic being on DP made. But finding new blogs on a regular basis with a handful of contributors donating their free time was never going to be easy unless we also got hat-tips.

      I’m not sure if lack of time alone is the reason people have moved away from blogs, considering the time people end up spending on Facebook or Twitter. It’s also not true that everyone has moved away from blogs – in the US, you still see for-profit group blogs (like HuffPo or Slate or Salon) do very well with lots of commenters.

      So in the end, I don’t know what the causes are for this trend. The only thing I can do in future is to change my own actions – comment more on blogs that I read, and not succumb to the convenience of the feedreader.

  18. They have all moved from one form of expressing themselves to another. Hopefully, for some of them they’ve got over the compulsive need to express themselves in a public medium, longing for responses and more readers. Most of the people who blog want “feedback”, a response, even a negative one would do. This shows a want for constant external approval to one’s opinions and at one point it reaches it’s pinnacle and a reaction would follow. There are probably just a handful who truly blog for themselves and nobody else. Once your blog reaches even a very small number of readers, you start blogging for them. The excuse “venting out your frustrations/thoughts” only lasts for a short while.

    • Two issues here:

      1. DesiPundit was not a personal blog, it was an aggregator/ community blog which showcased other people’s blogs. So community participation was key here.

      2. On personal blogs – “the compulsive need to express themselves in a public medium” is what democracy is all about. If no one had expressed themselves in public, we would never even had achieved independence, for how else would you describe the freedom movement. In my own experience, bloggers are not attention seekers, they are looking for discussions on issues. As you yourself mention, bloggers welcome even negative reactions, which contradicts your subsequent statement that they seek approval.

      Of course they would like feedback. Think about it this way – suppose you sit beside a passenger in a bus/train/flight who offers his opinion on something. Wouldn’t you respond? You don’t have to, but clearly the passenger beside you is trying to start a conversation. Now, unlike your situation in that bus/train/flight, here, you as a blog reader have chosen to seek out and read blogs – so you are a much more active participant, not a reluctant listener. All the blogger is asking is – “since you have taken the trouble to read my opinions, can I also have the benefit of knowing your thoughts? ” Is that too much to ask?

  19. Pingback: Tweets that mention http://elekhni.com/2010/06/as-indian-blogs-die-what-about-the-blogosphere/#comment-35487?utm_source=pingback -- Topsy.com

  20. >> As you yourself mention, bloggers welcome even negative reactions, which contradicts your subsequent statement that they seek approval.

    By approval I didn’t mean agreement with their words, I meant approval of their existence and that their opinion matters.

  21. I remember when i started off late in 2006 when we formed a close knit group which eventually dissolved to a few survivors who updated infrequently. But at the same time we evangelised and brought new people into the blogosphere and the new generation were addicted. I still Blog infrequently at a host of place (Got my own domain a few months ago) and I Will continue to do so.

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