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Online Journalism India: Moblogging is citizen journalism in India

February 27th, 2008Posted by in Mobile, Multimedia, Online Journalism

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This week’s guest is Pramit Singh, blogger on the Indian new media scene and founder of Bighow.com.

To put it bluntly, India is mobile mad. Indian citizen journalism may thrive across a range blog networks, photo and video sites but what singles it out and makes it unique is the proliferation of micro and mobile blogging sites.

As of January 2008, there were 241 million mobile phones in India and every month 7.8 million new mobiles are bought.

In contrast, the total number with fixed internet connections in India hovers around the ten million mark.

So sites like smsgupshup.com and Vakow.com that allow users to send 160 character group SMS messages are unbelievably popular ways of disseminating information. They are the proxy ‘social’ news services, similar in many ways to Twitter. But where traditional news providers have got in on the act quickly with Twitter, in India keen amateurs are happy to pump out news across microblogging sites and set themselves up as news providers.

The Newsweb SMS group, with no obvious traditional news credentials, sends alerts of live cricket score, news, stock market and latest happenings in the entertainment world. There are 5451 subscribers to this group.

Image of newsweb site

Another similar group, called just News, has nearly 12,000 subscribers.

Some journalists are in on the act. A reporter 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 and is one of the largest being followed with over 26,000 subscribers.

Other players have jumped in to offer mobile blogging services. Besides smsgupshup and vakow, other players are ActivMobs, and MyToday MOBS.

Reliance Mobile, the second largest mobile service provider, offers mobile blogging to cater for users that want to exchange short messages and who, on-the-whole, are just as happy to get fast-action, bite-sized chunks of news for things like cricket and entertainment from non-professionals.

Despite the range of voices, languages and the obvious thirst for citizen journalism no large newspaper has yet opened up a unique platform take advantage of the potential for citizen journalists in India.

Big papers flash mobile numbers and email addresses where readers can send in stories but they take their interaction with the readers no further. Television, however, is really getting in on the act.

India has more national TV news channels than any country, including the United States. The bitter competition that has ensued means that the channels go to lengths to stand out.

As a result, TV News citizen journalists are having a good run in India. Two news channels, which have adopted citizen journalism in an especially big way, are CNN-IBN and IBN 7, two sister channels from the same parent company IBN. CNN-IBN is in English and IBN7 is in Hindi.

CNN-IBN also recently spun off a CNN-IBN Forum for student citizen journalists to video and moblog. We also saw BBC launch an initiative to find citizen journalist editors for its bbcurdu.com, which offers news in Urdu language.

Another TV channel, Amrita TV in South India has launched a 90-episode reality show focused on nurturing citizen journalists.

I have left till last the two big non-newspaper sites that have tried to accommodate this thirst for citizen journalism.

Merinews.com was India’s first large citizen journalism website. Instablogs.com, which has been around since October 2005, is similar. Like, Merinews it also pays contributors, but has better design.

I would say that though. I was the founding Managing Editor.

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