The State of Citizen Journalism in India Part 3 – Microblogging and Mobile Blogging
This is the last of my 3-part series on Citizen Journalism in India. In Part 1, I wrote about Blogs and photos and in Part 2, I wrote about Citizen Journalism on the Television and Radio. In this last part, I am going to write about the phenomenon of Micro Blogging/Mobile Blogging that is sweeping across India.
As of January 2008, there were 241.6 million cellphones in India and every month 7.8 million new cellphones are bought. In contrast, the total number on internet connections in India hovers around the 10 million mark.
There is no wonder why Indians have taken to microblogging in a big way.
The fact that you can only send up to 160 characters using SMS has apparently hasn’t deterred users. Services such as Smsgupshup.com and Vakow.com allow users to send common SMS messages to all members of their groups.
People are using these SMS-based services as news broadcasting tools. Users continuously update their groups on these SMS sites with the latest news from far off places.
For example, a journalist in North East India is offering breaking news from his small town on Smsgupshup.com. A news site in the eastern State of Orissa is offering breaking news via the same site.
This is similar to the rage for Twitter in the United States. When Twitter came out, I was one of those who complained about the distractive and inane aspects of the service ( here and here). But after having seen Citizen Journalists using SMS-based services in innovative ways, and news people covering the Primaries in the United States using Twitter, I am glad few listened to me back then.
In this interesting article, a user of a sms-based microblogging service in India writes about the time when he flashed a message about a two boys having fallen into a river in a village in Manipur (North East India) and soon, people got the message on their phones and reached the spot and were able to save the boys in time.
Where users see utility, business sees money. Not surprisingly, bigger players have jumped in, offering a wide variety of mobile blogging services.
Apart from smsgupshup and vakow, other notable players are Chitr (Twitter clone), ActivMobs, and MyToday MOBS. Reliance Mobile, the second largest mobile service provider offers mobile blogging as well.
I read somewhere and I am sure you would have too, that in 2007, five out of ten best-selling novels in Japan were originally written on cellphones.
Indians are big texters.
Will the average Indian reader opt for Mobile Novels?
Hemingway wrote a 6 word story:
“For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn.”
I wonder whether the mobile novel will ever be half as good.
Previous stories in the Series
The State of Citizen Journalism in India Part 1 - blogs, photos & videos
The State of Citizen Journalism in India Part 2 - Television & Radio