Sunday, August 28, 2011

Indian bloggers for PD practitioners to engage... ?

My friend, a certain Mr X, member of the diplomatic corps in New Delhi, asked if it makes any sense to engage bloggers in India. Mr X apparently is being prodded by the 'higher ups' in his country to reach out more to bloggers in India; and my friend believes it is important, but, not so important. 

To my 'why' he gave an interesting insight.

Apparently, the free press (militant, vitriolic, opinionated and commercial) and proliferation of media in India makes it unnecessary, unimportant. It's unlike the Middle East where blogs are an outlet to discuss and debate in the absence of a free press. Blogs are influential in countries where there is no space for a public discourse. (?)

If we look at the Indian blogosphere there are indeed very few that are authoritative or 'referred to' blogs in the 'issues' space. For many Indian bloggers the interest areas range from personal hobbies, lifestyle and  professional topics. 


Classification of blogs in India
by www.indiblogger.in

At the end of our chat I understood where Mr X was coming from. I promised to find him a few!

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Public Diplomacy and the new media landscape

            Public Diplomacy practitioners today deal with a dynamic media landscape. Enabled by technology, ways and means for media production and distribution has changed rapidly. Coupled with this is the decline in revenues, resources and  credibility of traditional corporate media giants worldwide. Media today is localized, customized, fragmented, often real time in its distribution, while it is more inclusive, cross cultural and diverse in its production. Besides, there is no longer an 'official credible source,' it can be simply anywhere!

(Jake Horowitz, Co Founder, PolicyMic)
     A new media project in this context is PolicyMic. Founded by Harvard and Stanford grads, Chris Altchek and Jake Horowitz, this website is an online platform for news and debate on policy for the younger generation by the younger generation. The portal claims that it stands for the spirit of debate to counter partisanship in traditional media and facilitate, "real conversations about real issues." 

         I spoke to Jake Horowitz and Hanqing Chen, Assistant Editor, PolicyMic, to understand the project better.

        "There is a lack of representation of young voices in media," said Jake. He said content at PolicyMic focuses on young people's perspective on issues. The content can range from head-to-head debates, opinion pieces, enterprise reporting, multimedia stories all produced by a new generation of voices. "PolicyMic offers real engagement from multiple perspectives all across the world," he said.

      The website currently boasts of nearly 400 writers contributing from more than 20 countries around the world, including from countries like Estonia, Latvia, South Africa and the Middle East. 


      There are four writers from India and Jake said that the Lok Pal Bill was a topic widely discussed on the portal. 

          PolicyMic's attempt to build engagement is unique. 

       The more a reader/contributor participates by responding to articles, sharing ideas and receive endorsements on contributions, the more 'mics' (credits from others) one can accumulate  The more 'mics' one accumulates the more one can do or say to develop an audience and eventually become a 'PolicyMic pundit'.  


                 "We are trying to make Twitter meet The Economist" said Jake. 


              "It is designed to be a little like a video game where they have to comment on stories and have to be voted in order to move to a different level. In each level, you can do more and say more," he said.

(Hanqing Chen, Assistant Editor, PolicyMic)
"The idea is to find a fun system with the smartest contributors," added Hanqing.

        "Success and prestige on our site won't be driven by how loudly you speak, but by how thoughtfully you participate. We believe in debate, and we've built features that allow you to challenge others you disagree with," claims the website in its 'About Us' section.

       Hanqing said that comments on contents are received every 6 to 7 minutes on the website which is reflective of its potential to influence.
          
    From a PD perspective, Jake believes that the portal is an effective "cross boundary" discussion forum on policy and international affairs. 


     These are early days for PolicyMic, as its founders focus on creating a stable revenue model and source funds. However, media such as these offer both an opportunity and a challenge to PD practitioners. While in terms of reach and targeted engagement it can promise a lot; the challenges are in monitoring, crafting messages and responsiveness.
                  
Suggestions/Critiques welcome.


-- Madhur




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