The Elections show the reality about Indian Digital MediaI was one of those who had hoped that during this election season, which many marketers are touting as India's first digital elections, we would get to see some exciting coverage from bloggers. That sadly is not the case.
99% Indian bloggers are city people. They have an urban outlook and like the best of bloggers, are prone to navel gazing [aka adventures into self-importance] I understand the pains of living in small boxes when the brain is bursting with information.
Jaago Re campaign excites these people, because talking about digital things makes them feel good about themselves. More people are active on Facebook and Orkut groups than people who would actually vote or better, stand in elections. An echo chamber of people taking time off from their main jobs.
Some bloggers, like Rajesh Jain are active and interested in politics but there are so very few of them. Most Indian political blogging I have found so far are nothing but rants.
Last year, some people had talked to me about starting something like DailyKos type of group blog. These people were interested to put their views forward in no certain terms. These people were talking about hundreds of contributors. If these guys could have started it in time, it would have meant for some interesting online conversations, for sure.
Some Indians are blogging from other countries. These people have no idea about what is happening on the ground. Mostly, they can aggregate posts from other media sources and that is. Some of my friends, who were avid bloggers have moved to the United States. I do not expect them to write about who is winning from their constituency in Bihar.
For example, look at the Global Voices Election Coverage. This is superficial aggregation - useful for foreigners and lazy foreign reporters eager for easy sound bites - useless for Indian reader. Read Wikipedia coverage of elections instead.
I know Ethan Zuckermann, the man behind Global Voices advocates something called Bridge-blogging, which means making one culture easy for others to understand. This is a noble idea.
But, India is not Africa and I am not denigrating the Africans. Indian Politics is messy at the best of times but that is what makes it so interesting. I am sure Global Voices would have put someone in the country in charge of aggregating voices and analysis rather than publishing the latest from Google. I am guessing that the bloggers Global Voices used to depend on earlier are busy writing for their traditional news organizations.
The Global Voices coverage is a collection of who is doing what. There is no context. This is 1/4 of proper link curation. I am guessing the writer is in the United States or someplace outside and is using the net [Google ] to build links.
When someone said that there were just 50,000 active Indian bloggers, he was far, far off from the mark. I think there are fewer than 1000 Indian bloggers writing to be read. If you were looking for coverage of the quality in display during the U.S. Presidential Elections, you must wait at least 5 more years when some of our young people learn to write with perspective.
Much is being made about the Mumbai Terror Attacks being covered on Twitter. It was just coincidental that the attacks took place in India's most prosperous place. If you had checked Twitter or Twitter's Indian equivalent SMSGupshup.com during that time as I had done, you would have seen yourself how little original reporting actually happened.
There are no bloggers in the Indian hinterland, where all the election stories are. Those who are there in the field cannot write to save their lives. Those who want to report do not have the resources to do so.
When I approached Venture Capitalists in 2007 seeking for some funds to support a network of reporters [national, international] for Bighow.com, most refused. Many simply did not get the idea of a platform for local news on a global scale. Many still do not.
I was about to (still want to) make an announcement on Bighow that we are looking for people to cover the elections. Coming from a state (Bihar) where electioneering is at its worst, or the best, depends on who is seeing, and from where, I know that without some money to travel, without mobile devices that could send pictures, video or audio, there is no point shouting from the roofs that we have done the 'first' Indian this or that.
False hope and over-hype are two luxuries Indians can do without. I still have the announcement saved as a draft.
A couple of days ago, some people launched a site that let voters report from polling booths. They called it, yes you guess it right, India's first citizen-powered so-and-so. As an entrepreneur who has seen reality, I can tell you the people behind the good idea were not bright enough. Maybe they do not even live in India. If they were serious or had the resources, they should have launched it in advance at least. Check out this page and see for yourself what (little) useful reporting citizens have done after the first phase of polling is over.
The reality of online media in India is not as rosy as what people say it is.
Related in Mediavidea:
Indian Blogger as Journalist
Simple Guide to the Biggest moments in the Indian Blogosphere
Simpleguide to the state of the Indian Blogosphere
Simplegudie to Internet and Cyber Laws in India